Online matching with virtual appointments

For users of online dating sites it is often difficult to find love as the sites themselves make the task more difficult than necessary. To the rescue: Virtual Dates, an ice breaker online by Jeana Frost of Boston University, Michael Norton of HBS and Dan Ariely of MIT. Key concepts are:
Technology affects the tone and trajectory of relationships.
The user interface of online dating sites should be improved to better filter users.
Virtual Dates is an experimental interface that allows couples to communicate in real-time using color, words, and images.
The idea of ​​virtual spaces for natural interactions can include applications for managers and entrepreneurs.

Millions of people have found data through online matchmaking services. So who says the internet is getting isolated? However, the problem for many users is that initial matches are often flawed, if not frustrating, because the services are likely to pull Cupid’s arrow in the wrong direction.

“The current model is artificial and static and far from everyday social interactions,” says Jeana H. Frost, who, along with Michael I. Norton and Dan Ariely, is investigating online dating and examining its improvement. They describe their findings in a new HBS Discussion Paper titled “Improving online dating with virtual data.” Frost, now a Boston University graduate, wrote his dissertation at MIT’s MIT Media Lab, covering broader questions on impression training, navigation options, expectation management, and informed decision-making in high-profile environments. Norton is Assistant Professor in Marketing at HBS, while Ariely is Professor of Management Science at MIT.

Even when we have well-told stories about the kind of people we want to meet, we are often wrong.
Frost and Norton are intrigued by the psychological foundations of online interactions. They also examine the social impact of online relationships and the potential of technologies to influence the original tone and trajectory of relationships. One of the obstacles that has struck them is that the main dating sites are designed as if the search for love was a variant of online shopping.

Instead of investigating the problem, a solution was suggested: virtual data.

The researchers began their work by talking with users of online dating sites about their experiences and supplementing these conversations with surveys published on several commercial dating sites. What they found was a high level of dissatisfaction.

“People spent hours, hours and hours a week online to make a cup of coffee with a person – it’s not a very good system,” says Norton.

In addition, users often found that the person they met for the first time was not what they expected. “When you start online, some people have had experiences that they could not have done if they first saw what a person was like,” says Norton. “So we wanted to look for ways to improve the experience and help people filter more efficiently.”

Online dating behind a computer, Frost says, “has plenty of time to think about potential partners who may or may not be in line with reality because they do not receive social feedback.”

Norton adds, “The other problem is that you look for product attributes when shopping online: When you buy a toaster, you may not know exactly what type of toaster you want to know if you want to have two or four places People, even if we have well-written stories about the kind of person we want to meet, we are often wrong. ”

And there’s no checkbox for the attributes we really want to know, he says. Is this a nice person? “So people are looking for their income, their ethnicity and their religion – these things are important and they all allow you to tell if you can get along with someone – but only one element is missing.”

What’s missing is this subtle and essential information that comes when you meet someone. Enter Virtual Dates, the proposed solution for improving online dating services.

Make the link
And this is how it works: After two dating customers have found a good match, the couple meets on his computer for a five-minute Virtual Date, a kind of online icebreaker that allows two people to communicate in real time with colors, words and images ,

When using virtual data, couples may have more clues than a standard one-dimensional chat client. Is my date sensitive or funny? Are you on time? How do they relate in real time? What does it mean to sit in front of them (virtually)?

The Virtual Dates interface was indeed a project of the MIT Media Lab of the Sociable Media Group. “It was a good tool,” says Frost. “It enables real-time interaction and provides a friendly interface that people can use to talk, gesticulate, and even” hunt. “These social indicators make it easier to replicate an offline experience.

Although many dating sites have chat clients, the interfaces are often impersonal and, according to the researchers, lead to vague conversations. Virtual Dates goes beyond these goals by providing images that people can use to connect with, as if the couple is visiting a museum and discussing the artwork.

“We wanted to give people a more specific conversation, help them find common interests and differences, and give them some discussion, and ideally we wanted to simulate a first standard meeting,” says Norton. ,

To test the product, Frost and Norton organized speed dating to showcase pairs that were already crossing the interface. Their goal was to find out if Virtual Dates helped foster a romance. Preliminary data show that this is possible.

“In our experience, two people organized a virtual date, and then we combined them with a speed dating event to compare online printing with offline printing,” says Frost.

Applications for entrepreneurs
While virtual events can excite people, the underlying concept of creating virtual spaces for simple and natural interactions with others can also help inspire non-meeting applications for managers and entrepreneurs.

For example, researchers believe that another application could include products that provide older people with more social interaction.

“Can you classify yourself in these environments to find other people?” Ask frost. “If we give people different kinds of content, do they navigate to common interests?” In a virtual space, they may find other people interacting in a message domain environment. , ”

Advice for Lovelorn
Thanks to their in-depth research on this topic, Frost and Norton are consulting online data creators.

“Take off as much as possible and do not invest your ego in a specific date,” suggests Frost. “Do not forget that it is very easy to get excited and give a profile to good qualities My advice is to stay calm and invest in one person You really need to know – avoid long emails because they raise expectations. ”

“They also have to be resilient to making many appointments and taking the time to meet rather than doing hourly research.” People who spend many appointments are the ones who find someone In a sense, it is a game number. ”

New users should keep in mind that online dating is not that different from regular meetings, Norton adds. They try to find people, they try to get to know them. “It’s the people who think it’s very different from their usual experiences and in the end are the most disappointed … In online dating, the same people that are online are also offline, but ultimately it takes Work, effort and a little luck. “

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