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Farhad Sadykov (CC BY 2.0)

One Mistake Science Says You’re Making When Online Dating

This applies particularly to women

| 2 min read

This applies particularly to women

Just like in-person dating, there are right and wrong ways to go about online dating. A new study, published in Management Science, looked at a major North American dating site, fictitiously named, and explored how giving users a premium feature — browsing anonymously — affected their ability to find romantic matches.

Unsurprisingly, being able to act like a fly on a wall led users to visit more profiles, and even check out more same-sex or interracial possibilities. What was a bit surprising was that this anonymous browsing actually led to fewer matches, especially for women.

Jui Ramaprasad, an assistant professor of information systems at McGill University's Desautels Faculty of Management explained why: "We still see that women don't make the first move." They tend to send "weak signal[s]." How does this translate? Women will often visit profiles of people they are interested in and then wait for a man to send them a message. Unfortunately, that doesn’t work if they don’t leave any trace that they were there.

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"The offline 'flirting' equivalents, at best, would be a suggestive look or a preening bodily gesture such as a hair toss to one side or an over-the-shoulder glance, each subject to myriad interpretations and possible misinterpretations contingent on the perceptiveness of the players involved. Much less ambiguity exists in the online environment if the focal user views another user's profile and leaves a visible train in his 'Recent Visitors' list," explains Ramaprasad.

The researchers defined a match as “a sequence of three messages exchanged between users,” and with this anonymous browsing, women ended up with 14 percent fewer matches than they would have on average otherwise.

As for men, browsing anonymously didn’t change much. "Men send four times the number of messages that women do," says co-author Akhmed Umyarov, an assistant professor at the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management. They’re probably going to make the first move whether they’re browsing anonymously or not.

Long story short: Even if it makes you feel more comfortable, don’t pay for an extra feature that will let you browse anonymously if you’re looking for a match on an online dating platform, especially if you’re a woman.

Information based on a press release from McGill University.

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