Thesis Master of European Design Product Design Sam Dunne
With Thanks to: Gordon Hush, for holding it all together. Elio Caccavale, for cracking the whip. Bruce Peters, for lively debate on love and life. Users, for letting me pry. Classmates, for being there. Family, for putting up with me these past 6 years.
“ Indeed so numerous and varied are the illusions, difficulties, demands, resentments, burdens and strains that beset contemporary relationships that the wonder is not that so many fail but that any survive at all...Yet never have so many sought relationships so urgently or entered into them with such high expectations,” Michael Foley “The Age of Absurdity”
The online dating industry is growing at a phenomenal rate. An ever-increasing amount of us, it would seem, are taking to the internet in search of love, romance, sex, companionship or out of shear curiosity. Interestingly, a lingering stigma continues to surround the practice. As the industry matures, online dating services are beginning to innovate away from database models. Some emphasise the scientific qualities of their matchmaking algorithms whilst others create unexpected online or dating experiences to help customers find one another. Perhaps now is the time to conisder the social, cultural and ethical implications of these services. With a user-centred, design research approach, PROJECTFUTURELOVE_ ,sets out to explore the online dating market and the experience of dating online to identify opportunities for design.
Love & Romance in 21st Century 2.1 Shifts in Sexuality
Romantic Relationships: Initiation & Intervention 3.1 Amateur & Professional Matchmaking 3.2 Magic & Myth 3.3 Dating Culture 3.4 Personal Ads & Lonely Hearts 3.5 Video Dating 3.6 Speed Dating
22 25 27 28 29 31 33
Online Dating Today 4.1 Online Dating Process 4.2 Online Dating Demographics 4.3 Market Balkanisation 4.4 Neo-Matchmaking 4.5 Online to Offline 4.6 Deviant Daters 4.7 Market Metaphors 4.8 Dating for Couples
36 41 44 46 50 54 57 58 60
User Research 5.1 Experiences Online 5.2 User Interviews
62 65 68
Notes List of Figures Bibliography List of Services
80 86 88 92
7. 8. 9. 10.
Appendix A1 A2 A3 A4
Historical Timeline of Romantic Relationship Initiation Prototypical Online Dating Experience Ethnographic Research: Dating User Journey 1 & 2 User Interview Insights 1, 2 & 3 All appendices accompany this publication
Figure 2 Individuals in America reporting having met their current partner online Madden. M et al., (2005) Online Dating, Pew Internet & American Life
Percentage of americans Who met their partner online
Project Rosenfeld, M. J. (2010) Meeting online: The rise of the Internet as a social intermediary
1 _ SAM DUNNE
“Twenty years from now, the idea that someone looking for love won’t
The practice of online dating has expanded and matured significantly in the 21st Century.
look for it online will be silly, akin to skipping the card catalog to instead wander the stacks because the right books are found only by accident. We will be charmed, but helpless to point out that the approach
Once perceived as the reserve of desperate, undesirable, or even dangerous individuals, online personal advertising is becoming an increasingly mainstream activity.
isn’t very pragmatic. After all, how likely is it that the book of your dreams will just fall off the shelf and into your arms?” (1) Rufus Griscom Founder, Nerve.com
Whilst personal advertisement for romantic relationship seeking has existed in a variety of forms for several hundreds of years, social taboo has prevented largescale uptake up until the end of the 20th Century. Although a certain amount of social stigma continues to surround the phenomenon, personal advertising on internet dating sites has reached levels of social acceptance not previously afforded to predecessors such as newspaper Lonely Heart columns or bricks and mortar dating agencies. Exact and unbiased online dating usage statistics are difficult to attain. One estimate puts monthly unique visitors to online dating sites worldwide at around 25
♥ PROJECTFUTURELOVE_ 2
Figure 2 Findings on perceptions of online dating: Madden. M et al. (2005) Online Dating, Pew Internet & American Life Project
Online dating helps you find a better match as you meet more people
ONLINE DATING iS A GOOD WAY TO MEET PEOPLE
People who use Online Dating are DESPERATE
USING ONLINE DATING CAN BE DANGEROUS
Disagree 61% Disagree 66%
3 _ SAM DUNNE
million (2), with estimates of usage in the U.K growing from 2.6 million in 2006 (3) to around 6 million in 2012 (4). In the United States, nationally representative surveys conducted in the late 1980s and early 1990s suggest that far less than 1% of Americans reported meeting their romantic partners through printed personal advertisement (5). More recent surveys suggest the number of individuals meeting their partners online grew from 3% in 2005 (6) to 22% in 2009 (7). Connecting with others has been described by sociological psychologists Baumeister and Leary as a “fundamental human motivation” (8). The ability to initiate and sustain fulfilling intimate relationships has been linked to both physical and emotional wellbeing. Social isolation and turbulent romantic relationships have, perhaps unsurprisingly, been linked to mental and physical ill health (9), both of which incur vast and increasing (10) cost to individuals and governments. As tempting as it may be to dismiss online dating as a harmless social activity or a vulgar popular pastime, it is perhaps of public interest to understand and explore the implications, positive or negative, of the industry and the potential it may have to improve quality of life. Critics of online dating may see the industry’s rise as symptomatic of late-capitalist society; consumerist values having entered all spheres of life whilst businesses, in a service economy, are increasingly permitted to take on social roles, traditionally the domain of families and communities. The decreasing
♥ PROJECTFUTURELOVE_ 4
Figure 3 Findings on perceptions of online dating: Madden. M et al. (2005) Online Dating, Pew Internet & American Life Project
IS IT EASY OR DIFFICULT TO MEET PEOPLE IN YOUR TOWN OR CITY?
Easy 43% Difficult 55%
5 _ SAM DUNNE
A lot of people on online dating lie about their married status
â™Ľ PROJECTFUTURELOVE_ 6
Figure 4 (above) Recent Match.com adverts present couples meeting under highly serendipitous circumstances, in music shops and on train station platforms. Interestingly,the chance meetings portrayed are somewhat at odds with the service the company itself provides.
societal and financial significance of marriage, or even cohabitation, allows modern day singles to be more demanding and idealistic in their partner selection. The like-for-like comparison that online dating profiles allow fits perfectly with the desire to select a romantic partner as one would a product; weighing up the attributes of each available model and making a selection from those available. This â€œrelationshoppingâ€? will be returned to in Section 4.7. Online dating brands are often criticised for portraying distorted images of romantic relationships, exaggerating their services success rates and for generally using underhand techniques to draw in and maintaing subscriptions (11). Critics are quick to point out the motivation deficit in dating sites promises to find
7 _ SAM DUNNE
long-lasting romantic partners for their users. Although the brands, presumably, rely on some level of positive advocacy from users to increase subscriptions, matching a couple online, will mean the inevitable loss of two paying customers or, indeed, advertisement audience members. Thus far, there has been little effort to regulate the online dating market, in either the services provided or the claims of the associated advertising. Despite enormous growth, much of the industry, and thus the way in which the services are being adopted by users, remains shrouded in mystery, hyperbole and commercial bias; brands often defending their positions citing necessary proprietary secrecy to maintain competitiveness. Exuberant claims of dating services reference massive success rate and suggest that â€œtrue loveâ€? is but a click away, with precious little research or evidence being offered to users. As the industry matures, online dating services are beginning to innovate away from the database models that dominated early iterations. Some new and innovating services are developing and publicising the scientific qualities of their matchmaking algorithms, whilst others vie to be the next novelty; creating unexpected online and offline experiences to help their customers find one another. With such market movement, and, of course, the ever increasing registration rates, it would seem that now would be a particularly pertinent time to explore the social possibilities of widespread online dating service use.
â™Ľ PROJECTFUTURELOVE_ 8
Figure 5 Logo of popular online dating service OkCupid. The branding is an interesting example of dating services suggesting to have found formulae to find love for their users.
9 _ SAM DUNNE
With a user-centred, design research approach, PROJECTFUTURELOVE_, of which this thesis represents the research phase, sets out to explore the social, cultural and ethical implications of the online dating industry, whilst, with analysis of the experience of using online dating services, identifying opportunities for design. This paper provides an historical overview of the social factors and practices that may have given rise to the industry. This is followed by an analysis of online dating services and trends in the industry that may point to future online dating scenarios. A penultimate section will give a brief summary of insights gathered through my immersion in a number of dating services. The thesis will conclude with an outlook on how the findings presented might shape the development of the design project.
â™Ľ PROJECTFUTURELOVE_ 10
11 _ SAM DUNNE
2. Love & Romance in 21st Century “Many people would not have fallen in love had they not heard of it”(12) La Rochefoucald
The conception that idealised and pervasive media images of love and relationships shape our romantic aspirations and behaviours has become social observation of some banality. Eternal romantic love as cliché is a cliché. Postmodern romance, somewhat unfortunately, is haunted by a much more complex and cruel duality. Love and infatuation have been widely demystified; “love at first sight” seeming a naive fantasy, easily explained away as natural, hormonal sexual attraction. At the same time, however, stylised, fantastical representations of love and romance maintain an omnipresence in almost all forms of popular entertainment and, however contradictorily, continue to form a large part of what individuals expect and aspire to attain in a romantic relationship (13). We live in a society of pragmatic relationship realists, romantic relationships, as Michael Foley suggests, resembling business transactions (14), whilst Mills and Boon continue to sell upwards of 200 million paperbacks a year (15).
♥ PROJECTFUTURELOVE_ 12
This contradiction presents a particularly awkward marketing challenge to online dating services as modern day relationship seekers look for pragmatic channels through which to identify a suitable partner, whilst perhaps also, on some level, clinging to ideals of love and relationships represented in romantic novels, Hollywood films and pop songs. The dismantling of the complex interplay between cultural conceptions of love, sexuality and romance lies outwith the scope of PROJECTFUTURELOVE_ and this thesis. An oversight of the shifting cultural ideas surrounding romantic relationships, however, may prove enlightening when considering the rise of the online dating industry in 21st Century Western society. The critique of romantic love as a culturally constructed behaviour existed long before the modern age; French moralist, La Rochefoucald, quoted above, having questioned the extent to which romantic love was a natural state in the 17th Century. The codification of love as a fundamental legitimisation for relationship construction and destruction, however, is widely attributed to the emergence of romantic ideals in the late eighteenth century. The dissemination of these ideas was largely facilitated by the spread of novel reading; the subject matter of which was often that of heroic, romantic love (16). In preindustrial times, marriages and families were bound by interdependency and communal effort,
13 _ SAM DUNNE
to tend a farm, for examples. Love and affection progressively became the dominant, normative reasons for coupling in the 19th and 20th Century, related, in part, to the greater independence and power of women in Western society. These developments and the diminishing significance and mounting suspicion of the institution of marriage in the late 20th Century are in line with the larger, modern societal shift towards “individualisation”. Individuals are increasingly detached from prescribed beliefs, values or cultural certainties. Each aspect of life, including the cultivation of romantic relationships, becomes part of a self-reflexive biographical project of identity creation, selected from an enormous, and perhaps baffling, diversity of options (17). This shift to the individual has given rise to, what Giddens describes as, the “pure relationship” in which personal relationships, including romantic unions, exist without high levels of interdependency, and thus, solely for whatever rewards the relationship can itself deliver to both parties (18). The freedom and independence experienced by the postmodern individual gives rise, in terms of romantic relationships, to another revealing social paradox: whilst many men and women today may still cite the expectation and intention to find a life partner and rear children (19), the majority of postindustrial societies are experiencing trends of increasing single living (20) and decreasing birthrates (21).
♥ PROJECTFUTURELOVE_ 14
15 _ SAM DUNNE
The culmination of these trends point, perhaps, to a form of social romantic paralysis caused by an overwhelming and increasing perception of freedom in romantic partner and lifestyle choice(22). The pervasiveness of online dating in the 21st Century could arguably be considered both symptomatic and a contributory cause of this condition.
Figure 6 (left) A very modern romance? Friends With Benefits, taking $150 million at the box office in 2011, tells the story of a young man and woman who come to a sexual arrangement without entering a relationship. Somewhat inevitably, the couple fall in love and, consequently, decide to start their relationship again by going on a “first date”.
♥ PROJECTFUTURELOVE_ 16
2.1 Shifts in Sexuality Human longing for sexual gratification and intimate romantic relationships can present fundamental cultural challenges and contradictions. Typically, civilised societies have developed structures by which these interrelated urges can be integrated and regulated. These traditions, however, have lost much of their significance in contemporary society. Eminent sociologist Zygmunt Bauman, defines the history of sex as more akin to the history of the “cultural manipulation of sex”. He refers to the collapse of the “panoptic” model of instilling social order - that by which discipline is self enforced owing to the constant threat of scrutiny by an omnipresent, unseen authority and its replacement by control through “seduction” and suggestion, as a key driver behind the consumerist and individualistic cultural idioms pervasive in all aspect of postindustrial life, including sexuality (23). The Victorian consecration and desexualisation of romantic love, and the corresponding desensualisation of sex, was largely reversed in the late 20th Century. Sexual intercourse was, firstly, legitimised as the greatest expression of a divine conceptions of Love; a spiritual replacement for receding religious traditions (24).
17 _ SAM DUNNE
Post-war shifts in sexuality, culminating in the shedding of almost all traditional values during the sexual revolution of the 1960s, accentuated the subjectivity of sexual experience and legitimised sex-for-the-sakeof-sex (25). Anti-pornography movements of the 1980s were doomed for demise as sexual liberation became inextricably linked to the civil rights movement and pornographic materials to the freedom of press (26). Widespread normalising of pornography and sexual promiscuity in contemporary society is as prevalent in the online dating industry as it is in popular culture, manifesting in the vast numbers and rapid growth of sex-orientated online introductory services. AdultFriendFinder.com, perhaps the largest, claims in excess of 42 million registrations (27). One competitor OnlineBootyCall, smaller, with an estimated 3 million profiles, offers a curious list of ten “Booty Call Commandments” including “ V. Thou shall kiss anything but my mouth” and “X. Thou shalt refrain from referring to our activities ‘love making’” (28), all making reference to the casual nature of the relationships the service is intended to initiate. Sex-orientated hook-up sites and online dating sites alike undoubtedly attract a number of registrations from men and women seeking some form of companionship outside of an already established relationship. In recent years, a number of dating services have emerged to cater for this significant market segment.
♥ PROJECTFUTURELOVE_ 18
Figure 7 (above) Homepage of OnlineBootyCall complete with Booty Call Commandments
19 _ SAM DUNNE
AshleyMadison (29) perhaps the most notorious, claiming almost 14 million users (30) operates under the unambiguous strapline “life’s too short; have an affair”. Websites facilitating extra-marital affairs have been subject to an increasing amount of scrutiny in the popular press, with questions being raised about the moral implications of their existence.
MaritalAffairs.co.uk (31), for example, was criticised for its recent billboard advertising, which was deemed inappropriate for public display by members of a Christian group in London (32). A rumoured sponsorship deal between AshleyMadison and the indebted Glasgow Rangers Football Club (33), more likely the work of a cunning PR team than of any factual truth, could suggest that such sites may be attempting to use such controversy to their promotional advantage. Interestingly, AshleyMadison has also received growing criticism from users, with blogs AshleyMadison Sucks (34) and Ashley Madison Scam (35) detailing the frustrations of users. On these forums, a number of male members suggest that the service is undermined by large numbers of fake female profiles, perhaps, some comments suggest, originating from the site creators themselves to lure customers in. Online dating services across the board, faced with the conflicting desires of their members, are increasingly attempting to compartmentalize users by whether they are seeking a romantic relationship or sexual gratification. One service intended to match young men with older women Yes! Mrs Robinson, already somewhat sexually charged with imagery on the homepage of a young male grinning and a female leg removing black stockings, offers a separate service entitled Naughty Mrs. Robinson (the euphemistic term “naughty” being an oddly common prefix for such services) which offers users the option to “Cut to the chase” (36), or perhaps in others words, state any sexual intentions more clearly.
♥ PROJECTFUTURELOVE_ 20
21 _ SAM DUNNE
3. Romantic Relationships: Initiation & Intervention Courtship and coupling has been ritualised and institutionalised in vastly different ways in various cultures throughout history. It seems that wherever initiating romantic relationships has been perceived or experienced as challenging, practices involving intermediaries have emerged (37). Whilst third party involvement in coupling historically, and presently in some cultures, has acted as an alternative to freedom of partner choice, intervention by intermediaries has also existed in societies with high levels of romantic freedom. The societal shifts that account for the growing acceptance of personal advertisement and the ascendancy of online dating are numerous and complex. The decreasing influence of parents, families and communities on partner choice and the gradual rise in the age of first marriage are perhaps among the most significant, leaving many singles individually responsible for seeking companionship and romantic partners even
â™Ľ PROJECTFUTURELOVE_ 22
Figure 8 (above) Romantic relationship initiation has been the subject of a number of prime-time TV shows since the 1960s. Most recently,Take Me Out, with Paddy McGuinness,features men auditioning for dates with a panel of single women.
23 _ SAM DUNNE
after leaving, so called, “mate-rich” environments such as high school and university (38). Increasing rates of divorce in industrialised nations have also increased the amount of middle-aged relationship seekers. Greater mobility and the decreasing significance of the workplace as place to meet romantic partners, perhaps as a consequence of concerns over sexual harassment claims (39), have given rise to a need to meet people in a new, more pragmatic way. The increasing pervasiveness of internet technologies, including web-based social networking where self profiling is commonplace, could have also contributed to the acceptance of this once stigmatised practice. The following chapter will explore the changing ways in which romantic relationships have been initiated in Western society and some of the precursors and factors that contributed to the rise of online dating as a key channel for initiation in the 21st Century.
♥ PROJECTFUTURELOVE_ 24
3.1 Amateur & Professional Matchmaking Third party intervention in the initiation of romantic relationships and marriage forming is a long established tradition that has existed in a number of cultures, taking a number of varied forms. Whilst traditionally such intervention was the duty of families and communities, the commercialisation of such services is not an entirely new conception. Historically, matchmaking would be the responsibility of community members of high social standing such as male religious leaders or elderly women (40). In contrast to contemporary Western conceptions of matchmaking services, such matchmakers would commonly be sought by the parents on the behalf of a child of marrying age; marriages often having been arranged without the consultation of the young singletons and, perhaps more often than not, with ulterior social, political or financial motivations; Love was something that would hopefully develop after the union was made (41). Whilst matchmaking was in some cultures highly formalised and professionalised, as with the Orthodox Jewish tradition of Shadchan or the Japanese custom of Omiai, matchmaking also took place widely on an
25 _ SAM DUNNE
informal basis, with central community figures making use of their large social networks to facilitate romantic relationship initiation (42). Where the principle of the contemporary intervention of online dating is based on a mixture of personal choice and algorithmic scientific matching, such traditional matchmaking would rely heavily on the matchmakerâ€™s intuition, functioning with the understanding that the matchmakerâ€™s wisdom and experience of relationships was vastly superior to that of the single youth. The personal acquaintance of the matchmaker with most singles in a local pool would presumably give him or her a deep insight into the temperament and matchability of their clients. An added advantage, it could be suggested, of such traditional matchmaking would be the potential for the matchmaker to follow up on his or her matches and learn from the successes or failures. Despite the rise of online dating, personal matchmaking is a professional practice that continues to this day in Western societies, though typically being sought out by single individuals rather than parents. Human matchmakers or introduction agencies will often work with a small client base whom they get to know personally (43). In comparison to the amateur community matchmakers described above, professional matchmakers and services may not have such a strong ongoing connection with their clients after their services have been rendered, perhaps reducing their potential to improve and iterate on their matchmaking over time.
â™Ľ PROJECTFUTURELOVE_ 26
3.2 Folklore, Magic & Myth
Modernity may have been unsympathetic to much of traditional folklore, but remnants to rich, bygone mystifications of romance remain. Bouquets continue to be thrown at weddings to select the next to wed and the cherubim form of Cupid emerges each year in the run up to Valentineâ€™s Day. Potions and incantations to induce and retain the love of another are prevalent throughout history. Hair, blood, nailpairings and all excretions of the body were common elements and ingredients of such love magic. In Scottish peasant folklore, to give but one example, two sweets stuck together with sweat would give a man power over the women of his desire, if only he could arrange for her to ingest it (44). Although romance seekers today would most likely not attempt to inspire infatuation in the prospective partners through magic, a belief in the aphrodisiacal powers of certain foods is, of course, popularly referred to. The divination of future romantic prospects was also a popular element of relationship seeking up until the 20th Century, though probably more as a form entertainment than something undertaken in earnest (45). Although these activities were not assumed to have an intrinsic impact on future events, being involved in such fantasies may well have had some self-fulfilling effects, not dissimilar to the expectancy effects psychologists suspect matchmaking algorithms may be having on modern day online daters (46).
27 _ SAM DUNNE
3.3 Dating Culture
Societal shifts in the 19th and 20th centuries towards individualism gradually removed the responsibility of romantic relationship initiation from the family and communities. Whilst individuals would still rely heavily on their immediate social networks to identify and be introduced to potential romantic partners, partner selection became increasingly the domain of personal choice. Victorian courtship had been a highly formalised activity carried out during visits of a male suitor to an eligible femaleâ€™s family home under the scrutiny of the girlâ€™s parents. Twentieth Century courting moved out of the home and into the experience economy. Dating, thereafter, could be argued to have taken on the status of a leisure activity; the initiation of relationships becoming culturally tied to conceptions of fun, excitement and pleasure. In turn, the idea that romantic relationships and dating could be initiated as a serendipitous outcome of involvement in leisure activities, such as frequenting bars and social dance, has been pervasive in Western culture.
â™Ľ PROJECTFUTURELOVE_ 28
3.4 Personal Ads & Lonley Hearts
Personal advertisement for the purposes of seeking companionship, although more widespread and accepted in the digital age than ever before, is far from a new phenomenon. Printed personals ads are believed to have originated sometime in the late 17th Century, soon after the emergence and proliferation of news printing. H.G. Cocks, author of an exhaustive history of personal ads, traces the practice back to matrimonial ads featured in the London periodical â€œThe Athenian Mercuryâ€? as early as 1690 (47). Personal advertisement services have catered for lonely individuals who struggle to meet people through other more conventional means ever since. For example, the personal ad is believed to have played a significant role in the facilitation of adulterous and subcultural relationship forming, in the homosexual community, for example, in less liberal times (48).
29 _ SAM DUNNE
Although remaining a fringe and somewhat stigmatised practice, the Lonely Hearts column saw a slight peak in popularity around the 1970’s. Ads of the time became iconic for the emergence of their own lexicon; relationship seekers describing themselves and the people they would like to meet with a vast array of abbreviations, SWF standing for “single white female” and GSOH denoting a “good sense of humour”. Although printed personal advertisement continues to this day, the popularity of the practice never reached anywhere near the levels of pervasiveness of online personals. As news reporting has moved increasingly online in the past decade, several newspaper brands have relocated their personal ads online. The Guardian, for example, launched its own online dating offering, Guardian Soulmates, in 2004. The site, seemingly a commercial success, claims 275,000 people have signed up (49) and has launched a mobile app. Some online daters interviewed for this project expressed markedly positive brand associations with the service owing to its links with the newspaper brand and the demographics of its readership (see Section 5.2.ii and 5.2.iii). Design historian, Adrian Forty, describes a tendency in Western consumer society for the possibilities of new technologies to be integrated under the guise of existing, familiar forms (50). The initial and sustained success of Guardian Soulmates could arguably be
♥ PROJECTFUTURELOVE_ 30
attributed to the uniquely favorable position of newspapers to launch an online dating service, where the paper has previously been associated with a Lonely Hearts column. Early iterations of dating sites may well have been a dauntingly new and unfamiliar concept for some relationship seekers but a ready cognitive link could, perhaps, be made between the humble Lonely Hearts columns and its translation for the web, under the umbrella of newspaper brands. Considering the views of my research participants, Guardian Soulmates may also be an interesting case study for how entertainment or consumer brands can form successful online dating platform offerings due to the inevitable similarities in interests of their associated clientele. As commercial consumer brands continue to play an increasing role in the everyday life of Western individuals, it is perhaps foreseeable that other lifestyle brands may diversify into the dating industry as they aspire to ever greater levels of customer immersion.
3.5 Video Dating
31 _ SAM DUNNE
The emergence and popularisation of VHS tape in the late â€˜70s afforded the opportunity to enrich the personal ad with images and audio, capturing a more revealing portrait than the written equivalent. Whilst the recording and distribution of video remained clumsy and costly prior to the internet age, intermediary dating agencies of the â€˜80s and â€˜90s provided services in which personal ads could be recorded and viewed by singles in the same dating agency facility.
Typically, men and women would be invited to use the services on alternate days, lowering the possibility of customers meeting outwith the formalised process of the service. This practice reveals an inherent tension in most forms of commercialised social introduction services, whereby credibility and profit can only be sustained through the simultaneous facilitation and restriction of client access to other eligible singles; a paradox no doubt experienced by registrants to subscription based online dating sites. As with printed personal ads, video dating remained a fringe activity and was presumably carried out furtively. The services and their users have been the target of much ridicule and comedy. A recurring motif on popular millennial British sketch show Smack The Pony involved video profiles of a fictional dating agency (51). The profiles were characterised by highly undesirable and seemingly disingenuous individuals, often with subtle reference being made to worrying psychological states or toxic past relationship, revealing much for societal perceptions of the practice at time of their creation. Interestingly, despite the growing acceptance of online dating services, perceptions of video dating seem to have changed little since. A recently uploaded YouTube video (52), receiving almost 2.5 million views and over 17,000 likes, shows a montage of American male video profile from the 1980â€™s, undoubtedly intended for comic enjoyment. Video recording and sharing is widespread in the digital age. Despite this and the predictable
â™Ľ PROJECTFUTURELOVE_ 32
emergence of dedicated online video dating services, such as SkyeCandy (53) and vDate (54), video profiling has yet to become mainstream in the industry. Video and audio clips can capture facets of a persons personality that written and photographic representation cannot. A user interview for this project, recounted the sudden warming to an unappealing profile after hearing a recording of the individual reading a poem, as a greater insight into his personality was provided (see Section 5.2.iii). Resistance to the medium of video in the online dating market could, perhaps, be attributed to the staged and awkward performative similarities of personal profile videos to commercial advertising; a problem already felt by online dating users about written profiles (55), though perhaps to a lesser extent. An opportunity for the integration of video into online dating may lie in the capturing of impressions of a personâ€™s image, character and disposition separate from any form of recorded personal summary or description. Wouldnâ€™t the outtakes of a video profiling be so much more revealing than the video itself?
3.6 Speed Dating
33 _ SAM DUNNE
A concept originating in USA at the turn of the millennium, speed dating events offer relationship seekers the opportunity to meet a number of singles in a succession of short dates, typically lasting between 3 and 8 minutes. Speed daters rate each other on score cards, indicating who they would like to meet again. The event organisers will usually review the cards following
the event and distribute contact details where mutual interest was ignited. Efficient in introducing singles to an array of eligible candidates in a short space of time, the practice became popular among busy, urban profession, whose lifestyles didn’t facilitate conventional forms of relationship seeking. For example, as the phenomenon spread around the world, events in Japan even received state sponsorship, in an attempt to tackle the perceived effects of long office hours on dramatically decreasing marriage and birth rates (56). Speed dating events continue to be held and could even have experienced a resurgence thanks to their perception as the real-world alternative to online dating (57). The concept has, of course, been translated for the web, SpeedDate.com for example offering subscribers video mediated “5 minute online speed dates from the comfort of home” (58). On top of obvious experiential bastardisation, the limited success of these online versions could be attributed to their failure to capture the theoretical relationship initiation benefits of a temporary limited pool of singles and a tangible element of competition (59). The concept of speed dating has in recent years spread to other social arenas where networking is important, such as job seeking (60) and business development (61).
♥ PROJECTFUTURELOVE_ 34
35 _ SAM DUNNE
4. Online Dating Today The online dating industry is growing and evolving at such a rate that it is highly likely that this paper will be outdated by the time it is printed. This chapter, however, attempts to outline some of the fundamental elements of the experience of using online dating services before moving on to highlight significant current trends in the industry, all of which will contribute to the design phase of PROJECTFUTURELOVE_ following on from this thesis. In a recent and somewhat ground-breaking article, a group of American psychologists exploring the effects of online dating on public wellbeing, define the offerings of online dating services to relationship seekers as any combination of access, communication and matching, all with regards to other users. Access refers to the increased exposure to and ability to evaluate potential partners whilst communication refers to the affordance to interact with said singles digitally, before meeting face-to-face. Matching, refers to the evaluation of romantic compatibility of its users as a service, typically achieved through algorithmic computing (62). â™Ľ PROJECTFUTURELOVE_ 36
The development of online dating services can be divided into three generations (63). First generation services, beginning with Match.comâ€™s launch in 1995, are characterised by databases and search engines of digitised personal ads. The emergence of the second generation was signaled by the launch of eHarmony in the year 2000. In contrast to Match.com and other self-selection sites, second generation brands market themselves on their algorithmic compatibility matching services, typically referencing psychological and relationship science. Recently, the distinction between the two generations has blurred significantly. Third generation offerings, according to the article, began in 2008 with the launch of a number of mobile dating apps (See Section 4.5).
Figure 9 (right) Mindmap of contributing factors to the increasing pervasiveness of online dating in 21st Century.
37 _ SAM DUNNE
♥ PROJECTFUTURELOVE_ 38
Find the right love “object”
Portrayl In Popular Culture
Belief in a thing called Love
ONLINE COMMUNICATION COMMONPLACE
Rise of The Internet
Marriage AGE Increase
PACE OF MODERN LIFE
CAREER BEFORE MARRIAGE
The Rise of Online Dating in Western Society Trend Map
algorithm Market Computing Rationalisation
ANONYMITY & ESTRANGMENT
Fear of Rejection
Dating As LEISURE
Figure 10 Visualisation of ♥ PROJECTFUTURELOVE_
Typical Online Dating Experience “Internet Relationship Initiation Process” Finkel et al.
prototypical online dating user experience. Adapted from Finkel et al.(2012) See Appendix (A2) for full size version
3_ OnlINE DATING BROUGHT TO ATTENTION
SEEK INFO ABOUT ONLINE DATING SITES
Inadequacy in “love-life” identified Objective curiousity may be ignited
Visit sites advertised/recommended Several sites may be compared Financial & personal cost/benifit
SUCCESS STORIES PRICE
REGISTER DETAILS & CREATE PROFILE Create ProfIle
READ ABOUT SITES OFFER
CONSIDER BRAND CHOICE
Age GENDER LOCATION
VIEW PROFILES FEATURED
RISK OF EXPOSURE
RECONSIDER UPLOAD PHOTOS BROWSE
SELECT PROFILE Write BLURB
INTERESTS? LOOKING FOR?
9_ Exit SERVICE
Questions & QUIZZES
In SERVICE GAMING
8_ DEVELOP AN OFFLINE RELATIONSHIP
Where digital tools (e.g. email) may be used for further correspondance, communication will typically move out of the online dating service.
39 _ SAM DUNNE
MEET OFFLI FACE-TO-FA
Territorially neutral locat Typically a public space ( Location may reflect sha Online profile varified
Where subscription to a service is necessary, users are afforded varying levels of “access”, “communication” and “matching” to encourage full service membership.
5_ EXPLORE SITE & BROWSE PROFILES
Initiate CONTACT THROUGH SERVICE
A variety of ways to “access”profiles Searching dependant on service
“Communication” with other users Various levels of interaction Dependant on site service
“WiNK” OR SIMILAR
Typically users will have some “access” to browse profiles, often without photos. Users are seldom given the opportunity to communicate before payment.
In SERVICE MESSAGE
RECEIVE CONTACT THROUGH SERVICE
EFFORT & TIME
6_ Move to OFFSITE COMMUNICATION
tion agreed (café or bar) ared interest d offline
More information More photos More trustworthy
Heightened intimacy No longer need to be logged in to service
Further Mutual COMMUNICATION Messaging and other contact Attempt to learn more about user Read social cues afforded by service Communicative strategies may develop
♥ PROJECTFUTURELOVE_ 40
Adapted from “Online Dating: A Critical Analysis From the Perspective of Psycological Science” Finkel et al. 2012
4.1 Process of Online Dating
The process of online dating varies depending on the service employed and the way the users choose to make use of the service. Finkel et al. utilise an idealised, prototypical nine-step, process to explore the dimensions of the online dating user experience; a model I have adapted, expanded and visualised for my own purposes (See previous page or Appendix A2). The process of online dating, arguably, begins to diverge most dramatically from conventional, offline relationship seeking in the moment a registrant posts a profile online (Step 3 as per diagram). The concept of creating a highly crafted, and, potentially, highly detailed personal synopsis to be viewed at any time of the day or night is highly disruptive. (64) Such selfreport profiling, although common to most dating services, rely, perhaps unwisely, on the accurate selfperception of users, as well as their honesty. Research substantiates that many online dating profiles offer false or misleading information. One study comparing a cross section of dating profiles to national statistics found that both men and women reported to be slightly
41 _ SAM DUNNE
taller than average online and women weighed, on average, 23 pounds less than national statistics would suggest (65). Browsing profiles (Step 4) could be considered the central activity of much online dating and one of the primary means by which dating services offer access to other relationship seekers. Tools and services such as search facilities or matching algorithms are typically offered to assist users with the time consuming task of sifting through large numbers of profiles. One study of online dating users (66) found that, per week, an average of 5.2 hours was spent browsing profiles, and another 6.7 hours on digital communication. From this near 12 hour investment, users could expect on average 1.8 hours of face-to-face interaction. Steps 5 through to 7 account for the initiation and continuation of digitally mediated communication between users prior to meeting face-to-face. My own breakdown of the process differs slightly from that of Finkel et al. here, in the inclusion of Step 7, “Move to Offline Communication”, following the discovery of the significant role Facebook is playing in the transition from online dating services to meeting online; a behaviour that the users interviewed reported and something that I experienced in my own use (See Chapter 5)
Communication opportunities offered to users vary depending on the site used. Typically, however, some
♥ PROJECTFUTURELOVE_ 42
form of indicating interest is available, a virtual “wink” being common for example, as well as in-service email and instant messaging. Some services attempt to formalise the communication process further, eHarmony’s ‘Guided Communication’, for example, being a regimented and quite lengthy process intended to introduce matches gradually and “make it easy to ask the important questions early, before you become too involved” (67). By Step 8 “Meet Offline Face-to-Face” the online dating process begins to move away from the dating service. The tension and fear in the “first date” described by my interviewees (and, indeed, something I experienced myself) highlights the transition from online communication to offline meeting as a significant point of friction in the online dating user journey. Users typically use the first date as a screening process (68), verifying the details of each other’s profile in person. Online dating users, particularly women, report a significant fear for their safety when meeting for first dates with those they have met online (69). For this reason first meetings are often arranged for a neutral, causal and highly public space, the coffee shop being a prime example (70).
43 _ SAM DUNNE
4.2 Online Dating Demographics
As mentioned earlier, reliable data about the use of online dating services are difficult to attain due to the secrecy under which most of the services operate. The two strongest predictors of engaging in online dating are, undoubtably, access to the Internet and being single (71). Many who fit both of these criteria will, however, readily find romantic partner by conventional means, through their activities or social network, and may be less likely to engage with online dating services. Online dating services are, perhaps, most commonly engaged in by those whose lifestyle or social network donâ€™t afford the opportunity to meet suitable singles easily. People of a minority sexual orientation may be a prime example of this, as day to day life in a predominantly heterosexual society offers limited romantic possibilities (72). Online dating may also be especially attractive to a number of other distinct groups. People who have relocated to a new area or people who have recently
â™Ľ PROJECTFUTURELOVE_ 44
experienced a break-up or divorce may be particularly likely to seek the services of internet dating sites due to a lack of suitable social network (73) and, one may speculate, from a heightened desire for meaningful companionship. Middle-aged relationship seekers, divorced or otherwise, account for a significant proportion of online daters (74) perhaps due to the â€œmate-poor â€? environments they find themselves in. Online dating use may also be common amongst those whose leisure time is limited due to, in many cases, long working hours or the responsibilities of being a single parent (75). My own use of online dating sites and interviews with users would suggest that online dating is also becoming popular with young people who would not necessarily struggle to initiate romantic relationships by offline means. One user, a female, aged 24 (See Section 5.2.i), confident and attractive, reported no difficulty in finding relationships offline, whilst online dating continues to play a significant role in her life. This users experience, perhaps, points to the transition the practice of online dating is making from a service for the desperate to a mainstream, lifestyle choice.
45 _ SAM DUNNE
4.3 Online Dating Balkanisation
Similarly to other markets that have been rationalised by the internet such as job seeking and news reporting, there appears to be a continuing race to the niches in the online dating industry. Where conventional large database model sites such as Match.com and Plenty of Fish have dominated the market for around a decade, there are a growing number of sites catering to more specific demographics. Large-scale dating services market their sites with reference to the large numbers of registered singles. Where this may be attractive to some, other online daters may be overwhelmed by the task of searching for a suitable individual among all the available candidates. Niche sites, in contrast, offer the promise of a more tailored list of singles, commonly sharing a certain interest or attribute. Paradoxically, however, advertisement and in-service promotion of such sites often still refer to large numbers of members.
â™Ľ PROJECTFUTURELOVE_ 46
A prime example of such targeted services is the phenomenon that is UniformDating (76). Launched in the UK in 2005 and revamped more recently, the site offers a dating platform intended for the exclusive use of those who work in uniform and those attracted to uniformed professionals. Despite seeming to unnecessarily limit their potential audience, the site has found a certain amount of success and, bizarrely, is one of the few online dating services to advertise on UK television. These animated spots typically feature male police officers and firefighters flirtatiously eyeing female nurses and air hostess with a voice over claiming a membership in the thousands (77). To take another example (for which I was readily able to engage with in my ethnographic research) red headed daters and their admirers have a selection of niche dating sites to choose from. Redhead-World.net, “the best redhead social network” boasts 3758 members (78) and Redhead Passions offers online dating and “freckled fun” for redheads and “redophiles” (79). DateGinger, the largest with a reported 30,000 members in the UK alone offers a dating platform alongside an array of history and trivia about red hair and even recipes for “date and ginger cake” all under the provocative strapline “actually redheads have more fun” (80).
UniformDating and DateGinger are, however, only the tip of the niche market. Niche online dating sites offer services for almost any interest group, partner or
47 _ SAM DUNNE
sexual preference. Love Horse (81) provides a platform for horse-riding enthusiasts, Tattooed Singles (82) brings together lovers of body art whilst STD Passions (83) allows internet users with sexually transmitted infections to find companionship with someone who shares their medical issues. Seek A Geek (84), Cuddly Lover (85), Women Behind Bars (86); the list goes on and on. The niching of online dating sites has been considerably accelerated by the existence of White Label Dating, a company which allows anyone to “effortlessly set up your own dating site” (87) franchise, branded to reflect the niche it is intended to fill. Whilst this service has been successful in “offering like-minded people a definitive place to meet”, the generic nature of the platform provided offers a user experience that fails to capture the uniqueness of the niche that they serve. Should users still, despite the endless list of niche possibilities, struggle to find a dating service to fit their romance seeking needs, the option remains to build one for themselves. When advertising intern Brian Moore moved to New York City, he attempt to crowd-source thirty dates over thirty days using twitter, publishing a video and written diary on a purpose made website, DatingBrian.com (88), as he went. Although failing at finding love, Brian’s exploits were a huge viral success.
♥ PROJECTFUTURELOVE_ 48
Similarly, Andrew Thomas of Andrew29th.com (89) used the viral capabilities of YouTube to advertise his own search for a date, by posting a light hearted personal ad video. Decrying his inability to initiate conversation with members of the opposite sex, his video invited the women of London to initiate with him instead outside Liverpool Street Station on 29th February 2012, making clever cultural reference to the traditional belief that that date of a leap year is the only appropriate day for a women to propose marriage to a man. As online dating becomes more increasingly commonplace, we could, potentially, expect to see an increasing amount of bespoke online personal ads that allow the creators to stand out from the online crowd.
49 _ SAM DUNNE
As an increasing number of sites compete for market share in the online dating industry, some brands attempt to differentiate their service through new, and supposedly improved, methods of assessing compatibility between online daters. Where algorithmic matchmaking, based on lengthy personality tests, has been central to services such as eHarmony for years, two emerging trends reveal services attempting to match users in novel ways; firstly, behaviourally and secondly, on biology, “Matchmaking algorithms can learn if a particular user tends to click on politically conservative blondes despite claiming to prefer politically liberal brunettes, and the algorithm will subsequently show that user more profiles of the former,” (90)
As well as offering advanced search and browsing features, free online dating site Plenty of Fish have begun recommending matches to users based on their previous browsing behaviour, rather than relying on the user’s self-reported criteria (91). The logic behind this development seems to suggest that users can improve their online dating experience if they rely more on their intuition, instinct and curiosity than on any rational thought process about what they may look for in a romantic partner. This, in turn, may reflect the casual dating nature of the service.
♥ PROJECTFUTURELOVE_ 50
A recently launched dating platform from lifestyle ezine Nerve.com (92), offers to match users based on the conversations they have within the service, rather than on self-reported data. Professing to be “The first dating site for humans,” the logic behind this implies that more of a person’s personality can be revealed in conversation than in a contrived personal profile. In recent years, a small number of scientific start-ups have generated massive media interest by attempting to link the potential of online dating with the supposed virtues of genetic matchmaking. Dating site Chemistry has been using self-reported data about comparative first finger and ring finger length to inform its matchmaking algorithms for a number of years (94). More recently, however, services such as GenePartner (95), have offered couples and individuals the opportunity to assess their genetic-make up and supposed biological compatibility profile by sending off a saliva sample to the company’s labs in Switzerland. ScentOfLove (96) offers a competing service that markets itself on the importance of body odour compatibility in romantic relationships, something, of course, not currently captured by online dating profiles. Both services are offered as complementary matchmaking devices to existing dating sites, but are yet to be linked to any major dating services.
51 _ SAM DUNNE
“Companies claim that a better biological match will mean better sex, less cheating, longer lasting love and perhaps even healthier children,”(93)
“People think that ‘love’ is simple, but that to find the right object to love - or to be loved by - is difficult,” (97)
Such developments are undoubtably a fascinating glimpse into the possibilities of a bio-tech enhanced future, hence the ready media interest. These biomatching approaches, however, may highlight an underlying, and perhaps problematic, tendency of the contemporary individual to relinquish personal responsibility for forming and sustaining meaningful romantic relationships. Increasingly “advanced” compatibility matching may lead to heightened expectations when entering a relationship and less willingness to accept and work around the inevitable imperfections and issue that arise in the natural growth of romantic relationships (98).
♥ PROJECTFUTURELOVE_ 52
“ IF PRINCE CHARMING LIVED IN TODAY’S NEW YORK, HE MIGHT TURN TO MISSED CONNECTIONS IN HIS SEARCH FOR CINDERELLA. ‘WE DANCED AT LAST NIGHT’S BALL, BUT YOU BOLTED AT MIDNIGHT,’ HE MIGHT WRITE. ‘I DIDN’T EVEN GET YOUR NAME, ONLY A GLASS SLIPPER. E-MAIL M E IF YOU GET THIS.’” (100) Erich Fromm
53 _ SAM DUNNE
4.4 Online to Offline
As the online dating industry matures, service offerings are beginning to move into the real world, initiating conversations on the go and bridging the gap between chatting online and going on a first date. Online dating encounters can begin offline. Online listing services such as Craiglist offer “Missed Connections” (99) columns in which individuals can post personal ads for the attention of a particular stranger they encountered in their daily lives. Despite the highly inefficient nature of the services, the mystery, romance and serendipity they offer have contributed to their increasing popularity. Ads now feature, for example, in print in the free thelondonpaper and The LoveTag Project (101) have attempted to translate this concept to a global online geo-location service. Taking this concept one step further is the example of Cheek’d (102), an online dating service launched in New York in 2010 that attempts to start the online dating process offline, in real world interactions. Users
♥ PROJECTFUTURELOVE_ 54
signing up to the service pay to receive a number of customisable cards, resembling business cards. Intended to be handed out in daily life, the cards direct their receivers to the Cheek’d site, where, using the code on the card, they can see a profile of, and communicate with, their admirer. Although not offering their users increased access to other singles, the cards give the user the ability to express interest in someone, and perhaps act as an intriguing ice-breaker. Particularly attractive to users, may be the concept’s ability to lower the threshold of rejection, the card giving the receiver a chance and reason to review the offer of a date without commitment on the spot. Whilst Cheek’d styles itself in a decidedly masculine fashion, a competitor FlipMe (103) has attempted to translate the service to a female market. The increased pervasiveness of smartphones has further closed the gap between online dating and the real world with the development of a number of location-based dating applications. Experts predict the value of the mobile dating market is set to reach nearly $1.4 billion by 2013 (104). Location sharing is becoming increasingly popular in the digital realm, with FourSquare, an app allowing users to “check in” to their geographical location claiming over 15 million users worldwide (105). Geo-location dating apps have been a part of this growing trend, allowing users to identify, communicate with, and approach available, singles in their location. Such technology has
55 _ SAM DUNNE
been highly influential in the gay community, the app Grindr having been adopted by a large proportion of homosexual men as a tool to help them identify men of the same sexual orientation. Although easily criticised for the sexual promiscuity this possibly facilitates (106), it is interesting to note the recent development of a sexually transmitted infection warning system that rival service Gaydar has employed, allowing users to notify one another easily and efficiently should they discover they have contracted an STI (107), an innovation that would not be possible without such online platforms. “Now online dating is all about getting offline... No need for endless back-andforth messaging. The date’s already planned.” (108)
A final, but important, example of online dating moving into the real world is HowAboutWe, a service presenting itself as something of an antidote to online dating. Users attempt to acquire dates by suggesting an activity to other users in their area, with the prefix “How About We...”. Removing the conventional emphasis on profile browsing, the service offers the opportunity to spend less time behind the screen and more time on dates. Interestingly, the service styles and markets itself as more fun than other forms of online dating, as well as being potentially more fruitful with face-to-face meetings, so the logic goes, being the best way to assess romantic compatibility.
♥ PROJECTFUTURELOVE_ 56
4.6 Deviant Daters
Whilst online dating may have been embraced by the masses, some evidence suggests that users may need to remain cautious in their use. In May 2011, internet activists staged, crowdsourced and broadcast via webcam what became known as an “involuntary” flash mob; encouraging internet users to create fake dating profiles and deceiving a large number of male online dating users to meet for a date outside a phone booth in Time Square, New York (109). A few years earlier, Russian Artificial Intelligence scientists began uploading their chatbot “CyberLover”, to a number of online dating sites. Despite not being of particularly advanced Ai technology, the chatbot was able to convince unsuspecting users that it was human, even managing to extract a significant amount of personal data from its victims. (110) As artificial intelligence becomes more sophisticated and more widespread, internet users may become increasingly suspicious of each others humanness . Online service providers, not least dating sites, will also be forced to put an increasing amount of effort into ensuring their users are human (111).
57 _ SAM DUNNE
4.7 Market Metaphors
The metaphor of shopping is pervasive through much of the online industry, profiles of singles being presented and comparable in the same way that products are sold online. Research studies suggest that concerns about the objectification of others on online dating sites may be well founded. One study, for example, suggest online daters may see the profiles of others as “sales pitches” of which they become highly evaluative and increasing skeptical (112). Where consumerist behaviours may be prevalent in much of modern day dating and coupling offline (113), online dating could be said to take this to a unprecedented level; reaching levels of absurdity in examples where the exchange of money enters the equation.
KnowYourPrice attracted a large amount of media interest with its launch in 2010. The site, professing to be a place “where money can buy you love”, (114) allows “generous men” to purchase dates from “attractive women”. The date comes with no sexual obligation, the expense simply being the price paid for the privilege of meeting. Other sites, such as Sugardaddie.com (115) and SeekingArrangements (116), have also emerged with the
♥ PROJECTFUTURELOVE_ 58
sole purpose of introducing wealthy men to, often young and attractive, women. The latter, interesting refers to “arrangements” rather than relationships, emphasising the business-like transactions taking place. Meanwhile in France, edgy dating service AdoptUnMec (translating as AdaptAGuy) plays satirically on the consumerist metaphors of online dating with references to the experience of a supermarket shopping, featured members, for example, presented on the homepage as the “Promos de Jour” (117).
59 _ SAM DUNNE
4.8 Dating for Couples
As mentioned in Chapter 1, online dating subscription models put service providers in a paradoxical position when trying to match users with one another whilst maintaining profitability. Recognising this problem, HowAboutWe has set out to extend its service to couples, aiming to help users “sustain love” as well as find it with a new web-service launching soon (118). Brand new smartphone application Pair (119), may similarly point to the impact internet technologies could have for the future couple. Marketing itself as a “social network for two”, and incorporating messaging, video calling and photo sharing, Pair allows users to record the intricacies of their relationship in one place, outside the more public domains of other social networking sites. With these developments in mind, it may be foreseeable that large online dating sites will also seek to extend their offer by providing services that continue after a romantic relationship has been established.
♥ PROJECTFUTURELOVE_ 60
61 _ SAM DUNNE
5. User Research During this project, I have carried out a significant amount of ethnographic research on a number of online dating sites, a full list of which can be found in Section 10. These experiences, although too extensive to outline in any great detail here, have informed much of the fourth chapter of the thesis as well as my outlook on online dating. In this section, I summarise a small number of key insights from my experience online and off, that have not otherwise been adequately recorded in this document, but still remain potentially influential to the continuation of the project. Firstly, a word on the ethics of my research. My methods came under a great deal scrutiny from my peers and tutors. The use of online dating sites for research purposes was something that I considered deeply. Instead of using dating sites to recruit interviewees, I deemed it more valuable to explore the experience of online dating myself, engaging in the services in earnest in my capacity as a young, romantically available male. I intended to keep my research a secret unless a lasting romantic connection occurred. I justify this minor disingenuousness with the reasoning that I was
â™Ľ PROJECTFUTURELOVE_ 62
only researching myself and my own experience, not anyone with whom I engaged; a level of curiosity, perhaps, equal to many other usersâ€™ engagement with online dating services. The only acts which I felt were ethically questionable were the engaging in communication and going on dates with users I would have, perhaps, not been attracted to in normal usage. This, however, may also not differ too greatly from the use of a curious new registrant.
Figure 10 (previous page) Screenshot of my profile on online dating site OkCupid
Figure 11 (right) Screenshot of my inbox during ethnographic research
63 _ SAM DUNNE
5.6 Experiences Online
To turn now to the top insights of my experience, I offer up a bullet point list for ease of presentation:
18-25 age group, engaging and growing My ethnographic research in the online dating world was restricted, somewhat, by my age, those under 25 years old not being those most commonly associated with the practice (see Section 4.2). Although I was able to explore the profiles of any age group I wished, I was, realistically, limited in my choice of potential dates. I was, however, surprised to note the presence of a reasonable number of users aged between 18 and 20 and many more between 20 and 25, a large number of whom reported being students. This may suggest that online dating is now such a mainstream activity that people in so called â€œmate-richâ€? environments are using the services as another channel by which to initiate romantic relationships, for leisure or companionship.
65 _ SAM DUNNE
Facebook and mobile phone I was interested to note the importance of Facebook in the online dating, though, interviews with other older online daters would suggest this may be particular to the 18-25 year old age group. As soon as conversation would reach any level of intimacy, real names would be exchanged and Facebook friend requests would be sent, thus allowing each user to have a deeper insight into the other and thereby establishing a greater level of trust. In one instance, as an unsubscribed user of Zoosk, I was messaged by another unsubscribed user (one message being permitted before payment is must be made) who offered her name and surreptitiously mentioned Facebook to avoid censorship by the service. I added the user on Facebook and eventually met for a drink. Mobile phones were also, of course, key to arranging dates. Having given out my phone number, however, I felt uncomfortable with my ready contactability.
Email overload Although I had, admittedly, signed up to an unusually large number of online dating service, I became increasingly frustrated by the number of advertisements and notifications I received by email. Although these may have been experienced positively when I had received a reply from someone I had contacted for example, most of the time I found their presence disruptive to my workflow; this creating
â™Ľ PROJECTFUTURELOVE_ 66
a cognitive link between online dating and work, an association dating services may wish to reconsider. Highly stressful and emotionally exhausting Perhaps partly exacerbated by the above, I found the whole experience of online dating quite exhausting. The intensity of starting conversations simultaneously with a number of different people is far removed from real life. I found the process time consuming and hard work, on top of finding my use becoming increasingly compulsive as replies were pending. This stress and sense of hard work may be points of friction to tackle with my concepts.
Impact on real life Somewhat surprisingly, my use of online dating had unexpected, positive affects on my confidence in the real world; starting a conversation with strangers seeming so much more natural and less effort than writing out messages online. Perhaps exposure and acceptance of a sufficient level of rejection dulls the fear of it.
6 7 _ SAM DUNNE
5.2 User Interviews Whilst my project has been informed by a number of casual conversations with online dating users and nonusers, I also carried out three in depth interviews. I summerise a small number of key insights and points of interest here (for more details see appendix A4). All names have been changed for reasons of anonymity.
â™Ľ PROJECTFUTURELOVE_ 68
i) Jessica, F, 24 Travelling to dates As a user of free online dating sites for 5 years, Jessica reported travelling from Glasgow to various cities in England for dates, experiences she reports as being both exciting and highly stressful. Highly addicted Finds complimentary messages to be extremely validating and, thus highly addictive. Reports checking her accounts obsessively at times. Uses mobile apps to do so. Spotted in the street Reports men messaging with her after having spotted her in the streets, due to the eccentric nature of her hair and clothes. Financial domination offers Reports, on two occasions, being offered credit card details by men who receive sexual gratification from women spending their money. So far, she has refused to accept the offers. She has also received the offer of gifts, but is unwilling to give out her home address.
69 _ SAM DUNNE
ii) Jenny, F, 28 3 month saturation A 2 time, 3 month subscriber to Match.com, Jenny reports the experience as highly exhausting and time consuming, perhaps caused by the desire to get the most out of the subscription. She took a break of one year between subscriptions. High expectations Reports having entered her first subscription to Match.com with high expectations. This, she notes, caused her unnecessary stress and may have had an negative impact on her dating experience. Will try again, but not on free dating sites Doesnâ€™t begrudge paying for subscriptions sites as she fears free online dating sites would involve more sifting through undesirable profiles. If online dating again, she would potentially opt for a different service; expressing a particular attraction to GuardianSoulmates for the audience that it attracts. Impact on real life Similarly to my own experiences, Jenny reports a boost in confidence in offline romantic initiation as a consequence of using online dating and accepting the occasional, inevitable, but largely inconsequential, rejection it entails.
â™Ľ PROJECTFUTURELOVE_ 70
User Interview 3 Jenny, 28
Figures 12 & 13 Visualisation of interviews with users
JeNNY, 28 two-Time Online Dating user
ii) Jenny (left) and iii) Simon & Andrea (right)
Enjoyed sharing in Friends Experiences
Was in a relationship but enjoyed helping friend with online dating
Would only check msgs at home when alone. Would browse whilst watching TV. Would share stories with friends but never on-screen.
Didn’t take rejection well at first Took it very personally Developed “harder skin”
Nicknames Gave guys nicknames so she could discuss them with friends
Had a steady job and peer group Online dating seemed like a good way to break out of her “bubble”
AnXiETY & OBSESSION
Worried obsessively about msging for about a month Checked mail all the time. First thing in the morning Had to turn to friends a lot for advice and support
Was unsure for weeks Wasn’t sure she was comfortable being judged by guys Was worried workmates might see her profile
Starting a relationship
Strange experience. Quite exhausting and really time consuming
Believes that a discussion has to be had to clarify the difference between dating and entering a relationship. Hard to know because everyone is dating multiple people
INTENSITY & PRESSURE Felt a lot of pressure to make best use of the three months Match.com subscription Whole process was highly exhausting
Became increasingly convinced that she would find the love of her life online. Entered into each meet up with anticipation.
3 MONTH SATURATION
Was glad to stop dating at the end of 3 months. 2 or 3 dates a week had been really exhausting.
Realised that online dating experience had made her more confident in everyday situations. Was less fearful of rejection than previously
More Realistic Less expectations second time round. Cant enjoy herself more now that she is less concerned with finding “true love”
High Standards Recognises her own “pickiness” in dating online. Admits to having met some nice guys that she turned down.
Going Seperate Ways Finds it difficult to break things off with guys she doesn’t want to see after a couple of dates Feels terrible about rejecting Often ignores calls just to avoid confrontation
No desire to try Free Dating Site Repelled by free online dating sites. Is worried by the kind of people it attracts Has heard about friends bad experiences Prefers to pay and have to sift less
Adventure & EXCITEMENT Has learned more about what she wants out of a relationship. Desires someone to share an adventure with and to escape the Glasgow bubble
Would do it again... Maybe Next Year Would be inclined to try a different service however for a bit of variety Possibly GuardianSoulmates but the choice in Glasgow seems limited Having just finished 2nd subscription, feels a break is needed
71 _ SAM DUNNE Names changed to protect users identity
User Interview 2 Simon & Andrea
When Simon met Andrea Through online Dating ANDREA, 29
Element of serendipity important?
After extended period of being Single
ENcouraged by a friend
Presented as A Challenge
Been on my own for a while “Blossomed a bit being single Ready for relationship again
Had enjoyed sharing in friend’s experience
Friend suggested he was relationship averse Challenged him to try online
Free Dating site
Receiver not sender
Dived Straight in
Overwhelming experience Inundated by 15+ msgs per day. Some explicit Attention was fun at first
Didn’t send a msg for a couple of weeks Received enough msgs not to need to send
Sign up, subscribed and made profile on GuardianSoulmates immediately Msgd women in Glasgow
Felt was supposed to msg and date several people at once Found this very stressful So unlike offline life Occasionally confused conversations
Shared experience With Friends
Easy to be Forward & Daring
Didn’t trust only One Picture
Would warm to people she hadn’t been attracted to.
Enjoyed to browse profiles and write msgs with friends and sister
Anonymity & distance allowed him to be extremely confident
Not showing a true representation of themselves
Lowering risk of Rejection
No Fear oF REJECTion
Persuaded Andrea To Subscribe
Msgd some guys from England. Knew nothing could come of it Didn’t care if no reply
Really didn’t matter if no reply was received Msgd all the attractive girls in Glasgow
Andrea couldn’t reply to msgs until she had paid subscription
Enjoyed searching random words A good ice-breaker
“Dating” Had never dated before Seemed like a strange, forced activity
No Horror Stories Expected to have some horrible dates
Rating systems Two friends dated the same guy who treated them both badly. Wonders if ratings will emerge.
First Date. Coffee. Walk. Pizza. Nerves gave her a twitch! Wished Simon would leave her alone for a while so she could gather herself
Really nervous Suggested to go for a walk to take the pressure off
Online/Offline transitions difficult
Much more difficult after anonymity of being behind screen So much pressure So many expectations Can’t relax because you both know you are sizing the other up
Didn’t log on too Often
Explored Further Afield
Copy/pasted in word doc. Incase she needs it again Would do it again
Didn’t like to look desperate Didn’t reply to msgs instantly
Broadened search from Glasgow to 150 miles from Glasgow Visited women in Manchester
Matching Technology Fun but Silly
Matching Technology “A load of Shite”
Took it with a pinch of salt If 90%+ would be interested Sceptical of the questions asked.
Highly sceptical of services ability to find him a match Prefers to identify for himself
Emotionally Turbulent Time
Profile Not too serious
Enjoyed online dating but it was highly stressful and exhausting
Frustrated by pragmatic nature of most dating profiles Own profile was elaborate humorous story
Experience has been a chance to think about what he wants from a relationship.
Total SecrEcy Didn’t tell anyone about doing online dating Only told family how they met weeks afterwards
♥ PROJECTFUTURELOVE_ 72 Names changed to protect users identity
iii) Simon, M, 31 & Andrea, F, 29 Simon & Andrea are a couple cohabiting after having met through Guardian Soulmates. My interview with them was carried out together, yielding a much more narrative impressions of their dating experiences.
Both introduced to online dating by friends Andrea first considered online dating after sharing in positive experiences of a close friend. Simon reports online dating having been presented to him as a challenge by a friend.
Guardian Soulmates Both report being attracted to The Guardian’s dating service by the brand’s associations. Simon described the clientele of the service as more “cerebral” than some other competitors. Differing communication strategies Where Andrea was largely passive in her search, taking a long time to initiate contact with men herself, Simon felt online dating allowed him to be a lot bolder than he would be in everyday life, feeling almost no fear of rejection.
73 _ SAM DUNNE
The first date Both report finding the transition from online messaging to face-to-face dates extremely stressful. Both were extremely nervous on meeting each other for the first time. Andrea reports trying to find opportunities to take breaks from the intensity of the experience. Simon reports suggesting going for a walk to take the pressure off. So, how did you meet? The couple report having been unsure about whether they should tell people how t hey met at first. They avoid the topic rather than making up a story. Andrea, although happy in the relationship, reports feeling disappointed with a lack of “romantic” story about how they met.
♥ PROJECTFUTURELOVE_ 74
75 _ SAM DUNNE
â€œThere is hardly any activity, any enterprise, which is started with such tremendous hopes and expectations, and yet, which fails so regularly, as love. If this were the case with any other activity, people would be eager to know the reasons for the failure, and to learn how one could do better - or they would give up the activity,â€? (120) Erich Fromm
This thesis has scoped out much of the historical and social context of the online dating industry. With an overview of the cultural shifts surrounding ideas and practices relating to romantic relationships in contemporary Western societies, Chapter 2 points to an increasing significance of individualism and the paradoxical limitations on relationship forming caused by heightened levels of freedom in partner choice. The emergence of online dating, and its increasing significance in initiating romantic relationships, can be considered both symptomatic and catalytic of these contemporary societal conditions. The historical overview of romantic relationship initiation, and the interventions of third parties in this endeavour, provided in Chapter 3, gives insights into practices and services that existed before the digital age, the archaeology of which having given much to the form to current online dating services. Chapters 4 provides, firstly, analysis of the typical process of online dating, secondly, an insight into who
â™Ľ PROJECTFUTURELOVE_ 76
may be employing these services most widely and, lastly, an analysis of a number of key trends in the online dating industry, all of which may point, directly or indirectly, to opportunities for design. Although ethnographic research and users interviews have informed the entirety of this paper, Chapter 5 offers a number of key insights to substantiate and build upon my findings. It is my belief that now may be a particularly pertinent time to reflect on the practices of online dating. The industry, growing in size and beginning to innovate in certain areas, has the potential to improve the life quality of relationship seekers. The current commercial operations of online dating services may, however, be limiting this significantly. Compatibility matching services, to refer back to one example, although attractive, enchanting even in the case of bio-matching, may be deceiving users with false hope for instantaneously harmonious relationships. Online dating service market themselves on the ease they bring to relationship seeking. Services that donâ€™t challenge their users to reflect on their motivations and behaviors in relationship seeking, I argue, are unlikely to bring about the results that they claim to. Whilst the need to introduce people to one another is evident, services that fulfill this need by catering for the â€œrelationshoppingâ€? behaviours of contemporary relationship seekers may create unsatisfying relationships; the same paradoxes of choice and buyers remorse, that affects consumer behaviour beginning to creep into our personal lives.
77 _ SAM DUNNE
As well as the potential to develop speculative services that offer a more philosophical approach to internet enabled relationship seeking - or, on the other hand, illustrate the perils of current forms - this thesis also points to a number of other areas ripe for speculation and innovation. To highlight some of the most fully formed, firstly, the friction point at which online communication moves to face-to-face meeting is a clear opportunity for online dating brands to extend the reach of their service, or for another complimentary services to emerge. Secondly, current movements in the market suggest an increasing trend towards sustaining, as well as establishing, romantic relationships, that big online dating brands would also be wise to note. Thirdly, it may well be imagined that brands outside of the online dating industry, those pertaining to lifestyle and leisure for example, could seek to immerse their customers further by diversifying into their romantic lives.
â™Ľ PROJECTFUTURELOVE_ 78
79 _ SAM DUNNE
7. Notes (1)
“Why Are Online Personals So Hot?” - Wired.com, November 2002 http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/10.11/view.html?pg=2 (Sept 2011)
“Dating & Matchmaking Site Benchmark Report, 2011” - Subscription Site Insider http://www.subscriptionsiteinsider.com/public/Executive_Summary_2011_Online_Dating.cfm (Sept 2011)
“Online dating soars as temperatures plunge” - BBC News, January 2010 http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/8445593.stm (Sept 2011)
Finkel, E. J. et al. (2012) Online Dating: A Critical Analysis From the Perspective of Pysc. Science, p.7 http://people.tamu.edu/~eastwick/PSPI-online_dating-proof.pdf (Feb 2012)
Rosenfeld, M. J., & Thomas, R. J. (2012) Meeting online: The rise of the Internet as social intermediary, Unpublished manuscript, Standford University, p.15 http://www.stanford.edu/~mrosenfe/Rosenfeld_How_Couples_Meet_Working_Paper.pdf (Feb 2012)
Baumeister, R. F., & Leary, M. R. (1995) The Need to Belong: Desire for Interpersonal Attachment as a Fundamental Human Desire, in Psychological Bulletin, Vol 113, No 3, p.497 http://persweb.wabash.edu/facstaff/hortonr/articles%20for%20class/baumeister%20and%20leary.pdf (Feb 2012)
op. cit., Finkel, E. J. et al. (2012), p.3
“Depression costs economy £8.6billion a year” - The Independent, June 2009 http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/depression-costs - economy-16386bn-a-year-1706018.html (Feb 2012)
“Just Say No To the Dating Industry” - The New York Times, November 2003 http://www.nytimes.com/2003/11/30/style/just-saying-no-to-the-dating-industry.html (Oct 2011)
Quoted in Marar, Z. (2003) The Happiness Paradox, p.96
Illouz, E. (1998) The Lost Innocence of Love: Romance as a Postmodern Condition, in Theory, Culture & Society: Special Issue on Love and Eroticisim, p182
Foley, M. (2010) The Age of Absurdity, p.184
“Who said romance was dead?” - The Guardian, January 2008 http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2008/jan/27/fiction.features1 (Jan 2012)
Stone, L. (1977) The Family, Sex and Marriage in England, p284
Giddens, A. (1991) Modernity & Self Identity, p.3
♥ PROJECTFUTURELOVE_ 80
“I want to be alone: The rise and rise of solo living” - The Guardian, March 2012 http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2012/mar/30/the-rise-of-solo-living (Mar 2012)
“The EUs baby blues” - BBC News, March 2006 http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/4768644.stm (Apr 2012)
Schwartz, B (2005) The Paradox of Choice, p.87
Bauman, Z. (1998) On Postmodern Uses of Sex, in Theory, Culture & Society: Special Issue on Love and Eroticisim, p.23
May, S. (2011) Love: A History, p.10
op. cit., Illouz, E. (1998), p.175
Paul, P. (2005) Pornofied, p.4
AdultFriendFinder, homepage, http://adultfriendfinder.com/p/main.cgi (Apr 2012)
OnlineBootyCall, homepage, http://www.onlinebootycall.com/signup/ (Apr 2012)
AshleyMadison, homepage, http://www.ashleymadison.com/ (Apr 2012)
MaritalAffairs.co.uk, http://www.maritalaffair.co.uk/ (Apr 2012)
“Christian’s attach ‘marital affair’ billboards” - The Telegraph, January 2010, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/7071488/Christians-attack-marital-affair-billboards.html (Apr 2012)
“Rangers aern’t tickled pink by Ashley Madison sponsorship offer” - The Drum, March 2012, http://www.thedrum.co.uk/news/2012/03/15/rangers-arent-tickled-pink-ashley-madison-sponsorship-offer (Apr 2012)
AshleyMadison Sucks, http://www.ashleymadisonsucks.com/ (Apr 2012)
AshleyMadison Scam, http://ashleymadisonscam.net/ (Apr 2012)
Yes! Mrs. Robinson hompage, http://www.yesmrsrobinson.com/ (Apr 2012)
op. cit., Finkel, E. J. et al. (2012), p.2
Fromm, E. (1976) The Art of Loving, p.2
81 _ SAM DUNNE
Beck-Gernsheim, E. (1998) On the Way to a Post-Familial Family - From a Community of Need to Elective Affinities, in Theory, Culture & Society: Special Issue on Love and Eroticisim, p.57
op. cit., Finkel, E. J. et al. (2012), p.2 & p.7 “How Do I Love Thee?” - The Atlantic, March 2006, p.6 http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2006/03/how-do-i-love-thee/4602/ (Feb 2012)
Baker, M. (1977) Wedding Customs & Folklore, p.12
op. cit., Finkel, E. J. et al. (2012), p.24
Cocks, H. G. (2009) Classified, p.2
“Guardian Soulmates goes mobile” - The Guardian, August 2009 http://www.guardian.co.uk/gnm-press-office/guardian-soulmates-mobile1 (Mar 2012) Forty, A. (2005) Objects of Desire, p.11
“Smack the Pony - Dating Agency Videos”, YouTube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nTRTXhX0ee4 (Sept 2011)
“80s Video Dating Montage”, YouTube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0bomkgXeDkE (Feb 2012)
SkyeCandy, http://www.skyecandy.com/ (Mar 2012)
vDate, http://www.vdateonline.com/ (Mar 2012)
op. cit., Finkel, E. J. et al. (2012), p.14
“Japan pins hopes on ‘speed dates’” - BBC News, April 2006 http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/4903522.stm (Mar 2012)
“The Serial Dater” - The Guardian, August 2008 http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2008/aug/20/speed.dating (Mar 2012)
SpeedDate, homepage, http://www.speeddate.com/ (Mar 2012)
op. cit., ”The Serial Dater” - The Guardian
“Speed your job to me” - BBC News, June 2011 http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/in_depth/sci_tech/2000/dot_life/1368739.stm (Mar 2012)
“ClearlySo matches businesses through speed dating” - The Guardian, January 2010, http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2010/jan/24/businesses-matched-through-speed-dating (Mar 2012)
op. cit., Finkel, E. J. et al. (2012), p.2
Frost, J. H. et al. (2008) People are Experience Goods: Improving Online Dating with Virtual Dates, in Journal of Interactive Marketing, p53
“What is Guided Communication” - eHarmony http://help-singles.eharmony.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/2358/~/what-is-guided-communication%3F (Mar 2012)
Long, B. L. (2010) Scripts for Online Dating, p.238 http://etd.ohiolink.edu/send-pdf.cgi/Long%20Bridget.pdf?bgsu1268852623 (Feb 2012)
op. cit., Finkel, E. J. et al. (2012), p.16
“Looking For Someone” - The New Yorker, July 2011, p.11 http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2011/07/04/110704fa_fact_paumgarten?currentPage=11 (Oct 2011)
♥ PROJECTFUTURELOVE_ 82
DateGinger, homepage, http://www.dateginger.co.uk/ginger-dating-faq.html (Feb 2012)
Love Horse, http://www.lovehorse.co.uk/ (Feb 2012)
Tattooed Single, http://www.tattooedsingles.com/ (Feb 2012)
STD Passion, http://www.stdpassions.com (Feb 2012)
Seek A Geek, http://www.seek-a-geek.co.uk (Feb 2012)
Cuddly Lover, http://www.cuddlylover.co.uk/ (Feb 2012)
Women Behind Bars, http://www.womenbehindbars.com/ (Feb 2012)
WhiteLabel Dating, homepage, http://www.whitelabeldating.com/ (Feb 2012)
DatingBrain, http://datingbrian.com/ (Nov 2011)
Andrew29th, http://andrew29th.com/ (Mar 2012)
op. cit., Finkel, E. J. et al. (2012), p.19
POF.com, UltraMatch, http://www.pof.es/viewultramatches.aspx (Mar 2012)
Nerve Dating, http://dating.nerve.com/ (Mar 2012)
Chemistry, landing page, http://www.chemistry.com/glp/landing/7809?trackingid=523633&bannerid=2011013 (Mar 2012)
GenePartner, http://www.genepartner.com/ (Mar 2012)
ScentOfLove, http://www.scentoflove.com/ (Mar 2012)
op. cit., Fromm, E. (1976) p.2
op. cit., Finkel, E. J. et al. (2012), p.49
Craigslist, London Missed Connections, http://london.craigslist.co.uk/mis/ (Mar 2012)
“Romance Beckons (in Case You Missed It)” - The New York Times, February 2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/02/23/nyregion/23romance.html?pagewanted=print&position= (Mar 2012)
The LoveTag Project, http://www.lovetag.org/ (Mar 2012)
Cheek’d, http://cheekd.com/ (Jan 2012)
FlipMe, http://flipme.com/ (Jan 2012) “Juniper Research: There’s Money In Mobile Dating Services” - TechCrunch, January 2009 http://techcrunch.com/2009/01/19/juniper-research-theres-money-in-mobile-dating-services/ (Mar 2012)
Foursquare, About page, https://foursquare.com/about/ (Mar 2012)
op. cit., “Grindr: a new sexual revolution” - The Guardian, July 2010
Pop up window after registering to Gaydar, http://gaydar.co.uk/ (Mar 2012)
HowAboutWe, About page, http://www.howaboutwe.com/about (Mar 2012)
83 _ SAM DUNNE
“Genetic love match? Dating sites try DNA tests” - MSNBS, December 2009, http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/33893470/ns/health-sexual_health/t/ genetic-love-match-dating-sites-try-dna-tests/ (Mar 2012)
“Forever Alone Involuntary Flashmob” - Vice, May 2011 http://www.vice.com/en_uk/read/forever-alone-involuntary-flashmob (Jan 2012)
“Flirting with robots” - The Guardian, December 2007 http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2007/dec/25/flirtingwithrobots?INTCMP=SRCH (Oct 2011)
op. cit., Finkel, E. J. et al. (2012), p.14
op. cit., Fromm, E. (1976), p.3
WhatsYourPrice, About Us page, http://www.whatsyourprice.com/about (Jan 2012)
Sugardaddie, http://sugardaddie.com/ (Jan 2012)
SeekingArrangments, http://www.seekingarrangement.com/ (Jan 2012)
AdoptUnMec, homepage, http://www.adopteunmec.com/ (Jan 2012)
“HowAboutWe’s New Site Helps Couples Discover Outings” - Mashable, March 2012 http://mashable.com/2012/03/09/howaboutwe-for-couples/ (Mar 2012)
Pair, http://trypair.com/ (Jan 2012)
op. cit., Fromm, E. (1976) p.4
♥ PROJECTFUTURELOVE_ 84
85 _ SAM DUNNE
8. List of Figures Several images used in this document are for decorative purposes only and not intended as informative figures.
Individuals in America reporting having met their current partner online. Madden. M et al., (2005) Online Dating, Pew Internet & American Life Project http://pewinternet.org/Reports/2006/Online-Dating.aspx (Jan 2012) Rosenfeld, M. J. (2010) Meeting online: The rise of the Internet as a social intermediary http://www.stanford.edu/~mrosenfe/Rosenfeld_How_Couples_Meet_Working_Paper.pdf (Feb 2012)
Findings on perceptions of online dating Madden. M et al., (2005) Online Dating, Pew Internet & American Life Project http://pewinternet.org/Reports/2006/Online-Dating.aspx (Jan 2012)
Madden. M et al., (2005) Online Dating, Pew Internet & American Life Project http://pewinternet.org/Reports/2006/Online-Dating.aspx (Jan 2012)
Match.com advert still “Official match.com Advert: Accidental Duet (Full Version)” - YouTube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-z4aguu4Ex0 (Jan 2012)
OkCupid logo http://www.okcupid.com/ (Sept 2011)
Friends with Benefits film poster http://collider.com/wp-content/uploads/friends-with-benefits-movie-poster-02.jpg (Mar 2012)
OnlineBootyCall hompage screenshot http://www.onlinebootycall.com/signup/ (Apr 2012)
TakeMeOut, TV show http://blogs.coventrytelegraph.net/passtheremote/take%20me%20out%20paddy%20mcguinness.jpg (Apr 2012)
Mindmap of contributing factors to the increasing pervasiveness of online dating in 21st Century.
Screenshot of my profile on online dating site OkCupid http://www.okcupid.com/profile/FatSam88 (Jan 2012)
Screenshot of my inbox during ethnographic research
Visualisation of interview with Jenny
Visualisation of interview with Simon & Andrea
♥ PROJECTFUTURELOVE_ 86
87 _ SAM DUNNE
Books & Articles
Baker, Margaret (1977) Wedding Customs & Folklore, David & Charles (Publishers) Ltd. Bauman, Zygmunt (1998) On Post Modern Uses of Sex, in Theory, Culture & Society: Special Issue on Love and Eroticism, Volume 15, Numbers 3-4, Sage, London Baumeister, R. F., & Leary, M. R. (1995) The Need to Belong: Desire for Interpersonal Attachment as a Fundamental Human Desire, in Psychological Bulletin, Vol 113, No 3 http://persweb.wabash.edu/facstaff/hortonr/articles%20for%20class/baumeister%20and%20leary.pdf (Feb 2011) Bech, Henning (1998) Citysex: Representing Lust in Public, in Theory, Culture & Society: Special Issue on Love and Eroticism, Volume 15, Numbers 3-4, Sage, London Bech-Gernsheim (1998) On the Way to a Post-Familial Family - From a Community of Need to Elective Affinities, in Theory, Culture & Society: Special Issue on Love and Eroticism, Volume 15, Numbers 3-4, Sage, London Cocks, H.G. (2009) Classified: The Secret History of the Personal Column, Random House Books, London Evans, Mary (1998) Falling in Love with Love is Falling for Make Believe: Ideologies of Romance in PostEnlightenment Culture, in Theory, Culture & Society: Special Issue on Love and Eroticism, Volume 15, Numbers 3-4, Sage, London Finkel, Eli J et al. (2012) Online Dating: A Critical Analysis From the Perspective of Psychological Science http://people.tamu.edu/~eastwick/PSPI-online_dating-proof.pdf (Feb 2012) Foley, Michael (2010) The Age of Absurdity, Simon & Schuster, London Forty, Adrian (2005) Objects of Desire, Thames & Hudson, London Fromm, Erich (2006) The Art of Loving, Harper Perennial, London Frost, J. H. at al. (2008) People are Experience Goods: Improving Online Dating with virtual dates, in Journal of Interactive Marketing, 22, p51-56
â™Ľ PROJECTFUTURELOVE_ 88
Giddens, Anthony (1991) Modernity & Self Identity: Self and Society in the Late Modern Age, Polity Press, Cambridge Giddens, Anthony (1993) The Transformation of Intimacy: Love, Sexuality and Eroticism in Modern Societies, Polity Press, Cambridge Howell, James W. (2007) The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Love, Courtship & Sexuality Through History, Greenwood Press, Connecticut Illouz, Eva (1998) The Lost Innocence of Love: Romance as a Postmodern Condition, in Theory, Culture & Society: Special Issue on Love and Eroticisim, Volume 15, Numbers 3-4, Sage, London Lanier, Jaron (2011) You Are Not A Gadget, Penguin, London Lewis, C.S. (1960) The Four Loves, Harpers Collins Publishers, London Long, Bridget L. (2010) Scripts for Online Dating A Model and Theory of Online Romantic Relationship Initiation; A Dissertation, http://etd.ohiolink.edu/send-pdf.cgi/Long%20Bridget.pdf?bgsu1268852623 (April 2012) May, Simon (2011) Love: A History, TJ International, Cornwall Marar, Ziyad (2003) The Happiness Paradox, Reaktion Books, London Middleton Murry, J. (1957) Love, Freedom & Society, Alden Press, Oxford Paul, Pamela (2005) Pornofied: How Pornography Is Damaging Our Lives, Our Relationships, and Our Families, St. Martinâ€™s Griffin, New York Phlegar, Phyllis (1995) Love Online: A Practical Guide to Digital Dating, Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, Boston Rosenfeld, Michael J et al. (2012) Searching for a Mate: The Rise of the Internet as a Social Intermediary, Forthcoming in the American Sociological Review http://www.stanford.edu/~mrosenfe/Rosenfeld_How_Couples_Meet_Working_Paper.pdf (April 2012) Shwartz, Barry (2005) The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less, HaperCollins, London Sternberg, Robert J. et al. (1988) The Psychology of Love, Yale University Press, Connecticut Stone, Lawrence (1977) The Family, Sex and Marriage in England 1500-1800, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London Strauss, Neil (2005) The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pick-Up Artists, The Text Publishing Company, Melbourne Wouters, Cas (1988) Balancing Sex and Love since the 1960s Sexual Revolution, in Theory, Culture & Society: Special Issue on Love and Eroticism, Volume 15, Numbers 3-4, Sage, London
89 _ SAM DUNNE
“80s Video Dating Montage”, YouTube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0bomkgXeDkE (Feb 2012)
AshleyMadison Sucks, http://www.ashleymadisonsucks.com/ (Apr 2012) AshleyMadison Scam, http://ashleymadisonscam.net/ (Apr 2012) “ClearlySo matches businesses through speed dating” - The Guardian, January 2010 http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2010/jan/24/businesses-matched-through-speed-dating (Mar 2012)
“Christian’s attach ‘marital affair’ billboards” - The Telegraph, January 2010 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/7071488/Christians-attack-marital-affair-billboards.html (Apr 2012) “Dating & Matchmaking Site Benchmark Report, 2011” - Subscription Site Insider http://www.subscriptionsiteinsider.com/public/Executive_Summary_2011_Online_Dating.cfm (Sept 2011) “Depression costs economy £8.6billion a year” - The Independent, June 2009 http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/depression-costs - economy-16386bn-a-year-1706018.html (Feb 2012) “Flirting with robots” - The Guardian, December 2007 http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2007/dec/25/flirtingwithrobots?INTCMP=SRCH (Oct 2011) “Forever Alone Involuntary Flashmob” - Vice, May 2011 http://www.vice.com/en_uk/read/forever-alone-involuntary-flashmob (Jan 2012)
Foursquare, About page, https://foursquare.com/about/ (Mar 2012) “Genetic love match? Dating sites try DNA tests” - MSNBS, December 2009 http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/33893470/ns/health-sexual_health/t/ genetic-love-match-dating-sites-try-dna-tests/ (Mar 2012) “Guardian Soulmates goes mobile” - The Guardian, August 2009 http://www.guardian.co.uk/gnm-press-office/guardian-soulmates-mobile1 (Mar 2012) “HowAboutWe’s New Site Helps Couples Discover Outings” - Mashable, March 2012 http://mashable.com/2012/03/09/howaboutwe-for-couples/ (Mar 2012) “How Do I Love Thee?” - The Atlantic, March 2006, p.6 http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2006/03/how-do-i-love-thee/4602/ (Feb 2012) “I want to be alone: The rise and rise of solo living” - The Guardian, March 2012 http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2012/mar/30/the-rise-of-solo-living (Mar 2012)
♥ PROJECTFUTURELOVE_ 90
“Japan pins hopes on ‘speed dates’” - BBC News, April 2006 http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/4903522.stm (Mar 2012) “Juniper Research: There’s Money In Mobile Dating Services” - TechCrunch, January 2009 http://techcrunch.com/2009/01/19/juniper-research-theres-money-in-mobile-dating services/ (Mar 2012)
“Just Say No To the Dating Industry” - The New York Times, November 2003 http://www.nytimes.com/2003/11/30/style/just-saying-no-to-the-dating-industry.html (Oct 2011) “Looking For Someone” - The New Yorker, July 2011, p.11 http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2011/07/04/110704fa_fact_ paumgarten?currentPage=11 (Oct 2011)
“Online dating soars as temperatures plunge” - BBC News, January 2010 http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/8445593.stm (Sept 2011) “Rangers aern’t tickled pink by Ashley Madison sponsorship offer” - The Drum, March 2012 http://www.thedrum.co.uk/news/2012/03/15/rangers-arent-tickled-pink-ashley-madison- sponsorship-offer (Apr 2012) “Romance Beckons (in Case You Missed It)” - The New York Times, February 2005 http://www.nytimes.com/2005/02/23/nyregion/23romance.html?pagewanted=print&positon= (Mar 2012) “Smack the Pony - Dating Agency Videos”, YouTube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nTRTXhX0ee4 (Sept 2011) “Speed your job to me” - BBC News, June 2011 http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/in_depth/sci_tech/2000/dot_life/1368739.stm (Mar 2012) “The EUs baby blues” - BBC News, March 2006 http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/4768644.stm (Apr 2012) “The Serial Dater” - The Guardian, August 2008 http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2008/aug/20/speed.dating (Mar 2012) “What is Guided Communication” - eHarmony http://help-singles.eharmony.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/2358/~/what-is-guided- communication%3F (Mar 2012) “Who said romance was dead?” - The Guardian, January 2008 http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2008/jan/27/fiction.features1 (Jan 2012) “Why Are Online Personals So Hot?” - Wired.com, November 2002 http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/10.11/view.html?pg=2 (Sept 2011)
91 _ SAM DUNNE
AdoptUnMec, http://www.adopteunmec.com/ (Jan 2012) AdultFriendFinder, http://adultfriendfinder.com/p/main.cgi (Apr 2012) Andrew29th, http://andrew29th.com/ (Mar 2012) AshleyMadison, http://www.ashleymadison.com/ (Apr 2012) Badoo, http://www.badoo.com/ (Apr 2012) Cuddly Lover, http://www.cuddlylover.co.uk/ (Feb 2012) Cheek’d, http://cheekd.com/ (Jan 2012) Chemistry, http://www.chemistry.com/(Mar 2012) Craigslist, London Missed Connections, http://london.craigslist.co.uk/mis/ (Mar 2012) Cupid.com, http://www.cupid.com (Mar 2012) DateGinger, http://www.dateginger.co.uk/(Feb 2012) DatingBrain, http://datingbrian.com/ (Nov 2011) eHarmony, http://eharmony.co.uk/ (Sept 2011) FlipMe, http://flipme.com/ (Jan 2012) Gaydar, http://gaydar.co.uk/ (Mar 2012) GenePartner, http://www.genepartner.com/ (Mar 2012) Grindr, http://grindr.com/ (Mar 2012) Guardian Soulmate, https://soulmates.guardian.co.uk/ (Mar 2012) HowAboutWe, http://www.howaboutwe.com/ (Mar 2012) Love Garden, http://www.lovegarden.co.uk/ (Feb 2012) Love Horse, http://www.lovehorse.co.uk/ (Feb 2012) MaritalAffairs.co.uk, http://www.maritalaffair.co.uk/ (Apr 2012) Match.com, http://uk.match.com/ (Sept 2011) MatchAffintity.com, http://www.matchaffinity.com/ (Sept 2011) Mature Dating UK http://www.maturedatinguk.com/ (Feb 2012) Nerve Dating, http://dating.nerve.com/ (Mar 2012) OkCupid, http://www.okcupid.com/ (Apr 2012) OnlineBootyCall, http://www.onlinebootycall.com/ (Apr 2012) Pair, http://trypair.com/ (Jan 2012) POF.com, , http://www.pof.com/ (Mar 2012) Redhead Passion, http://www.redheadpassions.com (Feb 2012) RedheadWorld.net, http://www.redheadworld.net. (Feb 2012) ScentOfLove, http://www.scentoflove.com/ (Mar 2012) Seek A Geek, http://www.seek-a-geek.co.uk (Feb 2012) SeekingArrangments, http://www.seekingarrangement.com/ (Jan 2012) SkyeCandy, http://www.skyecandy.com/ (Mar 2012) SpeedDate, http://www.speeddate.com/ (Mar 2012) STD Passion, http://www.stdpassions.com (Feb 2012) Sugardaddie, http://sugardaddie.com/ (Jan 2012) Tattooed Single, http://www.tattooedsingles.com/ (Feb 2012) The LoveTag Project, http://www.lovetag.org/ (Mar 2012) vDate, http://www.vdateonline.com/ (Mar 2012) WhatsYourPrice, http://www.whatsyourprice.com/(Jan 2012) WhiteLabel Dating, http://www.whitelabeldating.com/ (Feb 2012) Women Behind Bars, http://www.womenbehindbars.com/ (Feb 2012) Yes! Mrs. Robinson, http://www.yesmrsrobinson.com/ (Apr 2012) Zoosk, http://www.zoosk.com/ (Oct 2011)
10. List of Services Although not nearly exhaustive of the dating services referred to and used in my research, this list represents the most important services to the writing of this paper.
♥ PROJECTFUTURELOVE_ 92
Published on Jul 3, 2012
ProjectFutureLove_ was a self-intiated “major” design project final submission by Sam Dunne, surrounding the topics of “online dating”, as p...