“Let me be your guinea pig!”

Preliminary Interviews

A willing volunteer

What I love about this topic is people’s willingness to share their personal experiences (and frustrations) with Online Dating. When I made an open call for interviews, to my surprise, a lot of people responded with, “let me be your guinea pig!” Which is great because it gives me confidence that this is a topic worth pursuing. To avoid bias, I purposely sought out to meet with strangers or people I didn’t already have a close relationship with. I also interviewed people with different experience levels and expectations of the Online Dating experience. To protect these people’s identity, I will be swapping out their names.

Interview 1: Amber 💁🏼

Amber has been online dating for about 3 years. She isn’t looking for a serious relationship. She’s also very busy, working, and going to school, so she doesn’t have much time to invest into a relationship. She admitted that the experience was similar to shopping:

“It’s like going [shopping] to Costco, you can go through so many boys…in bulk.”

I asked her what she thought about the experience. She said that it’s easy and fun to use and that she preferred Tinder because it feels like a game. She didn’t enjoy using OKCupid as much because making a profile is too much work. I asked her about the process of trying to find potential matches and what was the most frustrating thing for her:

“I could be texting someone for 2 weeks but when I meet them, I’ll know within 2 minutes whether I’m actually interested in them or not.”

Interview 2: Mike 👦🏻

I strolled over to Madison Square Green to chat with Mike. He recently went through a divorce and was ready to get back into the dating scene. The only problem is that he’s been in serious relationship for most of his adult life. So online dating isn’t just new to him, but it’s evolved so quickly, where Match.com was the ‘coolest’ dating site when he was single.

He’s currently using Tinder and Coffee Meets Bagel. Since he’s new to the process, he doesn’t much of an opinion yet. Although he still said a few things that I thought were interesting:

“Online dating feels like a lot of work, like I have to set aside time in my calendar to do it everyday.”

I think it’s interesting that the process wasn’t necessarily as exciting and fun in the way Amber described it. But he also broke down the process of actually getting to a date and I started to realize that it does require a lot of work and coordination. Especially if you’re as busy as Mike, who’s working all the time. He also described this interesting existential process when you’re making your profile and you’re asked to talk about yourself:

“Wait…am I attractive?”

He’s describing this process as a bit of self-experimentation and self-discovery because he’s trying to figure out what makes him attractive and how he should represent himself on his profile. Picking a photo is really stressful. Sometimes he asks friends to write his profile, and even fight about how he describes himself online.

Interview 3: Jason 👱🏽

A few hours later I was chatting with Jason over coffee. He characterizes himself as an experienced dater. He’s been using online dating for years but these days he strictly uses Tinder. Overall he’s pretty happy with it and even met someone that he had a relationship with for a year. Though that relationship ended amicably, so he is still looking for someone who wants something more serious. He’s not necessarily looking to settle down but wants to avoid a lot of the “riff-raff” online.

“It’s frustrating when you’ve been texting with someone for like 2 weeks and then all of a sudden they fall of the face of the earth.”
“I wish there was like a double confirmation just to make sure if we’re still good?”

I think Jason is describing is the non-committal nature of Online Dating. Since there are so many options and so many people, your attention is divided. But there’s also the emotional cost and investment that goes into this process. Is there a better way to gauge people willingness to commit or at least make that known beforehand? I wonder 🤔.

Interview 4: Sonya 🙅🏻

Sharon has never used online dating. She briefly tried it a few times just to see what it was like and was completely turned off from the entire experience.

“I just feel like the whole thing is superficial, it’s like shopping for humans.”

When she was going through profiles, she didn’t feel that she had a good sense of who these people were and that they were fake. Although she’s not completely against meeting people online. She has met people through Twitter and social media and has become friends with them online. Although it’s not necessarily a platform for dating.

“There’s something special about taking the time to meet someone in person.”

She also really values meeting people in person and taking the time out of your schedule to do that.

Key Insights

What I got from these initial interviews here’s what I learned:

  • Online dating works well for people who don’t have a lot of time.
  • A lot of time can be spent interacting on screen but it can also inhibit someone’s ability to judge chemistry with a person. Photo, profiles, and text are 2-dimensional whereas people are 3-dimensional.
  • Dating culture creates expectations and changes people’s behaviour
  • You have to sort of “sell” yourself to get dates

Next Steps

I feel like I’m just beginning to scratch the surface. I think I’ll try and conduct more dates but I’ll need to start thinking about how I can craft some experiments to dismantle some of these challenges in online dating.

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