In Conclusion

My exploration of behavior in online dating environments raises more questions than it answers. Each statistic begs for comparison with other online dating systems, with different populations and different interactional tools. The numerical results have human stories behind them that will require a complementary qualitative approach to unravel.

Of course, the real question is what people are looking for in a partner, whether for a night, a date, or a lifetime. Online dating systems provide a copious amount of raw behavioral data that might improve our understanding of people's complex goals in this arena, which will in turn help us improve the systems themselves.

Many tools for computer-mediated communication seem to have been designed more for the convenience of the engineer than for the human needs of the user; they tend to lose the subtleties of social perception and communication in favor of the structure of a relational database. As I examined the data for this work, I began to wonder what really matters in attraction and love — and can a set of simple descriptors capture even a sliver of it? The analysis suggests that they can indeed capture a sliver, but the whole pie may yet elude them. Even the characteristics that were found to be important must be considered with some skepticism: just because they were found to be the most important characteristics of those provided by the Site does not mean that many more important factors do not exist.

The task of those who will research and design online dating systems in the future is to help people find what they really want, or at least what they think they want — the people who succeed will gain the satisfaction of making a lot of people just a little bit happier.


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