For anybody who has been following me for awhile on Twitter, you have probably seen one of my rants about my experience on online dating sites. Sifting through one crappy dating profile after another gets old really fast. Then, sprinkle in dozens of creepy messages from guys, who are old enough to be father, and it’s enough to make me question my decision to jump on Match in the first place.
Whether its Match, PlentyofFish, OkCupid, Jdate, ChristianMingle or pick your online dating poison, the concept and approach is pretty much the same. You create a profile describing yourself and your interests. Then people can search for and message you on there. It’s not all that different than Facebook except it’s displaying yourself to strangers.
We are all treating how we portray ourselves and our actions in a similar fashion to how we use Facebook. That’s why our current online dating concept is so fundamentally flawed. By in large, Facebook is at it’s a core a “community” where we connect and stay in touch with friends, family and colleagues that we already know in real life. On the other hand, online dating is essentially a “community” of passionate strangers- all looking for their special someone.
Now this is where I am going to get really nerdy, but bear with me for a second. As a community manager, some of the best online communities I’ve seen are the ones with passionate people who all have a similar interest or goal. The best part of each community lies in the discussions you can have in there. These discussions can be the foundations for connections and sometimes whole networks to form. The reality is you can learn so much about a person by how they converse with others (be it people in real life or strangers online). That’s the glue that makes an online community thrive.
But where are the discussions on online dating sites?
The answer quite honestly is there are none. You have a dating profile, a search feature, and private messaging. Most also have a wink or like feature for people that you are digging. However this makes for a pretty terrible online experience in my view. You essentially have two options.
You can wink at somebody, which is pretty much the equivalent of going to a mall and giving random strangers the thumbs up sign and then immediately walking away.
Or, you can send a private message to them. That’s pretty much the equivalent of cold calling. Something the vast majority of people despise. This leads people to either not message anyone they like (think fear of rejection or worst being ignored) or people to game the system with inauthentic messages. (Aka the guy who copies and pastes the same message to 100 ladies).
It’s become a numbers game. I don’t care who you are, but I’m willing to venture that no one looking to find love wants to be considered a number. They want to find that special someone for them.
Now I don’t know (or claim to know) the algorithms that each dating site uses to send people their daily dating matches. But, I do know that the moment you create your Match.com profile, you are pretty much banking on luck to find that special someone. That doesn’t exactly create the foundation of an awesome online community experience.
So what would it take to create an ideal online dating experience? That’s a million dollar question. And one that I don’t have a good answer to.
However what I do know is that in order to have a thriving online, successful community, you have to a dedicated group of like-minded individuals discussing a specific topic(s) at it’s core. The number of “likes,” “favorites,” and “winks” a community has means nothing if the conversation ends there. You can’t build a functional community of an action that takes a member less than a half second to complete. Thriving communities take time and effort to grow and flourish.