Online Dating Behaviors: Revealing Self In The Face Of Throwaway Culture


My team set out to learn more about what impact people’s expectations have on dating behaviors and to examine whether these expectations, behaviors, or both trend differently among heterosexual and non-heterosexual dating groups


How do dating expectations affect online dating behaviors among hetero- and non-heterosexual groups?

What are people’s expectations for dating?
What are people’s expectations for online dating?
How does online dating change people’s behaviors in finding a mate/partner?
How do online dating expectations vary among different sexuality groups?
What factors determine selection of a specific dating platform?

Our team interviewed participants one-on-one about their experiences with online dating. We created research collection activities such as a dating timeline to gather data on sentiment and events over a period of time. In another activity we had the participants partake in a card sort where they sorted reaction words (positive and negative adjectives) to describe various online dating platforms in order for us to learn about users’ attitudes toward an app’s design.

Dating Timeline

We also conducted focus groups where we recruited participants through the apps and through word of mouth. We spoke with separate groups of straight and LGBTQ participants. Groups were moderated to speak about their experiences. Some questions to facilitate conversation included:

    How do you choose who you go out on a date with?
    What events in your life have increased or decreased app use?
    What is your outlook on online dating?

The final round of research involved observational studies. We observed a couple on a first date and gave them questionnaires to fill out before and after the date. The goal of the observational study was to observe whether the participants say or think align with their behaviors.

As our research progressed, however, we recognized that our research questions and the areas of study had evolved based on the data we gathered. Our revised research questions became:

Main Research Question:
How do people navigate online dating when their goal is to establish a successful relationship?

How do people's goals (particularly if they are seeking a successful relationship) affect their online dating behavior?
What actions or activities do people take or engage in when they are trying to find a successful relationship through online dating?
How do people’s goals (particularly if they are seeking a successful relationship) determine their selection of a specific dating platform?

My team created a theory for a hierarchy of dating needs based on our participants’ online dating attitudes and behaviors. The hierarchy is based on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. I created the diagram for this theory.

—There is a disconnect between people’s online dating and “real life” identities.

—Users are pessimistic about online dating, but continue to do so.

—Safety has many definitions in online dating.

—“Ghosting” is a specific etiquette that has emerged in unmatching with people.

—Using apps can serve as a boost of confidence.

—Testing behaviors determine how and if people advance through the stages until couple actualization.

—Dating platforms are a form of entertainment and a cure for boredom.

—Users have a vastly different set of goals, which influence online dating behavior and a mismatch in goals poses a challenge in online dating.

Dating Options: Too many options overwhelmed some users, too little made the apps seem slow. Aim to find the right balance of options with a unique way of filtering.

Reinforcing Behaviors: Design considerations should be carefully thought out to increase dating success, not dating possibilities.

Varying reasons for use and commitment levels: Designers should find a way to identify the varying types of commitment that users have towards the app and group those users together.