Online Dating Study: User Experiences of an Online Dating Community

By Andrea Quesnel
2010, Vol. 2 No. 11 | pg. 3/3 |

Summary, Implications and Outcomes

The purpose of this pilot study has been to explore and interpret how users aged 23-30 from Ottawa, Ontario experience the online dating community, Plenty of Fish. I found that although each user had a different level of involvement in the site, all 4 initially heard of POF through word-of-mouth recommendations from friends and were attracted to the site predominately for its broad base of local users and free membership.

Again, even though each user had different goals in joining the site, ranging from seeking an “activity partner” to a long-term partner, all 4 users had been on face-to-face dates with fellow users they had met on POF. Their successes with these face-to-face meetings were varied, however, there was an across-the-board disappointment with how offline identities and connections translated into face-to-face ones. There were mixed reviews on the site itself depending on the personal preferences of each online dater. Overall, each participant communicated a relative satisfaction with the community considering it is a free service.

The findings differ from the studies outlined in the literature review predominately because the present study focuses on such a small body of participants from one city using one community. This pilot study is extremely limited in terms of scope and depth, whereas the other 3 studies were done on a larger scale, over a longer period of time with financial funding.

Two of the reviewed sources are based upon participants in both the UK and Australia, whereas the last source focuses on online flirting and erotic-orientated chat rooms and effect they have on the nature of dating. On the contrary, this study focuses on users from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada and describes aspects of their experience of the community in it’s entirety, rather than explore the nature of online dating alone or measure the prevalence of online dating quantitatively as a phenomenon.

Future studies would benefit from multiple interviews from a more diverse population of users that go into more depth. The implications of the limitations on this present study are that the population of users to study is small and therefore the scope and depth of data is lacking in areas.

A more thorough and comprehensive study could be achieved with a longer time frame in which to peak the interests of more users to participate. Also, because I was approaching users as a student, they could have been weary to participate. If a professional researcher or research team conducted a similar study in a more professional, structured manner, there may be a higher response rate.

This pilot study is significant in terms of the value and experience it provided to me as a researcher. It served as an introductory phenomenological study attempting to interpret and describe what it is that users experience in the phenomenon of online dating within the micro example of the Plenty of Fish community and, further, within Ottawa, Canada in the 23-30 age group.

My hope is that the study provides a small window into the individually constructed realities that are formed within the growing and ambiguous phenomenon of love and intimacy being conducted online. At the very least, the study offers a few of the countless experiences that occur when individuals are engaged in interpersonal and romantic interactions via online dating communities.


References

Alapack, R., Flydal Blichfeldt, M., & Elden, A. (2005). Flirting on the internet and the hickey: a hermeneutic. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 8(1), 52-61.

Barraket, J., Henry-Waring, M. (2008). Dating & intimacy in the 21st century: The use of online dating sites in Australia. International Journal of Emerging Technologies and Society, 6(1), 14-33.

Creswell, J.W. (2007). Qualitative inquiry and research design: Choosing among five approaches. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Gunter, B. (2007). Internet dating: a British survey. Aslib Proceedings: New Information Perspectives, 60(2), 88-98.


Appendix 1: MSN Messenger Interviews

Participant 1:

Éric says: (6:18:04 PM)

are you ready?

Andrea (Student Researcher) says: (6:18:14 PM)

ya, i am if you are!

Éric says: (6:18:26 PM)

i am

Andrea (Student Researcher) says: (6:19:05 PM)

alright, i\'ll begin then!

Andrea (Student Researcher) says: (6:19:12 PM)

So first off, why did you sign up on Plenty of Fish?

Éric says: (6:19:33 PM)

cause i found a site with more people

Éric says: (6:19:38 PM)

pof ahah

Andrea (Student Researcher) says: (6:20:04 PM)

there were more people on POF compared to another site you were on?

Éric says: (6:20:15 PM)

yes

Andrea (Student Researcher) says: (6:20:49 PM)

so other than having more people, how does POF compare to other sites you\'ve tried?

Éric says: (6:21:31 PM)

its free but not much serious people in there

Andrea (Student Researcher) says: (6:22:00 PM)

what do you think most users are looking for?

Éric says: (6:22:31 PM)

quite vague question

Éric says: (6:22:57 PM)

many are looking for fun, some for sex, some for serious stuff

Andrea (Student Researcher) says: (6:23:57 PM)

what are you looking for from the site?

Éric says: (6:24:13 PM)

long lasting love

Andrea (Student Researcher) says: (6:24:57 PM)

do you think POF has potential for fulfilling that goal?

Éric says: (6:25:30 PM)

well since there are real people you can meet on there, of course

Andrea (Student Researcher) says: (6:26:09 PM)

have you met up with people face-to-face that you met from the site?

Éric says: (6:26:18 PM)

yes

Éric says: (6:26:27 PM)

a few

Andrea (Student Researcher) says: (6:26:52 PM)

in person, how did they compare to their online profile and chatting?

Éric says: (6:27:55 PM)

its the same people as for the beliefs and kind of people

Éric says: (6:28:02 PM)

but its always differrent from what we imagine

Andrea (Student Researcher) says: (6:29:34 PM)

alright. does the website give you what you\'re looking for? in terms of it\'s services, how it works, its layout, etc.

Éric says: (6:30:15 PM)

you work for pof?? lol

Andrea (Student Researcher) says: (6:30:51 PM)

haha no! this is just a research study for school.

Éric says: (6:31:03 PM)

ok

Andrea (Student Researcher) says: (6:31:55 PM)

just answer best as you can recall..did the website itself impact how you met people on there or what you thought of online dating?

Éric says: (6:32:33 PM)

you mean from their advices6

Éric says: (6:32:34 PM)

?

Éric says: (6:32:39 PM)

no

Andrea (Student Researcher) says: (6:35:18 PM)

from the different features of the website and how it works. like how you can search for users, or the messaging system, or the way the profiles are

Éric says: (6:37:20 PM)

i dont see how it could

Andrea (Student Researcher) says: (6:38:32 PM)

so do you feel that the profiles, searching engines or any other feature of the website had no impact on your experience of the site?

Éric says: (6:39:11 PM)

well it depends how you use it

Éric says: (6:39:22 PM)

and i dont use it the same way every time

Éric says: (6:39:43 PM)

it may change the people you end up meeting

Andrea (Student Researcher) says: (6:40:41 PM)

okay. how did you hear about POF?

Éric says: (6:41:08 PM)

from a friend

Andrea (Student Researcher) says: (6:41:39 PM)

on a scale from 1-5, how involved would you say you are in the POF site?

Éric says: (6:42:48 PM)

5

student_researcher@live.com says: (6:43:25 PM)

have you ever been to their local events? the ones they host at bars and stuff?

Éric says: (6:43:42 PM)

no

student_researcher@live.com says: (6:44:23 PM)

alright. overall, how would you describe your experiences on POF? (sucesses, an observation, an opinion of it)

Éric says: (6:46:35 PM)

it opens possibilities but its still hard to find that person that is ready and open for it

Éric says: (6:46:47 PM)

sometimes it feels impossible :)

student_researcher@live.com says: (6:47:29 PM)

I see! why did you start looking for a long-term relationship online to begin with?

Éric says: (6:48:11 PM)

cause i was single

Éric says: (6:48:12 PM)

ahah

Éric says: (6:48:34 PM)

you dont need another reason than that

Éric says: (6:48:55 PM)

but im too shy to meet people from outside

student_researcher@live.com says: (6:49:38 PM)

ohh okay, i see. what are the downfalls or shortcomings of POF, if any?

Éric says: (6:51:32 PM)

the site or the online experience?

Éric says: (6:52:05 PM)

it would be that people judge too fast and doesnt give a chance to know a person

student_researcher@live.com says: (6:52:18 PM)

thats for online experience?

Éric says: (6:52:39 PM)

yes

student_researcher@live.com says: (6:53:10 PM)

what about for POF?

Éric says: (6:53:39 PM)

limits to the search engine....

student_researcher@live.com says: (6:56:19 PM)

less users or the search engine itself?

Éric says: (6:57:13 PM)

it would be nice to search for keywords in the profile to find similar interests

Éric says: (6:57:23 PM)

more users is always good

Éric says: (6:57:25 PM)

too

student_researcher@live.com says: (6:59:24 PM)

alright, great answers! those are all the questions i have, do you have anything else to add?

Éric says: (6:59:51 PM)

have you tried it?

Éric says: (6:59:52 PM)

ahah

student_researcher@live.com says: (7:00:25 PM)

haha good question! i\'ve heard about it from friends but never signed up myself until i made my researching profile

 

Participant 2:

student_researcher@live.com says: (7:12:04 PM)

do you have time for that quick interview now? it is there a better time that works for you?

fritzgerald says: (7:12:15 PM)

now is ok

student_researcher@live.com says: (7:12:47 PM)

alright, awesome. i\'ll begin:

student_researcher@live.com says: (7:13:00 PM)

So first off, why did you sign up on Plenty of Fish?

fritzgerald says: (7:14:09 PM)

my friend told me to join.

fritzgerald says: (7:14:25 PM)

but hadn\'t heard of it be4 that.

student_researcher@live.com says: (7:15:07 PM)

was it the first dating site you singed up for?

fritzgerald says: (7:15:52 PM)

yes

student_researcher@live.com says: (7:17:24 PM)

what are you looking for from the site?

fritzgerald says: (7:18:34 PM)

dating and making friends

student_researcher@live.com says: (7:19:18 PM)

so far, have you found this from the site?

fritzgerald says: (7:21:38 PM)

So far I have been on two dates but made more friends I will say 5 to be exact

student_researcher@live.com says: (7:23:22 PM)

Alright. In your experience, what do you think most users are looking for?

fritzgerald says: (7:23:54 PM)

male or female?

student_researcher@live.com says: (7:24:36 PM)

both

fritzgerald says: (7:28:05 PM)

well from my point of view I think many people think its easier to fine the special person online than in a regular scenario..

student_researcher@live.com says: (7:28:30 PM)

why would you say that is?

fritzgerald says: (7:31:08 PM)

haven known or met people throught online dating I think thats what a majority of them think.

fritzgerald says: (7:31:53 PM)

I have asked the same question too before and got same responses or something similar

student_researcher@live.com says: (7:32:44 PM)

I see.Do you think POF offers people what they are looking for in an online dating community?

fritzgerald says: (7:33:43 PM)

Yes

student_researcher@live.com says: (7:34:56 PM)

How do the site features enhance or take away from the online dating experience? (the profile layouts, the search engine for users, the messaging, etc).

fritzgerald says: (7:39:16 PM)

The layout is ok. As for the search engine, it gives u many options to narrow or broaden ur search criteria on what u r looking for which is nice. Don\'t have any issues with the messaging though.

fritzgerald says: (7:40:53 PM)

I would like something more of an intant msging thing than having to keep msging pple.

student_researcher@live.com says: (7:41:39 PM)

Alright!On a scale of 1-5 how involved would you say you are in the POF community?

fritzgerald says: (7:42:10 PM)

3

student_researcher@live.com says: (7:43:15 PM)

alright, so moderate? from that, what would you say is your overall experience of the site? (sucesses, observations, opinion on it)

fritzgerald says: (7:48:37 PM)

I would say my overall experience on the site has been great. One other observation I have seen on the site is that ladies overall are really selective which is kind of fun to see. Though its safe to say same as the guys haha

student_researcher@live.com says: (7:49:21 PM)

Haha, so you\'d say both guys and ladies are both able to be selective on the site?

fritzgerald says: (7:50:02 PM)

yeap safe to say....

student_researcher@live.com says: (7:51:06 PM)

thats interesting! okay, those are all my questions. unless you have anything to add, we\'re all finished up

Participant 3:

josh says: (7:25:42 PM)

ask me what youd like to know

student_researcher@live.com says: (7:26:11 PM)

alright, i\'ll start:

student_researcher@live.com says: (7:26:26 PM)

So first off, why did you sign up on Plenty of Fish?

josh says: (7:28:56 PM)

sry was away for a moment

student_researcher@live.com says: (7:29:09 PM)

thats alright. answer whenever you\'re ready

josh says: (7:30:02 PM)

it all started out looking for a decent local dating site,

josh says: (7:30:47 PM)

than realizing almost every other site costs money to use , where plentyoffish has always been free to everyone

josh says: (7:30:57 PM)

i think thats why its so popular

student_researcher@live.com says: (7:31:46 PM)

alright, have you tried other dating sites?

josh says: (7:32:32 PM)

yes i tried aff last year and paid but im looking for that now

josh says: (7:32:46 PM)

sprry not looking

josh says: (7:33:09 PM)

do you know of aff

student_researcher@live.com says: (7:33:37 PM)

no, i\'ve never heard of that

josh says: (7:34:10 PM)

ok well it a very popular site for flings or one nighters basically

josh says: (7:34:32 PM)

for woman its free

josh says: (7:34:50 PM)

men pay 20 to 60 a month roughly

josh says: (7:35:06 PM)

seems pathetic somehow

josh says: (7:35:07 PM)

lol

student_researcher@live.com says: (7:35:28 PM)

haha thats interesting. What were yo

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