“Virtual dates: bridging the online and offline dating gap” by Frost, Norton and Ariely

  • ©Jeana Frost, Michael I. Norton, and Dan Ariely




    Virtual dates: bridging the online and offline dating gap



    Online dating has emerged as a popular way to meet romantic partners; some 16 million Americans have used an online dating website [1]. Although online dating offers seemingly limitless new relationship options, it fails to meet users’ high expectations, and online daters continue to report a general preference for offline dating over online dating [2]. We suggest that this widespread disappointment is due in part to a critical mismatch between online and offline dates. On offline dates, people interact in real time and gather a wealth of social information. Online, however, people choose partners by sorting them on various attributes (e.g., height and favorite movies) – as if searching for a car or computer – then exchange brief email messages, a process lacking the real-time interaction critical to the acquaintanceship process. We sought to modify the exchange of information in online dating to more closely mirror a real-world first date, such as talking while meandering through a museum. We used an evolving enriched chat platform, ChatCircles [3], to create Virtual Dates: Pairs of individuals – represented by avatars of their choosing – co-navigate a shared space, exchanging real-time messages. Virtual Dates are intended to bridge the gap between offline and online dating by increasing social presence and enriching exchanges, better simulating first dates in the real world. 



    1. Madden, M. & Lenhart, A. 2006. Online dating. Washington, DC: Pew Internet and American Life Project.
    2. Frost, J. H., Norton, M. I., & Ariely, D. 2006. Improving online dating with Virtual Dates. Manuscript submitted for publication.
    3. Viegas, F. & Donath, J. Chat Circles. In Proceedings of ACM CHI 1999. ACM Press, New York, 9–16.

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