Date of Award

Spring 2018

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Information Systems - (Ph.D.)

Department

Informatics

First Advisor

Quentin Jones

Second Advisor

Sukeshini A. Grandhi

Third Advisor

Donghee Yvette Wohn

Fourth Advisor

Starr Roxanne Hiltz

Fifth Advisor

Louise Barkhuus

Sixth Advisor

Andrew Fiore

Abstract

Online dating systems have transformed the way people pursue romance. To arrive at a decision to meet for a face-to-face date, users gather information about each other online pertinent to romantic attraction. Yet sometimes they discover on the date that they made the wrong choice. One aspect of online dating system-use that may be a contributing factor, but is largely overlooked in the literature, is interaction through text-based messaging interfaces. This dissertation explores how messaging interactions inform face-to-face meeting decisions through two qualitative studies, and explores through a mixed methods field study how innovative messaging interfaces that embody theory from marriage literature can help users predict enjoyment of face-to-face interactions.

Two qualitative studies of users of the online dating system OkCupid (n=41) and professional online dating coaches (n=35) indicate that users may have difficulty foreseeing unenjoyable face-to-face interactions because some users behave in ways during messaging interactions that differ from subsequent face-to-face interactions. Typical approaches to messaging resembled "auditions" in which female users hastily reject men whose messages are not immediately appealing, and male users compete for female attention with prewritten or carefully crafted message content.

Theories of relationship satisfaction are used to propose new ways that messaging interfaces could support online daters. Models of marital satisfaction posit that problem-solving discussions (i.e., interactions in which partners are prompted to discuss a disagreement of opinion) are conducive to expression of attraction-relevant traits (e.g., personality). If this theory extends to potential romantic partners, messaging interfaces that prompt online daters with problem-solving discussion topics may yield interactions online that are similarly enjoyable to future, in-person interactions in which the richer, face-to-face context inherently supports signaling of attraction-relevant traits.A messaging interface prototype is designed based on the concept of problem-solving discussions and assessed alongside a standard, open messaging interface through a mixed methods field study (n=85). Results indicate that prompting users to discuss topics that they disagreed on does not help them make better face-to-face meeting decisions. Female daters are uncomfortable with an emphasis on disagreements because of anticipated arguments and men are indifferent to the interface because they seek signals of attraction more so than compatibility. However, female users' decisions to meet face-to-face do benefit from a messaging interface that prompts users to discuss topics that they agreed on. In contrast, men's decisions to meet face-to-face are worsened by the same prompted-agreement interface due to misinterpreting an emphasized agreement as a signal of attraction from women. Together, results suggest that a redesigned topic-prompted messaging interface should clarify to users that an emphasized (dis)agreement of opinion is not intended to incite an argument or insinuate attraction. A broader design implication includes acknowledging that users prioritize signals of compatibility and attraction differently and customizing messaging interface components to highlight information pertinent to users' varying needs.

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