Social networks and online dating

There's been much talk lately of how social networks such as myspace and Facebook will diminish the use of online dating sites. Most of it is total hooey. There are fundamental differences between social networking and online dating, centering around trust between members, and personal safety and privacy.

myspace and it's wannabees sit firmly at the very low trust end - fake profiles, huge membership, anyone can join, and sites that are invite only and have stringent vetting policies at the high-trust end. Other sites take fake profiles more seriously, and of course myspace have instigated many measures to improve their levels of trust. But ultimately it is a free-for-all.

Facebook is of course seen as a "challenger" to online dating, but so far our experience has been that social networks such as Facebook are seen in the public mind as separate spaces, apart from online dating. Key difference is that with Facebook etc, you are represented online with your real name. With online dating, we have nicknames and anonymous messaging. The reason is because with Facebook we are getting to know people as friends, and mainly keeping up with existing relationships. It's not a space in which many people meet brand new people. With online dating we are looking for complete strangers to form relationships with. That requires a different approach to how much real information about you to publish online.

Although many of our members are on Facebook, we don't think many of them are using it for dating. As a closed-off space in which only those who are invited can peek into your personal space, it is not very suitable for online dating. Hence while Facebook has probably increased the overall usage of online socialising tools, it has not dramatically impacted on the usage of dedicated online dating sites.

© Midsummer's Eve 2007