How can we make building connections online more authentic, so that dating and friendship app users can translate them into real life?
In recent years, online dating and friendship platforms have drastically transformed the social landscape. According to the Pew Research Center, 30% of internet users aged 18-49 have used online dating apps, exceeding 50% in those under 30. Despite past app use, many users, especially in LGBTQ+ communities, report giving up on dating altogether. Our main demographic focus is the 18-49 age group.
While adult platforms promise meaningful connections, the overwhelming number of users and profiles leads to cognitive dissonance. Apps like Tinder and Bumble, designed to keep users engaged, commodify potential partners, causing choice overload and quick evaluations based on limited information. Loneliness among adults has increased by 7% since 2018, particularly affecting men.
Dating apps use a familiar formula, gamifying the process with reward feedback, allowing users to "collect" matches. Despite a preference for in-person approaches, users between 25 and 50 years of age initiate connections through chat or text. However, they struggle to translate online interactions into genuine connections, facing challenges in turning virtual connections into meaningful real-world relationships.
Understanding the impact of online platforms on the loneliness epidemic and their role in establishing authentic connections, it's crucial to use applications and AI to empower users to transform connections into intimate, genuine relationships.
User Pain Points
Using social media and facebook groups, we queried dating app users in the target demographic, and completed 5 user interviews. From these reports we were able to determine some overarching concerns of dating app users.
- 42.9% of respondents said romantic relationships were what they struggled to build most
- When it came to building a new connection, 40% said communication style was most important followed by hobbies, and chosen form of entertainment
- 71.4% said they wanted to meet more online connections in person
- Users rated the difficulty of determining the value of potential matches to be their largest source of frustration, followed by feelings of overwhelm when faced with too many options
- While nearly 80% of respondents preferred to be approached in person, over 50% still preferred to go through the process of first getting to know someone over chat, likely because 60% of them had experienced feeling unsafe when being approached in person
- Interests, values and hobbies were cited as most important to know about a potential new match.
- Finally, abandoned connections were attributed to either too much or too little conversation, or different expectations/motivations
- My qualitative research showed multiple interview subjects mentioned difficulty developing relationships past the casual stage, particularly in queer communities, as well as a strong desire for real life connections
- Alternatively, many respondents referred to a wish to make more friends, and to connect with others platonically over shared interests and hobbies.
My preliminary user research found that the current structure of dating apps is a source of frustration to many users, and may even prevent some users from using dating apps at all. The paradox is that widespread frustration with dating apps in conjunction with users mainly relying on dating apps and online is a reality even as users crave real life connections and wish they could have connections initiated in real life.
Landing on the Solution
The solution involves a centralised "digital identity" managed by AI for dating and friendship purposes, aiding in compatibility assessment, identifying red flags, and establishing commonalities.
Users can employ this identity both on-the-go and at home, linking identities when meeting for the first time to discover common ground. Visual spaces on the app, like selection "cards" or gamified virtual "rooms" evoking early online nostalgia will showcase these digital identities for others to discover.
To discourage commodification, love and intimacy-focused matches may be limited and time-constrained. Friendship matches will receive special treatment, emphasising genuine connections, recognizing that friendships can naturally evolve into romantic relationships.
The app could facilitate user engagement through activities like sharing music or media, creating playlists, inviting to events, and participating in gamified opportunities such as trivia, quizzes, and challenges, fostering interaction without a competitive element for users.
Possible additional problems/considerations:
- Study differences in the needs of queer and straight users on dating apps, focusing on translating casual connections into long-term ones through qualitative findings.
- Explore AI applications to discern user motivations and intent, addressing a significant pain point.
- Investigate user preferences for a departure from swipe-format dating and narrowed choice through experimentation and feedback.
- Collect user feedback on the value of gamified interactions, identifying generative formats over distracting ones.
- Gather user feedback to determine the most engaging "visual" landscape when navigating matches.
- Thoroughly test the "live" feature of the app and establish safety parameters.
- Explore opportunities for events to host the app or for Vybe to engage in marketing event partnerships, bringing this feature to market.
Product Manager Learnings:
My journey with Co.Lab has been a completely transformative journey, spanning just a few weeks but leaving a huge impact on my mindset and skill set. The opportunity not only provided me with imperative leadership skills but also created a significant shift in my approach to various aspects of professional and personal development.
Some highlights from my growth these past weeks:
- Stronger time management.
- More effective organization and prioritization
- A greater aptitude for collaboration
- Better Communication
- A newfound passion for data
- Research Synthesis
- lean product management
- mockups and prototype design
It’s safe to say I have a newfound love for product management! I am so thankful that Co.Lab gave me this chance, and I can’t wait to put my learnings into practice.