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If Harry Met Sally Online, Could He Trust Her? A Discussion of Honesty in Online Dating Rachel Kern Techno-Identity MAS 964 Spring 2005.

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Presentation on theme: "If Harry Met Sally Online, Could He Trust Her? A Discussion of Honesty in Online Dating Rachel Kern Techno-Identity MAS 964 Spring 2005."— Presentation transcript:

1 If Harry Met Sally Online, Could He Trust Her? A Discussion of Honesty in Online Dating Rachel Kern Techno-Identity MAS 964 Spring 2005

2 The Rise of Internet Dating Since Harry met Sally back in 1989, the world of dating has changed drastically Most significantly, online dating has been introduced, which raises many new questions about online honesty and trust

3 Some of the New Issues Introduced by Online Dating How can trust be established online? How can online daters know that what they perceive about others through online photos and profiles is accurate information? What motivates online daters to portray themselves honestly on dating websites? Do better ways exist of promoting online honesty in the dating world? What might some of these ways be, and what shortcomings might they have?

4 Evaluating Honesty Online No way to ascertain that a person has been honest online simply by viewing his profile Very easy to lie about personal facts (age, height, weight), post misleading photos and write deceptive essays Nearly everything that one says about oneself is a conventional signal The only assessment signal that can be demonstrated on an online dating site is the amount of effort that one has put into his profile

5 True.com True.com is an online dating website that conducts background checks on all of its members – Criminal background investigations – Public record screenings to ensure that members are not married What if Harry met Sally on True.com? – He can be reasonably sure that she is not a criminal and not married, and he can assess how much effort she has put into her profile But how can he validate anything else Sally claims about herself?

6 Online Reputation Systems EBay has established an online reputation system – After a transaction is completed, the buyer and seller can rate each other – Over time, each buyer/seller develops an online reputation as to how trustworthy and pleasant they are in business dealings – It is in their best interest to acquire a good reputation to secure more deals in the future Can we apply a similar model to online dating?

7 TrueDater.com TrueDater.com allows online daters to review others they have met in person through a dating website – Is this person a true dater? – Explanation of why or why not Intended to be an objective review of how honestly someone has portrayed himself in his profile Not intended to be a subjective review of someones personality, or why one online dater did not like another

8 TrueDater.com continued The site is completely free for anyone to use All reviews are anonymous The reviewer can optionally choose to notify the subjects of reviews by entering their address – They will receive an , notifying them that someone has reviewed their profile – It will not inform them who wrote the review, or reveal their address to anyone else

9 Potential Problems with TrueDater Unlike EBays online reputation system, TrueDater is not built into the dating sites themselves How will people know about it? – TrueDater.com provides links to Match, Jdate and Yahoo Personals – But none of these sites provide links back to TrueDater It cant be effective in promoting honesty in online dating unless it is widely known about and widely used

10 If Harry Met Sally Online… and They Both Knew About TrueDater.com Several Possible TrueDater Scenarios

11 Scenario #1 Sally meets Harry through Match. She is not interested in him, but he did portray himself honestly in his profile. What will motivate Sally to write a positive review? – Sally will probably never see Harry again, and may not care about boosting his reputation for his future online dates – If the reviews were not anonymous, perhaps Harry would reciprocate by writing a positive review of Sally… but they are anonymous – Maybe the act of doing something nice for someone else will make Sally feel good about herself – The cost of writing the review is relatively low – Sally has already paid the higher cost of meeting Harry in person – Are the low cost and the potential for Sally to feel good about herself enough of a motivation?

12 Scenario #2 After exchanging s over Jdate, Sally and Harry meet in person. Sally finds that Harry has lied about himself online by claiming to be thinner and taller than he appears in person. What will motivate Sally to write a negative review? – Sally would have liked to know ahead of time that Harry was dishonest, instead of wasting her time meeting him – She might be motivated to forewarn other online daters about him, so they wont have to waste their time as well – The belief that she is helping other members of the online dating community makes Sally feel good about herself – Sally is also punishing Harry for his dishonesty, and getting revenge on him for providing her with misleading information – The costs of posting the review are low, especially because it is anonymous

13 Scenario #3 Upon first meeting Harry through Yahoo Personals, Sally really likes him. She wants to eventually date him exclusively. She does not want others to find out how great he is. – Sally is motivated to post a negative (and dishonest) review of Harry to dissuade her competition from meeting him – The costs of posting a dishonest review are low, since the reviews are anonymous – The benefits to Sally are great, because if she ruins Harrys reputation, no one else will want to meet him and she can have him for herself

14 But Are the Reviews Really Anonymous? If Harry has only met Sally and no one else in the past month, and he sees that someone has posted a new review of him on TrueDater, wont he figure out that its her? This might cause Sallys deceptive plan in Scenario #3 to backfire

15 You Can Also Review Yourself If Harry receives a negative review, he can follow up by posting a glowing review of himself This might negate the damage done by the negative review

16 Does TrueDater.com Work? There are many different possible motivations for writing both positive and negative reviews Readers of these reviews cannot know if the reviews themselves are honest If most people use TrueDater.com honestly, it might help in encouraging honesty online, but it cannot ensure it

17 Online Recommendation Systems Another method of sharing information online Amazon.com and Epinions allow users to review products. Unlike Ebay, the buyers and sellers are not reviewed, just the products themselves Can this model be applied to online dating?

18 GreatBoyfriends.com GreatBoyfriends.com – where every single man comes with a womans stamp of approval If Sally knows Harry in an offline context, she can recommend Harry as a great boyfriend. Sally essentially writes Harrys profile for him

19 How Does GreatBoyfriends.com Encourage Honesty? A profile written by a third party might portray its subject more accurately than the subject can portray himself – Some people have inflated views of themselves – Others are self-deprecating and might not be good at highlighting their positive features A third party has less incentive to be dishonest. The author of the profile has nothing at stake, and nothing to gain by writing a deceptive profile Writing a deceptive profile has higher costs. The author already knows the truth, but will have to put more effort into inventing a fictional profile

20 What Motivates One To Recommend Someone on GreatBoyfriends.com? The site itself provides a motivational promotion To contact others on the site, it costs $20 a month, but if you write a recommendation, you receive a free month of membership

21 Scenario Sally sees several men she would like to contact on GreatBoyfriends.com. She wants to avoid the $20 fee. But everyone she knows, including Harry, is already married, and she has no one to recommend. Even though Harry is married, Sally recommends him on the site anyway to bypass the fee – The websites promotion has actually encouraged deception online in this case – Perhaps GreatBoyfriends.com would more reliably encourage honesty if it did not offer the free month promotion

22 What if the Promotion was Removed? Users of the site would have no motivation to recommend friends other than selfless good will If Sally is willing to altruistically recommend Harry as a great boyfriend, she is likely to be honest in her review This also sends a powerful signal about Harrys personality – he has enough positive traits to inspire Sally to recommend him selflessly

23 What if Sally and Harry had a fight? Now Sally is angry with Harry, and she wants to hurt him, rather than help him Sally is motivated out of malice to write a negative profile of Harry It is more likely that Sallys negative profile of Harry is dishonest

24 What Do We Learn From All Of This? Although there are methods that may encourage honesty online, nothing can be done to ensure it When you read something in an online profile or review, you can never be sure of the motivation someone had for writing it In the end, it is still necessary for people to pay the costs of meeting in person before each can assess the signals produced by the other online and truly determine whether the other was honest online

25 So, can Harry trust Sally online? Perhaps, but he will have to meet her in person first to find out for sure


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