Kevin Breed

Finding your perfect match

As a part of my research I'm sending messages back and forth for a while now. Depending on different 'strategies' I am primarly "Looking for data" as my profile states, a perfect cover-up for my second incentive, indicated by the latter part of the phrase, "perhaps more...". This is a perfect solution for the missing motivation to actually send messages, as I have indicated before. But not everyone is doing research, or even interested at all in the particularities of online dating as I am. This article is about some of the uses of the datingsite I have encountered untill now.


Inevitable similarities - Inevitable similarities - photo of papazimouris, found on flickr Kevin Breed

"Why would you sent a message in first instance at Mediamatics datingsite? To find a muse, sponsor or flatmate? When this is the case, there are more effective ways to accomplish this." So I reasoned after the first three weeks of research. My initial thought was that most users of the site are checking out this 'looks like fun' option, and leave the datingsite untouched afterwards. After spending some more time at the datingsite I have encountered some examples that are contradicting this view. Quite recently 'thimothy' showed up, a 31 year old male who is really looking for a place to live in Amsterdam and is using Mediamatics dating site as a real oppurtunity to get in touch with people who can offer what he is looking for. There are also some people who are really looking for sponsors (Unknown One, You help me?), or are willing to sponsor (Your Pseudonym), or looking for people to professionaly collaborate with (, Adi, champi verde3) [1].

What these examples show is that the use of the dating site is to some extent guided by more than its playfulness. It is an indication that playful elements are not mere toys but are perceived as useful elements too. What it shows perhaps even stronger, is that the dating site performs a double movement which takes root in the ambiguity that is acquired by the term 'dating' on Mediamatics dating site. This ambiguity is present in the playful style of the dating site in general and especially in the possible answers to the question "What are you looking for?" [2]. This elements can be taken as a strong indication that online dating is not grasped in a too literal sense, but can also be used to desribe other kinds of encounters between two persons (this is of course not only restricted to the datingsite, but also finds its use in populair discourse). In this sense the term 'dating' in general, and the online dating service that is provided by Mediamatic in specific, is decoupled from its conventional, rather negative charge (as Neon Wasabi states on her profile: "Dating sites are for desperate people" [3]). Though in this sense the term is drawn outside the meaning it usually occupies, it also pulls the conventional meaning back onto the newly covered ground. This means that the term 'dating' in its ambiguity, not only decouples its negative charge, but also couples its conventional meaning to the new ground it becomes to cover and thus performs a double movement.

This double movement is not only restricted to the semantic dimension of the word dating, but also expands to the actual use of the dating site. Not only do the users above make use of the new meaning of the word dating --finding a flatmate, sponsor, or professional partner--, they also attach themselve to a part of its conventional meaning. Through the double movement it becomes possible for someone to start with the incentive of finding a professional partner, but later on, when receiving datemail from people who are more interested in flirting, end up in a romantic affair. This is the flipside of the playful character of the dating site. It is not only a problem when you don't know where the dating is about --a problem because of the missing motivation for its use--, but also an opportunity --an opportunity to be surprised, or to participate in something you don't necessarily want to participate in--.

But when people like thimothy are really to take advantage of this double movement, their presence has to have some effect. When asking timothy whether he had succes finding a room he replied that my message, along with a spam message he received two times, were the only replies he received. It can be argued that this is timothy's own fault. If he really wanted to contact people he should have participated more actively. But his inactive approach cannot be entirely blamed on thimothy, because he is limited to guess at random which daters have a spare room left. On the other hand people like show that the double movement is not entirely without effect, he did receive (unexpectedly) datemail of three other women.

The matching system

Based on the underlying Anymeta system, Mediamatic dating uses the same principle for matching profiles as is used for matching related 'things' (articles, events, images, etc.). This principle makes a seperation between filter and match criteria. If you imagine a large box of mixed lego pieces, and you want to filter out all the red stones, then you already have specified a filter criteria. The criteria is filter all 'stones', which are 'red'. This leaves out wheels, driving wheels, dolls, hats, helmets, and any other piece that not classifies as a 'stone' as well as all stones which are not red. If you also want to sort all red stones on size, from large to small, you have specified a match criteria. The match criteria is sort the red stones on size, beginning with the largest and ending with the smallest one.

In the context of the dating, the answers to the question 'what gender are you looking for' and 'what age range do you prefer' are used as filter criteria for your own matches. This means that the specified gender and age determine which profiles show up in a match. For example if you are looking for a male aged 20 to 30, your matches will only show profiles where the specified gender is male, and the age that is calculated from the 'your date of birth' field is 20, 30, or somewhere in between. This also mean that the answers to the questions 'your gender' and 'your date of birth' are used as filter criteria for being selected as match in someone else's matches. If the user leaves these fields blank, they won't appear as match for any profile.

All questions appended with an infinity sign (∞) are used as match criteria. (Technically, they are exactly the same as the keywords you can choose when creating a thing.) This means that the similarity of the given answers is used for sorting your matches. Profiles with more similar answers are ranked higher (and displayed on top) than profile with less similar (or more different) answers (displayed at the bottom).

Searching dates

In the period between 1 june 2008 [4] and 1 febraury 2009, there where 513 pageviews from people who searched for something using the search functionality, compared to the 4,4437 pageviews from people who have accessed the search page. So the search function is approximately used 11,56% of the times when the search page is accessed.

[Other 'next pages' are the dating article, date profiles: /page/49149/en, /page/54144/en, /page/50304/en, /page/58118/en, /page/57204/en, /page/58364/en, 'faces at medimamatic' > /search/16775/en (strange enough), and the inbox page of the datemail /module/Mms_Dating/message/inbox]


[1] In this examples it has to be taken into account though --as one of the users wrote to me--, it can't be expected that people take the dating service too serious.
[2] The possible answers to chose from are: partner / marriage / friendship, whatever I can get, random play / just teasing / 1night stand, sperm donor / surrogate mother, a muse, residence permit, secret lover / I don't really want to date but I want to fantasize about one, sponsor, an escort, flatmate.
[3] Though according to present research this view is not dominating anymore, it is still quite persistent after the initial burst of online dating services in the mid- to late 1990's, when people who were using these services were assumed to be "lonely" and "desperate" (Sprecher, Wenzel & Harvey 2008: 251). Though 61% of the respondents of the recently conducted research of Madden and Lennhart where Sprechel, Wenzel & Harvey refer to, disagree with the statement that "people who engage in online dating are desperate", 39% does still agree, indicating that this view is far from abandonned. And who would disagree with the observation that making use of a dating site is most often accompied with justifying claims: people "doesn't have trouble getting dates offline" (St. John 2002), are "just looking, but not searching", or are "don't really using the dating site (anymore)."
[4] This start date is chosen, because from about this time on there is probably been made a change to the site, which has changed the url of the search query. Or perhaps the search function was only available from then on.


St. John, W., "Young, single and dating at hyperspeed" (2002). The New York Times. Retrieved June 4 2009 from <>

Susan Sprecher, Amy Wenzel, John Harvey, Handbook of Relationship Initiation. New York: Psychology Press, 2008.