The Role of Optimal Distinctiveness and Homophily in Online Dating
Users of online dating sites compete for attention from potential matches. Member profiles provide an opportunity for candidates to present information about themselves that their counterparts use to assess compatibility and desirability. In this paper, we explore how text-based similarities among users of a dating site impact their success in attracting attention. The principle of homophily predicts that to be successful, a user should be perceived as similar to the person they would prefer to date. Conversely, theories of distinctiveness suggest that standing out from the crowd should be beneficial. Using profiles, we explore how the text similarity between a user, the opposite-sex member they are targeting, and their same-sex competitors impacts the likelihood that a sender of a message receives a response conditional on initiating contact. We find that the probability of receiving a response is maximized when the user has high text similarity to the person they message, but low text similarity to the competitors that are also seeking the same individual’s attention. This suggests a balance between homophily and distinctiveness theory.