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When searching for love on the Internet, most people end up connecting with the girl [or boy] next door, according to an analysis of messaging patterns across a major online dating platform.
Published this week in Sociological Science, the "big dating" study reveals geographic distance within the U.S. as the strongest driver of reciprocal interactions, which are instances when two users message each other.
Aspect - Analysis - Messages - Messages - Reply
"A crucial aspect of the analysis is that we were looking not just at who sent messages to whom, but who sent messages and got a reply," says coauthor Mark Newman. Newman and lead author Elizabeth Bruch both study complex systems at the University of Michigan and at the Santa Fe Institute. "In other words, at least one message went in both directions between two people. We did this because we felt that that was a more reliable indicator of mutual [romantic] interest."
When the researchers used a state-of-the-art algorithm to analyze 15 million of these two-way interactions among heterosexual users of a major online dating site, it revealed 19 distinct communities that closely mirrored geographic regions in the landscape of the lower 48 states.
Everyone - Dating - Site - Clustering - Bruch
"Even though everyone's on the same dating site, there's a distinct clustering to who interacts with whom," says Bruch. She notes that the geographic clustering is consistent with a recent study of Facebook data, which found the incidence of online friendships decreases with geographic distance. "It's not surprising that the dating markets were geographically clustered. But the precise boundaries of those markets were a little surprising to us."
When the researchers mapped clusters of reciprocal messages to the three-digit zip codes of the senders, they found that some communities fell neatly within state boundaries, while others spilled over into nearby states. Texans, for example, tended to message strictly with other Texans, even though users in the...
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