2016 Research from McGill University, Canada has investigated the impact of anonymity on online dating behaviour.
An anonymous dating user has capabilities that are unmatched in real-world interaction, such as the ability to browse unlimited potential partners with no inhibition.
There are also limitations to being in the anonymous position, however, as it may eliminate “weak signals of interest” that are valuable in initiating communication.
The study gave 50,000 of 100,000 participants anonymous profiles on a major dating platform, and compared their behaviours to those of a control group.
Users granted anonymity viewed more profiles, and were also more open to viewing same-sex and interracial profiles.
The loss of the ability to ‘weak signal’ interest, however, resulted in fewer matches for anonymous participants.
The effect of anonymity was particularly strong on women, who often rely on the other party to initiate communication.
The study noted that the loss of the quantity of matches was not compensated by an increase in match quality.
The authors state that they were able to “demonstrate causally that weak signaling is a key mechanism in achieving higher levels of matching outcomes” on dating apps.
They also state, however, that “some users might be willing to trade off online dating success for privacy”, & that match success might not be the only important metric for online daters.