From Academia: happn Helps Users Reduce Uncertainty

2017 research out of the Jacobs Institute at Cornell Tech has investigated user perceptions of crossing paths on the dating app happn.

Researchers Xiao Ma, Emily Sun and Mor Naaman interviewed 15 happn users to investigate how they felt about the information that they had passed another user of the app.

They refer to Tinder and similar platforms as ‘Location Based Real Time Dating’ applications, or LBRTD apps. The app happn, because of its location tracking over time, is seen as a ‘Location Based Post-Hoc’ Dating app (LBPCD).

Having a higher amount of location data (i.e., the history of someone’s movement) provided in a way that cannot be manipulated by the user is seen as a valuable innovation on LBPCD services like happn. The reason for this is that it provides ‘warranting’ – the app validates the information, preventing exaggerated claims about one’s life.

In other online forums, such as Facebook, warranting is provided by friends and connections who can spot deceptive behaviour. In-built warranting on a dating app helps to reduce the uncertainty for users when friends and connections are absent.

Users searching for the Facebook profiles, LinkedIn profiles etc. of matches is said to be an exercise undertaken for the same reasons. Users seek to reduce uncertainty and find warranting information to make sure their crush is representing themselves honestly.

The authors note that proven location can also be a way for users to signal personality traits – crossing paths at a gym or nightclub may indicate things about a user’s lifestyle, and this cannot be manipulated in-app by a disingenuous user.

A number of interviewees did indeed infer personality traits or habit information from the crossed paths. It was sometimes a general assurance that the other person lived locally, and sometimes as specific as a certain gym or bar.

One participant said: “I’m much more likely to talk to a person that I crossed paths 20 times, because we are in the same place. We have similar habits and it’s more likely for me to feel safe and for her, too…By the places that I go, by the place where I work at, by the place where I study at, the people who are in those places they are more likely to be alike.”

Another said: “In a touristy area, they are probably a tourist, so I probably would never see them again. Or they work at the tourist spot. If it’s a cafe, I’m pretty sure they are a regular so I would be more likely to see them again.”

Users also had some privacy concerns about the app, while others said that matching in certain locations (such as their own street) was off putting.

The study concludes: “The warranting aspect of location information – the fact that it was viewed as something that cannot be easily manipulated – helps making it into a more potent signal. Based on our findings, we offer the potential for utilizing location overlap information to develop platforms for facilitating social connections in other environments. Finally, it is important to consider that as a greater number of applications leverage location data, the ethics of how this information is disclosed is a growing concern”.

Read more here.