Introducing the second episode of UX Research Geeks, hosted by Tina Ličková and brought to you by UXtweak. In this episode, Tina interviews Jessica, a sociologist and digital humanities engineer, and Laurie, a Paris-based dating coach focused on mindful dating app use. Together, Jessica and Laurie collaborate on dating app research, and this episode explores the key findings and insights from their study. Join us to explore the fascinating intersection of research, technology, and love coaching.
- 00:00:00 The Dance of Seduction: Algorithms, Love Coaching, and the New Dating Game
- 00:16:33 The Dark Side of Dating Apps: Algorithms, Stereotypes, and Amplification of Bias
- 00:21:34 A Warning: Discussing Rape and Harassment on Dating Platforms
- 00:35:58 Gender Distinctions and Frustrations
- 00:44:43 Empowerment and Responsibility
- 00:51:27 The Responsibility of Dating Apps
- 00:55:37 Connecting with Our Hosts: Websites and Social Media
About our guest Laurie Dutheil
Laurie Dutheil is an experienced Creative and Research Manager with over 11 years in the media production industry. Passionate about love stories and the role of technology in romance, she creates effective personalized profiles and supports clients in their quest for the ideal partner. Laurie finds joy in seeing relationships grow online and helping others regain confidence in their love life. Her expertise includes creative and analytical thinking, international market knowledge (especially the French market), research, pitching creative content, and trend forecasting in various fields such as media and technology. You can find more about her on her website or on LinkedIn.
About our guest Jessica Pidoux
Jessica Pidoux is a sociologist and researcher with a PhD in digital humanities from the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), where she focused her thesis on online dating services. She is currently a Lecturer at Sciences Po, Paris, and the Director of PersonalData.IO. In addition to her academic pursuits, Jessica founded the data collective, Dating Privacy, with a mission to align the interests of dating applications with those of their users. Her multifaceted background as a sociologist, engineer, and humanist positions her as a unique voice in the intersection of technology, privacy, and online dating. To connect with her and learn more about her work, reach out to Jessica on LinkedIn.
[00:00:00] Tina Ličková:
This is the second episode of UX Research Geeks, where we interviewed two very interesting guests. The first one is Jessica, a sociologist who holds an engineering PhD in digital humanities from the EPFL and who I got to learn thanks to her great presentation at UX Research Guild Zürich. Danke schön and mercy for that.
The second lady is Laurie, a dating coach from Paris, whose main focus is to help her clients to get a more mindful approach when using dating apps. Jessica and Laurie join forces in dating app research, and this episode dives into the outcomes and learnings of their study. Happy listening.
This is Tina, the host of UX Research Geeks, and I would like to welcome Jessica and Laurie and ladies, I start straight away ’cause I won’t tell the backstory first of all. But I really want to know how a researcher and a love coach come together. Why is the reason you know each other and what were you doing together to meet and do stuff?
[00:01:26] Jessica Pidoux: Yeah, so I think it’s all thanks to Laurie who contacted me. She brought me after reading my work on dating apps and I was very interested in talking to her because her work is complementary to mine.
So as soon as we spoke, we said, okay, we need to meet and do something together.
[00:01:45] Laurie Dutheil: Actually, it was a good match. Of course, when I first read her work and all that. I just wanted to get in touch with her because Yeah, I thought it was very much interesting to, yeah to put all that in common it was good.
[00:01:56] Tina Ličková: Okay. Maybe going into this is how you met but Jessica what were you doing? So Laurie, get to know your work and then I come to Laurie who you are and what do you do? So you were interested in that work?
[00:02:10] Jessica Pidoux: Yeah, totally. What I did with my research is understand how dating app algorithms are developed and we have the problem that algorithms are very opaque and they’re protected by commercial secrets .
In the company I took another methodology to understand these algorithms. I analyze interfaces, graphical user interfaces, how users interact with these interfaces. But also I analyzed the practices of developers that are both working on the algorithmic system and developing this interface, implementing these interfaces in a technological system.
So actually because I was interested in all these perspectives, the algorithms, the interface, the developers and the users I produced a reciprocated view about how actors communicate with each other and how they establish a matching process all together. And not only algorithms and I think this is, but you will say it, Laurie, but this is what I was more interested in for Laurie, that I give this perspective from different actors that allow a user to understand how the phenomenon of dating works now.
[00:03:28] Tina Ličková: And just to understand the details when you are talking about actors, because I don’t know if the actors are the users right now, or actors are the companies or the apps.
[00:03:37] Jessica Pidoux: Yeah. Oh, great. Good question. Yeah, that’s mainly a sociological term. We call individuals social actors because you have an agency on how society is organized.
And when I say actors, I also refer to humans and non-humans, which is sometimes not accepted in some communities. But thanks to the actor network theory, actually, we put humans at the same level of importance, human and non-human. And that was my approach in understanding the dating apps is how an interface, a technology, an algorithm can influence actually how relationships are established between data and users.
Between users themself, between the interface and the users.
[00:04:21] Tina Ličková: And Laurie, I am, I’m trying to imagine, like you stumble across the study from Jessica. And I’m also very interested in dating research because, first of all, it’s affecting me as a person. Second of all, I’m a researcher and that’s a very interesting social dynamic.
But also the research that Jessica did is really technical one then overflowing a little bit to the people. And you are more on the people’s side as I understood.
[00:04:48] Laurie Dutheil: Yes. I was a great user of dating apps myself before working in the field, more like a professional or an expert.
And this kind of work was very attractive to me because it’s, yeah, it’s a transversal approach, like sociological technique and all that. So it’s very rich and very powerful. I never saw that before. And as for myself, yeah, when I was working with clients, actually, I have this kind of insight of what’s more in their head and what is happening in their everyday life. And I can tell how there is a gap between the ideas, the instincts they have and the things that they do. More yeah, more like an animalistic, more animalistic way because the algorithm is asking them questions, like answering it.
And it’s not very much, it’s not very conscious. And I could see in that work the idea that we could just make people get more, assimilate this kind of trend, this kind of concept to be more aware and to use them in a better way. Not to get affected by it, but to use it as a specific tool to help you in your everyday life.
[00:05:51] Tina Ličková: And maybe just a short step back, what does it mean, what is a love coach or dating coach?
[00:05:59] Laurie Dutheil: I, in a way just to, yeah. To that- in a bit of my backstory is that I became a bit of a ghost writer on a dating app at some point, is that I was hired to create my client’s profile. Organize some photo shoots. I like to create and write with them their bio and also help them and write instead in their own shoes actually stepping in their own shoes and doing like the pick up line. The whole discussions until they got like a promise for a first date.
So that’s how I jumped into the field actually. And I cannot discover how it was for me, not just to be me, myself in my own perspective, but also being a man, being a woman, being a, an elderly being a retired guy and all that kind of stuff.
[00:06:41] Tina Ličková: And if I may just, sorry to interrupt you, but just to, because it’s, for me, fascinating to be honest.
And I remember having jokes and selling when we were in a bar, a little bit drunk. I confessed and sold my good friend a service to him. We will shoot pictures and we will write your bio. Because he couldn’t get a girlfriend and he didn’t approve because we were really expensive for him.
But now it’s okay, this is an actual service, so I just come to you and tell you, Laurie, I need a profile, I need photos. Please do it for me. Is that right?
[00:07:13] Laurie Dutheil: Yeah, it’s definitely, you’re right, we can arrange a specific photo shoot or we can just figure out in your photo section in your phone, what kind of picture we just we could pick up so that it’s a good storytelling of what you are, who you are and what kind of relationship you, you want to create. Yeah, it’s definitely that .
[00:07:30] Jessica Pidoux: No. Yeah. Actually, I just wanted to say that this is a new expertise we need in society and because we now have these tools, these algorithms that are trying to become the expert on relationships actually. But we are losing this human mediation that Laurie is doing for better practices of dating actually, or even developing better apps.
[00:07:52] Tina Ličková: Yeah.
[00:07:52] Laurie Dutheil: And it’s interesting the way that I help them like it’s a bit of marketing or storytelling, but also I need to know the app and the algorithm as the best I can so that I can just say to them, this kind of words can be used, this kind of id, this kind. So at the same time as we were, we frequently discussed that topic with Jessica.
We are, I’m trained to help them to seduce the algorithm and seduce the machine and also trying to seduce the user at the end of the screen. The other one the, yeah, the love the love prospect.
[00:08:26] Tina Ličková: Okay. It’s fascinating again because basically, I feel more normal now.
Because what you are telling me, it’s not only that I might be not successful or I am successful in dating, I don’t know, but we all also have to learn how to approach these apps. Am I right?
[00:08:43] Laurie Dutheil: Yeah, that’s right.
[00:08:44] Jessica Pidoux: So we need literacy. We need digital literacy. We have, I don’t know, 9,000 mobile apps for dating on the Apple Store and the Google Store.
So it is easy now to create apps and we are gaining in technical expertise, developers can create their own app and release it very easily on the Apple store and in the Google store. But the problem is that we are missing this link with their real problems and the real people affected by algorithms and apps in daily life.
And so I think it is an important question that you don’t think am successful or not, but also that you need skills now to date online and it is applicable for other types of apps.
[00:09:34] Laurie Dutheil: Yeah. It’s technical skills just to understand how the algorithm works and that’s living this kind of fantasy that it’s magic or that it’s a curse.
And also more like the human and the psychological skills, like to get in touch with the other to really communicate and create something from digital to real life. And definitely it requires skills and understanding from yourself inside and from what’s happening outside.
[00:10:06] Tina Ličková: That’s really interesting because I remember when I was explaining UX when I started a long time ago in UX to somebody, and I was telling them usually the problem is not between the monitor or the laptop and the chair. And now you are telling me it’s not the problem that the human doesn’t know how to navigate it. What skills are we talking about?
[00:10:28] Jessica Pidoux: I can say from a technical perspective actually one important thing is like how the app is scoring you. And it is very opaque, so you don’t know. You think, for example, on an application like Tinder, that you are randomly put there on a list of results, but actually no, it works like Google’s page rank, right?
If somebody pays for functionality on or has a premium account, the person will be at the top. And also, if you receive a lot of likes, you’re gonna get a better score. So you’re gonna be also put on the top of the results. So it doesn’t mean that you are ugly or not, it is that these companies created a system that scores you according to your behavior and according to some declarative information you put there.
For example, if you have a high socioeconomic status that you study in this big university or this big company, you’re gonna receive more likes. You’re gonna be on the top. And it’s not because yes, sometimes people tell me yes, but this is a social bias, right? People want to be with a richer person, but no, it’s not the case.
And if you design an app that puts your socioeconomic status at the top, and it’s important for designers, right? If you highlight that, you’re gonna object that this is what is important to meet somebody and actually relationships don’t work like that. You can say something else – Laurie, you always negotiate these preferences together, right? With the other person.
[00:12:07] Laurie Dutheil: Yeah, it’s exactly what Jessica did in her work: a paragraph, like a chapter dedicated to matrimonial agency and the way they work. And in a way I’m a bit like that when I’m creating a profile with someone and when I’m asking the clients, what kind of relationship will you want, what is the man of your dream? What is the woman of your dreams? And based on that, I’m trying to negotiate what is really important, what it’s not – it could be like the age gap, for instance. It could be work skill. It could be, yeah, the socio professional aspect also.
So all those points are discussed together just to be sure that it’s accurate and it’s getting them the best results. And by skills also, I would add to what Jessica said like the personal skills. The relationship skills, because sometimes – the score that she’s described is important, but also the way we see ourselves because we are experiencing everyday life on dating apps and every swipe and every discussion or every ghosting situation or every non-like that we have.
And it can create an ID of yourself, a vision of yourself and of our world that can be very harmful for us. In psychologically, in mental health point perspective. And so it’s very important too that we can understand what it’s, what is really at in stake here it’s to understand what it’s really, because sometimes you have this kind of instinct.
Yeah. I need to talk to someone. I need to do that. I need, and you have no feedback. You have no, how do you say that?
[00:13:33] Jessica Pidoux: Yeah. No, no feedback for learning, actually. For learning about what works or what doesn’t work. And this is an important question in sociology, like how we build common sense together in our daily life in interacting with others.
So the app is a new place with new technical complexity that we don’t have an eye on and is influencing how we build our common sense. How we say, okay, actually I’m swiping this type of person, but they are not liking me back. Why? Or I am putting this information, this data on my profile to attract some people, but actually no, it’s not working or it is working in a way that I don’t like.
[00:14:12] Laurie Dutheil: Yeah.
[00:14:12] Jessica Pidoux: And Laurie has this view on the market that we don’t have as a user on a dating app. Because it’s actually a paradox with the digital, it’s dividing us. You have a relationship first with the machine. Yeah. Not with others.
[00:14:27] Laurie Dutheil: And it’s very lonely. You have a unique, unique perspective. So you don’t have any point of comparison. If I’m on a dating app, I don’t see the other ladies that I’m competing with so to speak. So it is, like, as if I’m going in at a nightclub, I can see the guys, but I can’t see the other women. So I don’t know if I could feel comfortable, I don’t know if I can feel at ease. So there is a bit of stress about not knowing what is happening behind the curtains. Like for the others, it’s like I’m, yeah, I’m here on my own. A lot of it is happening- like the machine is way expecting something from me, but I don’t know really what and the other guy, whether they’re expecting from me and the older girls, what are the, so it’s a lot of as we say, yeah, a lot of unknown, a lot of uncertainty that we need to navigate because it’s very time consuming, energy consuming, and emotionally consuming too.
[00:15:17] Tina Ličková: First of all, where were you guys when I started to date online? That’s my first question because I, this is super interesting and it would help me to understand even before what is happening, because my understanding of dating apps was that it’s actually the middleman. That it’s facilitating dating for me and it’s connecting me to two people.
And you are telling me, and sorry if the paraphrase is absolutely wrong, from the technical side, it’s facilitating not very well to affect me positively. That’s one of the things. And Laurie, you are actually stepping as the middleman and translating the apps and to the people and telling the people to gain the skills for the apps.
[00:16:08] Laurie Dutheil: Middle woman.
[00:16:08] Jessica Pidoux: Middle woman.
[00:16:09] Tina Ličková: Middle woman. Yeah. Sorry. Yeah.
[00:16:11] Laurie Dutheil: It’s exactly that. As we were talking about that with Jessica, I told her that I never thought of dating apps as matchmakers. I never thought that I could count on them to help me – because I’m the one in charge of matching with someone.
I’m the one in charge of organizing the date and making it work. So actually, yeah, I never, I don’t expect the dating apps to do that.
[00:16:33] Tina Ličková: And maybe Jessica, before we even go to the skills, and Laurie, I’m really interested in how you advise the clients, but what are the apps actually doing to us?
Because I think I was aware and mindful of what was happening there, but you saw some other stuff and I learned that you also had problems to figure out from the developer’s side, how the algorithms that they’re not really willing to share it. Can you maybe explain more about that one?
[00:17:03] Laurie Dutheil: Can you ask me the question again? I’m sorry. Just to understand a bit more what you mean.
[00:17:07] Tina Ličková: About the algorithms- that was to Jessica. Did you understand the question?
[00:17:14] Laurie Dutheil: I’m not sure. I cannot get the first part and after that it’s two questions in one, so I’m just to be sure.
[00:17:19] Tina Ličková: Maybe I will just divide it. Maybe Jessica, just tell me, tell us what is, what are the apps actually doing to us? How they are tweaking our experiences and what I, from what I am hearing from you guys, it’s that the apps don’t work for the user. They work for themself and how they’re doing it.
[00:17:39] Jessica Pidoux: We can avoid the speech of – are there good and bad apps. Because I think what I analyze is like how the practices of developers and users themself create a complex reality that can sometimes affect us, but can sometimes help us. There are people in dating apps that have met their partners or have a lot of success dating a lot.
So what I saw was that actually when you, and it applies for designers actually, when you create a design for an interface or you implement it into a system so it works or it runs, you are going to reduce their social reality into an interface that has specific characteristics, buttons, icons, colors, and this reduction of reality will affect then how others will perceive this reality that you embedded in the interface.
This is one main idea that actually created problems for the developers themselves and the founders, is that I need to create a profile page that works for everybody. And this profile page only has three types of body types to describe women. And actually this data, is that what takes the algorithm as an input to then recommend your people?
So algorithms are learning from what you design on an interface and the type of data that you decide to collect. And then actually what I saw is that these profiles, that algorithmic recommendations are based on stereotypes or that are based on personal experiences.
For example a gay man who told me I know my community, I know what gay men like. So he designed his profile page about men’s bodies. Like he saw how, or like he thought it was attractive. So this, because you translate it into the technique, it actually reinforces the stereotypes we have in society because then you re-replicate the stereotype to them, all the users that are registering in your app.
And so do you see the issue is that when you translate these stereotypes into a technique, you’re gonna amplify a bias that is either in yourself, in your ideas, but also in society.
[00:20:04] Tina Ličková: Maybe just to understand and if it’s a good example I have, I will admit I am guilty of not naming my work positions in my profiles because I acted as a CEO and I acted as a head of insights and I was afraid that men might be intimidated by it. Is this, would you say the embracing of the stereotypes in a wrong way?
[00:20:31] Jessica Pidoux: No. This is like your technique to avoid being classified in the actual stereotypes that work in society. And what happens is that the algorithm is gonna learn or not from these stereotypes that you embed in the profile page.
And so it’s actually you just say it, you are, it’s a mechanism of defense. I don’t want to be classified in this specific data type that the app put there, and the algorithm only has that to say if you are in this classifi class or not. So it can, sometimes it’s useful for people that say I’m in a high status and I want to only find people on a high status.
But the problem is that this doesn’t favor diversity. And this will create oppositions between users and discrimination between users because the algorithm learns that these high status people will go with high status people. And what about the others? They stay with the low profile type, right?
[00:21:34] Tina Ličková: In the next section of the podcast, we’ll be discussing rape. If you wish not to hear about this topic. Continue listening at the 29 minute mark.
[00:21:44] Jessica Pidoux: And I can give you another example. We have in the data, collective data and privacy that I work with, and also Laurie is there. We have victims of harassment, of sexual harassment and one of them was raped by a guy that she met on Tinder.
And actually what we saw is that five girls had the same type of profile and they were all on Tinder and they were all introduced to this type of men. That initially they thought he was attractive, so they liked him and he liked them back. So the algorithm is learning that this type of man goes with this type of woman.
But what just meant a like in the app is actually learning and it’s helping bad actors to be confronted to a lot of women that are like one of them that was the first victim. It works in the two directions and that’s what’s, it is also complex on dating apps that it’s a reciprocated system of recommendations.
So it’s not like Amazon that says, This type of woman, like this type of book is that, it’s like saying, oh, does this book also like this kind of woman? So on dating apps, basically Tinder learned that this guy likes young women at university living in a specific area. So Tinder presents this guy to all these kinds of women.
And when these girls also liked him back, the algorithm knows, oh, actually they like each other. So I’m gonna keep presenting this guy to the same type of women. And in and inversely.
[00:23:34] Tina Ličková: So it’s… whew. Okay.
[00:23:35] Jessica Pidoux: But actually that’s and the problem is like why the social preoccupation is why this algorithm is not trying to understand that there are bad actors that are behaviors that need to be moderated, verified online to give users a safe environment.
Also the problem is why Tinder is creating this asymmetry relationship that we mentioned with Laurie that girls cannot compare each other and say, and talk to each other saying – hey, I met this guy and he’s crazy. Don’t go and meet him. So what happens is the guy deletes the match and the victim doesn’t have any proof anymore. And cannot talk about it also.
[00:24:22] Tina Ličková: Yeah. Fascinating. In a bad way. But it’s interesting because years back when dating through apps became larger – now it’s really part of our society. I was reading somewhere that actually we, through dating in apps, we kind of date outside our bubble that we wouldn’t meet those people if we would stay in our social bubbles, which are natural in real life for us.
Did that come up somehow in the research that you did?
[00:24:57] Jessica Pidoux: Yeah, so we, it depends on the country. A study here in France says that people tend to marry or partner with the same type of people in the same social class. If you go to Switzerland, people that meet on dating apps apparently are more diversified.
They belong to different social status. We don’t know about these studies, which dating apps they’re talking about, which has an influence as I showed in my study. Because in the way you design a profile page with specific information, you’re gonna find more or less different people actually as represented in the app.
And actually the algorithm is capable of understanding your preferences throughout time. So let’s say once you said you like blonde hair, but actually the next day you saw a brown hair guy that you also liked. And the problem is we come back to a social problem, is that it doesn’t, it is not a personalized system.
This is, it’s not real actually because. What the algorithm understands is that not only you, like blonde and sometimes brown hair, but people in average from your sex also like this and this. What I’m trying to say is that the behavior of others, it’s accounted for in your position in the app and in your score in the app.
And it will affect who you match with. So if the majority of people on dating apps like blonde hair, but you like brown hair, it will affect you for better or for worse to change your preferences or to give you the same preferences. So it depends also on the majority of people, the type of people that are actually in the app.
Maybe a clearer example is on Tinder where you have more young people and educated people. So if you are an old person, you’re gonna have less people from your population or your social class and more people diversify from other, from younger population. And is that general?
[00:27:13] Tina Ličková: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Laurie and I have a few other questions, Jessica, about your research, but it’s also interesting. We picked up on the profiles many times and this is where probably Laurie, you come into the game. Sorry for that word. What kind of profiles, what do you learn from Jessica’s research people have to establish for themself?
What are your recommendations? How should they treat their profiles?
[00:27:41] Laurie Dutheil: It’s not only based on her work actually. I push them to, to be as personalized as they can. From what I know is it’s more the way it can be interpreted by the person behind the screen. The, at the end of the, at the end of the line.
It’s more not to use random notions and to be a bit specific, a bit sharp, a bit like, yeah. It’s basic basic wisdom. Actually. It’s more when, where I’m more helpful. I think it’s more like the conversational skills and what to say to, in the pick up line, how to, when to, when is the momentum to ask someone out.
When is a good discussion topic you can have to get to? Because right now there is a bit of a dating fatigue for the long-term dating apps user for instance, is that at first you are living through this, oh, it’s miraculous. Anything can happen. Actually I can meet anybody.
Someone so different from me. So it’s, it looks amazing and after a couple of months, a couple of years, it’s like, like more yeah, it’s getting a bit more painful. You are adopting yourself and all that. So it’s more helping them to create, to keep this a bit of magic and to create a real connection with the first talking to each other.
And also, yeah, to be a bit different from the other guys and the other girls. So if you’re using the same kind of term, just saying, oh, I like going to the restaurant. I love my friends and I like traveling. Eh, it looks a bit like pretty much anyone else. So what now? Sometimes I just also tell them, yeah, most of the time you cannot expect to look good and to be as attractive as you can be to most people.
But actually what I try to say is it’s okay to be, to just to get a proper No, or to get a proper Yes, as long as it’s strong, because at least the attraction will stay and the attention will stay too because we are basically in a kind of an attention war. Because sometimes you match with a lot of different people.
If you’re lucky, sometimes you don’t match with anybody at all. But if you match with different people, you can be talking to different people and you can be bored in a couple of hours and never end up never meeting anybody in real life. So sometimes it’s important just to keep the pace and to keep the idea that you can get like pretty much of a real connection, a romantic connection is also important, being funny and all that.
So the kind of help I provide them, and most of the time it’s also beside the fact that I want to help them to find love is I want to help them to have the least painful experience of the dating apps. That’s pretty much it.
[00:30:11] Jessica Pidoux: And actually, Laurie´s expertise is based on the view that she has on multiple people connected and dating online, which gives her an expertise actually. And it’s not just wisdom. I think it is because you see, you receive the experiences of all your clients about how they are dating now online, which is different from how you are dating at work or in a classroom, right? So you are, she knows actually how this common sense is now built with the apps and with the algorithms and with the other users.
[00:30:47] Tina Ličková: I’m astonished by how helpful the service of yours is because I really think of what Jessica pointed out that we need the skills and as much as we talk about it, I’m realizing how much, how unskilled, even I am in this dating environment. Maybe just not even about the profiles, but I what, when you, when we were talking about descriptions and who you are, Laurie, you mentioned a mindful approach which is something very much resonating with me ’cause I’m a person which is trying to step into mindfulness, maybe a Buddhist wannabe, and it’s something that I am really interested in. What is mindfulness when it comes to your context?
[00:31:31] Laurie Dutheil: To me using dating apps is something that you do when you are multitasking or when you’re in pajamas or whatever, like doing the dishes – you’re definitely not focused on what you’re doing and when you’re swiping you, you don’t really realize that every choice that you made, every swipe right or swipe left has an impact on the algorithm. That has also an impact on the choice. You make the choice you don’t make like the guy, you swipe – it has an impact. And sometimes you’re not very conscious of the type of, if you have a type you’re not very conscious of your background. Because sometimes you have, we all live with our belief system. We all live with our values and our expectations, and we are like kind of projects or as assumptions on others.
And the fact that we have this kind of non-linear way of connecting with each other is like creating uncertainty as we say, and creating the will to control what’s happening. And most of the time you can’t control it.
For example, to me it’s important to have a proper dating routine, like the time of the day, the number of hours or minute that you’re allowed to do it during the day, and to be sure that you have making a bit of introspection also about the kind of person you want to be dating.
Are you really available not only single, but like properly available to meet someone? And if you meet someone, will you think that he’s not good enough?
Will you think about ah, I need to do grocery shopping. Will you be really into the moment when you do it? Will you really consider the people, the person you’re talking to are the real human or only as just some screen, someone, some pixel.
Because it’s only what from the other is only like the digital patrimony, the pixelation of his identity that he’s showing to you.
[00:33:07] Jessica Pidoux: And yeah. Laurie, you said something important about this, this reactivity we have now with across apps, like – it’s so easy to swipe, swipe.
And we see the swipe now integrated everywhere to evaluate profiles for jobs, for professors at university for even for the, here in France you use it to analyze the political campaigns. This type of design does not give users the capacity to reflect on our actions in a slow motion or by taking the time to think about the impact of our choices there.
And what I also see is that we are not choosing partners anymore. We’re eliminating massively.
[00:33:52] Laurie Dutheil: Exactly. Exactly.
[00:33:53] Jessica Pidoux: Yeah. And so it’s, these apps are requesting other types of tax tasks for us. Yeah.
[00:34:00] Tina Ličková: I’m just learning so much.
[00:34:02] Laurie Dutheil: Sorry Tina, it is like sometimes we are just forgetting that we’re looking for love and like to fall in love with someone when most of the time we are hurt because we’re not feeling loved enough. Attractive enough. So sometimes we can lose focus. It’s not about finding love and a soulmate and a partner for life. It’s more about do I feel attractive enough? Am I lovable?
[00:34:29] Tina Ličková: But this is something I remember you, Jessica mentioned in some kind of our discussion that there is a lot of frustration coming from the users, or I can tell it for myself. And you describe it Laurie as well. You start with oh, this is going to be fun and it’s something new and a half year after you are like, no, I’m not doing this, excuse me for my language shit anymore.
Because it’s just ugh, and you are spending too much time on it and you find yourself four hours, swiping Tinder or anything. So where exactly comes the frustration from?
[00:35:03] Jessica Pidoux: Yeah, I think Laurie said the one good point is that we talk a lot about dating, but we actually may be using apps to validate our value in the market to know if we are still attractive to go on a date and if we other people likes us.
And this is one main reason – sometimes you go to an app, just by curiosity, but to see who else is there, it gives a big opportunity in comparison to how it works before like you go there and you know you’re gonna find people, this is one of the main reason why people are going there.
And then actually you start realizing all the problems that come along this open market and is that there are too many peoples, so you’re already putting your yourself at risk because you know that you’re gonna have to try a lot with a lot of people, spend a lot of time, and then also your frustrations are going to be bigger, right?
[00:35:58] Tina Ličková: And how would you say, and I don’t wanna be binary here, but I won’t be binary here. I would like to know what is the frustration on the men’s side? What is the frustration on the women’s side? And I’m talking cisgender. And what is the frustration on gay men, lesbians, maybe transgender people?
Did you see? Some kind of different frustration. Was there a distinction between, or it, we are the same when it comes to our feelings, what comes out of the apps.
[00:36:23] Jessica Pidoux: Big problem I see is that we are reinforcing our beliefs about how the other, the opposite person behaves. So for the heterosexual people women are reinforcing their social norms there. Okay, the guy has to send the first message. And they wait. And then the guy’s thinking I have to take the first step. And again, it is because you have first that relationship with the machine, not with the other user. So you don’t know, you cannot test directly. Okay. So you are just believing in what you have learned offline and then also what you’re learning online. Ah, actually as a man, I don’t get too many responses.
So I need to maximize my opportunities and I will give them the first step. And then for non heterosexual, there’s a big problem first that apps are not embracing diversity as they try to sell it. What I saw, so in my studies. The representation of women’s bodies is very feminine and eroticized by their hair, by the upside of their body.
And this mainly corresponds to heterosexual women. But the gay women are also registering in those apps. And the results are filtered usually by binary sex men or women. Despite that they have gender options. Actually, when I took the test and my analysis was that the results show how you can describe their attractiveness, it doesn’t change if you change your gender.
It’s based on women or men. There’s still discrimination and exclusion of different types of bodies, of genders of people. And what happens also is that we are designing apps that are for the general public because the economic drive is – we need to retain and have a lot of users.
And the problem is that than gay women are going to, or queer women are going to Tinder, which is for heterosexual and bi and bisexual and they are a minority there. And so what happens with queer women sometimes is that say I don’t get results. I always get the same people around, which depends on the data sample, the user sample you have there.
But it also, so they also saw that they were exposed to hetero heterosexual, and they didn’t want to be exposed to heterosexual or to couples that wanted a threesome. And yeah, all these problems are coming along with the apps.
[00:39:06] Tina Ličková: Laurie.
[00:39:08] Laurie Dutheil: Yeah. What I can say about that, sometimes it’s feedback from my clients, but I’m not saying that it’s the full truth because it’s not properly scientifically validated.
So I’m not saying that. And most of the time also experience is here to validate your bias or validate your beliefs. So I’m not saying that it’s the proper truth, but yeah. Some men have come to me sometimes because they could feel that they were transparent and invisible on the dating apps because they, yeah, they couldn’t get any matches.
Some women were like, I feel harassed because I get so many messages a day. And so I feel it’s a bit unfair. And sometimes you have just two perspectives. But I can also feel like from elderly people, Like the relationship to age that some women, after I would say 35 years old feel that it’s a ha it’s hard, it’s harder for them to get much and to feel attractive. And also, yeah, you can say that maybe short men can feel that it’s harder for them to be liked or if they don’t have hair. Most of the time it’s, we have to remember, we have to keep in mind that most of the time we are creating and recreating our own belief system.
For example, when I first started as a ghost writer, I was tested. I was supposed to be a man. Forty something. Yeah. Fortyish years old. And I, it was the first time that I was a man trying to see these women. And at first when I tried to do like opening lines and all that, I was a bit disappointed on my side because I was like, oh, Evelyn has left the chat and Geraldine has left the chat.
And I was like, wow, what’s happening? Why is it so hard for me to be successful? And I kinda, in a couple of hours I got this kind of thoughts – not incel, salt thoughts, but sometimes ah, women, maybe they’re not funny. Or women, maybe they’re not available. And maybe, so it’s so easy to get those kinds of shortcuts and to think that the other is a problem, that the world is a problem. And although I’m not sure that it’s helping?
[00:41:08] Tina Ličková: It’s super helpful. It’s super helpful. We are, if you are sensitive and if you are self-reflected, I think it’s everybody’s task to be seeing their, our stereotypes and projections that we have.
And it is interesting that you switched into this role and it came out of you. Yeah, naturally, because it’s scary.
[00:41:29] Laurie Dutheil: But I was ashamed. I was ashamed of myself. I was like, what? What’s happening to you? What’s happening in your head? I was like, be respectful to your own gender. Ah, shoulda me. But yeah, it was pretty quick…
[00:41:41] Tina Ličková: But unfortunately you really got into the role. That’s the scary thing, so that’s, I’m sorry for guys listening to us. I’m not trying to generalize, but Yeah. This is, yeah. Wow.
[00:41:55] Jessica Pidoux: Yeah, totally. And I think the problem is also with this as I said, how you, how we put our values and norms into an object, like an app, into the technique.
And this is what allows you to see something that you didn’t see before and say then, because it’s based on what you declare as information in the story you’re telling online by text. Has another impact that when you just say or see it elsewhere, so in there you actually pay attention or Yeah, maybe I’m bold and that’s why it doesn’t work.
Or maybe it’s because I have improved my education level and it doesn’t work. And that’s what I think has a bigger impact when you’re dating online than when you’re dating offline.
[00:42:40] Laurie Dutheil: Yeah. And most of the time we are also, there is a bias because when we are talking about what’s happening to us when we are, it’s, as I say it, it’s like a very lonely activity.
But sometimes you are sharing your experience and your feedback with your girlfriends and all that. But sometimes you’re like, if you’re just talking to girls, you will really quickly say, ah, all mens are trash or the mens are ghosting most – no, everybody can be ghosted. Everybody can find love if there is no gender regarding that.
[00:43:10] Tina Ličková: I feel like texting my Brazilian buddy who would discuss dating all the time together because he’s my biggest source of wisdom right. In the last couple of years. But he tells me from a heterosexual man’s perspective, and it’s really interesting.
So I’m actually proud we have this connection, although it’s sometimes very frustrating. Ladies, I can also imagine one specific thing, and as we tackled these gender roles, and you were doing this research and stepping into these roles as you were telling, how did the research affect you personally as people as women?
[00:43:47] Laurie Dutheil: I think I’ll start if it’s okay. For me it’s a very powerful tool that I can get access to thanks to Jessica, because I feel more legit in my work, but also as a human being, as a citizen too. Like I’m more aware of how the algorithm works, so to me, I, yeah, I got the knowledge, so I’m at peace. So I feel that it’s really helpful for me. And I also understand that what is the responsibility of the machine? What is my own responsibility? And in that way, I feel empowered because of course, yeah, I’m responsible for my own love life and I’m responsible for protecting my data and I’m responsible for protecting my body and my soul and all that.
But I’m also, yeah I feel empowered because I feel more in charge of my life and what I can expect, and I can just consider dating apps as it is like a tool. Which can be improved, but which as it is really helpful too.
[00:44:43] Jessica Pidoux: Yeah. And actually, I met a driver of an app free now like Uber here in France and we have so many things, so many problems in common about dating apps and mobility apps.
Because when you use Uber, you’re being profiled – also, right? As a client and as a driver. And you’re also being put in competition with other drivers. They try to understand why I get this right and not another one, why he’s getting the best rights and not myself. Like what, how we can feel on dating apps, right?
Why is this guy getting these women or these women are getting these guys? So actually it was very nice for me also, like everything that I have learned with Laurie is like how we actually, we get empowered by knowing more about a system, by knowing more about what data is collected and how these specific data that we are put putting publicly is affecting our daily life, both online and offline.
As we see with dating apps, it affects who you are going to meet face-to-face and how you evaluate your feelings and your attractiveness and I think it, yeah, the research has been for the best, for myself and the community. And it works like Laurie, but also this driver, he’s putting together people.
We are really creating social groups again, that are divided by the technologies somehow by side effects or not saying there’s an evil demon there behind the app saying, oh, we’re gonna… but people like Laurie you are putting together the daters and their knowledge, their knowledge adds their service back again.
That’s, I think, very powerful. Yeah.
[00:46:33] Tina Ličková: And to wrap it up slowly, I wanna go into two questions. One is, I know you were mentioning slow dating. Which was really interesting, which actually really resonated. So what is that and what, how can you help me as a person?
[00:46:53] Laurie Dutheil: Oh yeah, slow dating. It’s actually trying to use it really backwards.
Use dating, but dating, act backwards. But I try to do that sometimes. It’s yeah, you can have a first date and just talk and just go to the movies and maybe at some point hold hands and maybe just, yeah, it’s, it doesn’t have to be rushing into things. I. Just to, because lately we’ve been meeting a lot of different people and we feel like we’re in a global anesthesia, like we don’t know what we feel anymore.
We don’t know if someone is creating a sparkle. We don’t know if we can trust the sparkle, if it’s like a chemical reaction of fear and it’s not really love. So sometimes I feel like it’s not really easy right now to be living it and to be conscious of what’s happening and to see if butterflies are coming or sparkle or just attraction.
So yeah, just to take your time and to. Be texting. If you want to be texting to be calling each other. If you want to be calling, go to the movie. Go to the restaurant. Just take a walk and take your time. It doesn’t have to rush into sex – if you don’t, you can rush into sex if you want. Just use the tool the way and personalize it and just try to, not to feel like there are rules.
Because right now, dating apps have been existing for a couple of years. People are like, oh, I know there are rules where you’re talking now you’re talking on the app. After that, you go on WhatsApp. After that, you send a vocal memo. After that, you need to go on the first date.
And after that you can have sex under the third one. And then no you can create the rules. Actually, there are no rules. It’s just like the jungle. And there is no proper regulation right now of the behavior. But you can create your own and create your own methodology, your own dating routine in your own way.
Do I feel loved? Do I feel attraction? Did I find a friend? Did I find a, yeah, did I find a wingman to go to an exhibition or something? You can do pretty much anything. Actually, just don’t consider the app as something that is a prison you can consider. Yeah, you can make it grow, you can use it to your own advantage.
[00:48:56] Jessica Pidoux: Yeah. This is, this joins what we have spoken, Laurie, that you don’t have to become an expert yourself of the app. Yeah. Because then you get trapped. So you upgrade your skills, but you don’t become an expert otherwise you’re gonna, you’re gonna feel frustrated.
And there are men and women that feel like, actually I’m tired of having a lot of success going on a date whenever I want. With whom, whoever I want sometimes. And or having all these rules. And then you’re like, okay, but now I just want to stop dating. When is the right time? I think it is important not to be an expert and let it go, gain certainty to protect your private life, but also don’t Yeah. Just let it go.
[00:49:44] Laurie Dutheil: Exactly. That’s what you’re describing in your work is that there is a fine line between the calculation and the fact that you want to control your environment and you need to be a bit focused on what’s happening and aware. And also the fact that you need to let go. You just need to let go and to let yourself be surprised by the other.
[00:50:03] Jessica Pidoux: Yeah. This joins the idea of exploring how can we have better apps that let us explore new preferences, new types of couples, and it’s super important, I think, today for women for reorganizing our preferences, our social structures about what is a woman in life or what are, what is a queer person in this society. So if the apps help us and if we learn to explore beyond what the apps are exposing us.
[00:50:34] Laurie Dutheil: The inspiration part is really important also, because sometimes we are used to dating the same kind of people. And sometimes it can just be used to know, ah, if I date this other kind of, yeah, another gender, another kind, another color, hair color, another, just whatever. Just try it out because it’ll reinforce who you are and who you want to be, who you want to become. And in that way it’s really important to take the famous test and learn. It’s also helpful.
[00:51:00] Jessica Pidoux: Yeah, totally.
[00:51:00] Tina Ličková: It’s interesting because I heard a metaphor or an example of if a woman gives birth, there are two experts in the room. There’s the doctor and there’s the woman because she’s an expert on her body. And this tells me a little bit that you don’t have to become an expert in dating or how to seduce dating apps, but you have to become an expert of yourself in dating.
[00:51:25] Laurie Dutheil: Exactly. You said it perfectly.
[00:51:27] Tina Ličková: And my last question, Jessica, it will probably be up to you to look at the app side again. What should the apps do to really fulfill? The promise of matchmaking, what is their responsibility? Because we were talking about things like, how do we behave?
And I get it. It’s very much on our side, but I want the apps to be better as well.
[00:51:50] Jessica Pidoux: Yeah, totally. First it’s to take responsibility for what they’re doing. They’re not just a technological company, they are a company that is building or not affecting relationships, and I think sometimes they just don’t want to take responsibility for that, like for Tinder. And so it’s like we are just putting people together. We’re just matching. And no, you can actually control the quality of the relationships, of the matching, of the interactions on the app by verifying systematically the profiles, by moderating the conversations, by protecting the personal data that is collected.
And that today is shared with so many other companies outside. So your data is used on the dating app, but also elsewhere because they resell it to put you on to target you and give you advertisements. So these: a better control of personal data, better control of the processes of interacting online, which give a better quality of the interactions.
And I think also you need to say the limitations of the apps you say: this is what we can do, this is what we cannot do. And it also lowers the expectations a little bit, as a user, right?
[00:53:10] Laurie Dutheil: Yeah. It’s, they’re responsible for creating a safe space. Actually, dating apps are supposed to be, we are creating a safe space for you, a virtual room discussion room between the two of you and the three of you. So the notion of safety is really important and there is plenty, plenty of room for improvement in that part.
[00:53:31] Jessica Pidoux: Yeah. And for the algorithms, it’s important that you – we regain in transparency how it works, how this and then stop thinking about actually using this transparency to get feedback from others, from experts like glory, but from users themselves that know better about what they want and date this link is missing.
You either make user tests based on trace capture online, or you take common suggestions by email that are treated by this control, the support, technical support. And so the information is filtered and lost, and it doesn’t actually improve the technology. So if you reestablish this link with society and you actually listen to them, I think that the technology can only be better.
[00:54:19] Tina Ličková: Super closing words- if you, but if you still feel like there wasn’t said something, which is important to say it now because I think say it now would never.
[00:54:33] Jessica Pidoux: I don’t know. Just to talk about the project we’re working on now, it’s with dating privacy that we have seen and we have proof that when you recover your personal data, because we all have the right to do it, you ask a company your personal data, actually you learn a lot about your practices.
You learn about how much time you spent online, how much, how many times you opened the app, and how many likes you give on an average or per day. And this actually becomes valuable knowledge for yourself and also for others because what we try to do with Laurie is that all this knowledge can be shared with other people using dating apps.
So it actually breaks down the asymmetry relationship between women, men, between heterosexual and queer. And the algorithm and the humans learn something with this personal data. You show it and you share the knowledge with others.
[00:55:37] Tina Ličková: And when it comes to the sharing, where can we follow you? Where do you share your wisdom, not only in this podcast, but where can we follow your wisdom for even more?
[00:55:50] Jessica Pidoux: I think we have our website Laurie’s websites, our wiki we try in our wiki to map all the data that is collected and show how this, for example, if you go to Grinder your HIV status will affect your profiling. But if you go on Tinder, it will be in the university you attended. So this mapping is useful if you want to contribute. We also have tools in there that actually improve your knowledge about algorithms and the personal data economy.
[00:56:23] Tina Ličková: Great ladies. Thank you.
This was so much fun, so much wisdom. I’m happy that I have a weekend coming because I will, yeah. It will take time to chew it in my mind and in my brain. Really helpful, really insightful.
[00:56:37] Laurie Dutheil: Thank you so much for having us.
[00:56:41] Tina Ličková: Thank you for listening to UX Research Geeks. If you like this episode, don’t forget to share it with your friends.
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