Jui Ramaprasad, an Indian American assistant professor at McGill University, is part of a team of researchers that found women typically don’t make the first move in online dating. (Mcgill.ca photo)

TORONTO — All men please take note! In the online dating world, women do not like to send personal messages to initiate contact and later mating, and would rather send “weak signals” than make the first move, a team of Indian-origin researchers has revealed.

According to Jui Ramaprasad, assistant professor of information systems at McGill University, they still see that women don’t make the “first move” online.

“Weak signaling is the ability to visit or ‘check out’ a potential mate’s profile, so the potential mate knows the focal-user visited,” she noted.

The offline ‘flirting’ equivalents, at best, would be a suggestive look or a preening bodily gesture such as a hair toss to one side or an over-the-shoulder glance — each subject to a myriad of interpretations and possible misinterpretations.

Much less ambiguity exists in the online environment if the focal-user views another user’s profile and leaves a visible train in his or her ‘Recent Visitors’ list.

The researchers also found that users with anonymous browsing viewed more profiles. They were also more likely to check out potential same-sex and interracial matches.

Surprisingly, however, users who browsed anonymously also wound up with fewer matches than their non-anonymous counterparts.

This was especially true for female users: Those with anonymous browsing wound up with an average of 14 percent fewer matches.

Men often take the cue.

“Men send four times the number of messages that women do,” said co-author Akhmed Umyarov, assistant professor at the University of Minnesota, adding that the anonymity feature doesn’t change things so much for men.

The team examined the impact of anonymous browsing via a premium online browsing service in which 50,000 users were given free access to the feature for a month, enabling them to view the profiles of other users without leaving telltale digital traces.

“Even though people are willing to pay to become anonymous in online dating sites, we find that the feature is detrimental to the average users,” noted professor Ravi Bapna, co-author and Carlson Chair in business analytics and information systems at Minnesota.

The study, published in the journal Management Science, could lay the groundwork for further academic analysis of online dating sites.

Experiments of this sort could be used in a range of online-matching platforms to help understand how to improve the consumer experience — though it’s important that the experiments be done ethically, the researchers added.

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