Online Dating: Matchmaking Through New Media

Online Dating: Matchmaking Through New Media

More than 50 million people in North America have used online dating services. While it may not be for everyone, online dating may be a reasonable and beneficial option for someone looking for a partner. There are many benefits to online dating. The convenience factor for one is hugely beneficial. Additionally there is a different level of safety involved with meeting someone online as opposed to in a bar. Breakups online are also much easier and calmer than in-person terminations. Lastly, there is the fact that when conversing with someone online, one is able to get to know the real person under the skin and build a genuine relationship with their soul without the distraction of their body (Salminen, 1994). Online dating has opened up opportunities to people looking for love through its convenience, security, ease of breakups, and by giving people the ability to get to know the true person.

25% of Canadians and 36% of Canadians between the ages of 18 and 34 have tried e-dating. Of all the people getting married approximately 17% of the relationships began online (Neill Neill, Ph.D., n.d.) and this number is rising. There was a 15% rise from May 2009 to May 2010 of online dating service usage (“Dating site reviews’ Current online dating and dating services facts & statistic,” 2011).
Romm-Livermore and Setzerkorn (2009) state, “We define e-dating as a process that takes place online and that results in the establishment of a personal relationship between two individuals.” (p. 292). This can be through the medium of a matchmaking site, a chat room, or social network site. As long as the process involves internet with the intended goal of a relationship, it is what Romm-Livermore and Setzekorn consider online dating. It has existed since the early 1980s and has developed into a worldwide industry which is currently worth about 4 million dollars and still rapidly growing. The people who tend to use online dating services have also morphed. The past view was that only desperate people with no other options turned to online dating but that is not the case any longer. People with busy schedules or those looking for a more convenient way to meet their soul mate are now choosing e-dating as the means to find love.

Practically, online dating is very convenient. There is no need to leave one’s house or get all dolled up for a date that has the potential to be a letdown. There is no need to fret about a ‘bad hair day’ or having nothing to wear (Figueroa, 2011) as a wonderful evening with a potential lover can be spent in the luxury of one’s own living room. On an evening when the motivation to leave one’s home is non-existent, there is no need when you can chat in comfy sweatpants all night.

For so many people working hard and long hours, there is not a lot of time for individuals to schedule ‘me time’ for themselves. This would include going out with friends or relaxing at home. There is no time for going out to a bar or singles club and inefficiently looking for a partner when one can barely schedule their necessary events in. The dating site is running constantly so there is no time restriction (Nizzura, 2007). On the nights when craving some communion without a large time commitment all that is required is to log on and select a match and chat. There is no determined amount of time, when other things require attention, it’s possible to deal with them and come back to your conversation or log on tomorrow to continue, whenever you have the time. The ability to build a relationship without time constraints is wonderfully freeing.

The era of ‘the horrible first date’ is in the past. Through chatting with potential future partners the cyber-dater is able to gather a good understanding of who the person is and if there is any future for the pair. To start out online daters are able to input the specifications of a person who they feel will be compatible with them in a number of categories such as religion, appearance, and interests and from that, the website works to match them up with superficially compatible matches (Figueroa, 22011). This screening process eliminates the necessity to go on awkward first dates because the person is not a stranger, eliminating the awkwardness and the waste of time it might be. “It takes away the first date jitters, the “I don’t know what to say next” and “Do I order salad or steak?” awkward moments because you already know the person you’ll be having dinner with.” (Page, 2010, “Benefits of Online Dating”)

Cyber dating opens up a world of possible matches. Through the internet the number of connections is virtually limitless. The internet has provided us with the ability to form relationships with people overseas easily. This can be difficult if the relationship progresses and a meeting is discussed because one party will have to travel a great distance. However the possibility of friendship and relationships with people outside of one’s circle of friends and family is exciting to most and outweighs the negative aspects. There are entire websites dedicated to this very purpose such as internationalcupid.com as well as the mainstream sites, most of which have branches that target this participant. With the use of internet, relationships can be formed across the entire globe.

The main argument against online dating is the lack of security in the exchange. It may be that humans are inherently dishonest and will hold no qualms about exaggerating their profile information. It is true that not everyone posts accurate statistics of themselves. According to a survey by Nicole Ellison, an assistant professor at Michigan State University, 52.6% of men lie about their height, 64.1% of women lie about their weight, and 24% of men and 13% of women lie about their age (Viegas, 2010). This is not, however, a viable reason to scorn the service. A small lie here or there that grows a man an inch or two or drops a woman’s dress size a little is not harmful. While not honest, it is not a danger. In another study done by Ellison, the result was, “81% of the participants lied about at least one physical attribute in their online profile, although the magnitude of most deceptions was so small that it would be hard to detect in a FtF [face to face] interaction.” (Hall et all, 2010, p.119) If this minute detail that is altered is rarely even acknowledgeable in a face to face meeting, it cannot have that much of an impact on one’s life.

People who pose a more likely security threat will be screened out during the application process. There is a screening process on true.com and match.com (two of the major online dating sites) that will not allow a person who has been previously convicted of a sexual offense to post a profile on their site. They have been performing this screening process for a number of years and the state of New Jersey made it mandatory in 2008 that sites display whether or not they include this protection (“Online dating sites splits”, 2008).

Despite the preemptive action on the part of the website, it is not possible to be entirely protected all the time when using an online dating service. The use of common sense will greatly reduce the potential threats. Rob Nickel states in an interview, “But I always look at it: we've got to be our own best security measures, the things that we do. Because match.com can only do so much” (2011). He goes on to produce a list of safety precautions that everyone using online dating should use such as not giving out a street address or home phone number, and going with your gut if something feels wrong, especially if they are asking for money (Nickel, 2011). If there is a person sending disturbing or threatening messages, a user is able to and almost expected to report them. Also when using a site, there has to be a certain level of discretion on what gets posted. No one should be posting any information that is highly personal. Users must think ahead to the potential effects of posting something as personal as an address or a phone number (Relationship Advice, 2011), it is not the site’s responsibility to remind their users of street smarts. Users of such sites need to educate themselves before immersing themselves in a situation where they will be surrounded by strangers.

Also there must be a level of discretion towards how much of other people’s info is taken as fact. When reading through, users must be aware that not everything that everyone has posted will be honest or good. For the posters benefit, the omission of one’s own personal information can provide a safety barrier. There is no need to be outright dishonest about personal information but the use of a few gaps in details is not harmful to the other person and is safer for the poster.

No meeting of strangers is guaranteed to be safe, and online dating is actually safer than some other methods. There is no need to go to a bar and end up talking to a dangerous or creepy person (Love at first byte, 2011). The online correspondents have put themselves in that position because they wish to find someone to love as well and with all the information on their profile the seeker is usually able to identify that the person they are about to pursue a relationship with is a good person, and if not at first glance, after a few conversations they will gather a basic understanding. With proper boundaries regarding location, one is able to build a stable relationship without being exposed to undesirables. With the growth in popularity of social networking sites the weirdos have migrated away from online dating services. Approximately 20% of stalking victims say the offence occurred on their social network, whereas only 4% said that they were stalked through a dating site (Smith, 2011). Safety on an online dating site is quite accessible if one proceeds wisely.

Receiving a written termination of a conventional relationship could seem cruel, rude, and insensitive. In the context of cyber-dating, it is simply one natural outcome, and in some cases the logical way, or even the only way, to accomplish the necessary. In an in-person relationship the medium, formal or informal, is the way to convey the meaning properly. In an interview Cole said, “If I texted my girlfriend ‘I want to break up with you’ I think she wouldn’t take it seriously. She would probably laugh.” (Gershon, 2010, p.25). Alternately, a text in an online relationship would be taken with much more belief as the basis of the relationship is derived from text-based communication.

From the same interviewer comes a quote from Duae, “When you see someone in person, it is harder to bring it up…you are going to be affected by how that person responds to it. You will feel bad and then change your mind…” (Gershon, 2010, p.29) In this example, writing would be easier and more effective for the person initiating the break up. It may seem harsh but Duae goes on to point out that this way it is done and it is straightforward. He argues that it is also easier on the person being broken up with because there is no lingering question of whether further relations are still possible. For people in online dating communities this has the same effect. There are no questions when it is all laid out simply. Each side has the ability to say exactly how they feel without the distraction of the other person’s emotional, or even physical, reaction.

Through writing, the composer has the ability to thoroughly critique what they are about to say. They are able to tell if they are getting the correct point out. The breakup is often smoother and leaves fewer emotions ragged as no one is having an emotional breakdown. An online relationship doesn’t contain as much commitment until it becomes a face-to-face relationship because the body is less connected to the other person. In breaking up then, the hurt is less acutely felt. In addition to the probability of less pain, there is also no physical damage done to objects or people. When a person is unhappy with a breakup there is a possibility for them to become physical and hurt their ex-partner or damage their property. An online breakup carries less damage, emotional and physical.

Online correspondence is a better way to get to know a person deeply than face to face communication. When speaking with a person face to face there many judgements and generalizations made which limit one’s ability to fully relate with the person they are speaking with. When typing back and forth with a stranger there is no ability to form an unfair judgement about them as there is nothing physical to judge, only the words they type. If in their words they are not able to impress, that becomes a fair judgement but if judged upon their outward appearance that is not a justifiable judgement. “There are no social classes or race or ethnicity prejudice in cyberspace” (Page, 2010, “Benefits of Online Dating”) “Words have the power to connect disparate souls from distant lands minus the weighty significances of physicality” (Tomosaitis, 1994, p.46). This should be the way people get to know each other; through the workings of their minds, their feelings, their thoughts. North American culture places too much importance on physical perfection which is rarely attainable.

The act of correspondence through a medium, such as the internet, provides a greater feeling of safety and facilitates the ability to be honest. Compared with being in a bar or club, the willingness to share intimate thoughts or feelings with an online pen pal is increased greatly. When sharing personal feelings over a computer there is no one to judge or laugh or ridicule you if they do not agree with your thoughts or feelings. They may type out a message that says they think differently but it is a very different conversation with a much less emotional endangerment. Online communication provides a facility to build a deeper more intimate relationship.

Cyber dating has changed the way relationships are forged, developed, and even terminated. Reasons are strong to consider online dating: convenience, security, safe and easy breakups, and the genuine relationships it promotes. Online dating is the media matchmaker opening up opportunities for people looking for love.

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