Dating is a nerve-wracking experience for most people. When it is in-person one would worry about talking too much or too quickly, if they have food in their teeth (that is of course if they are dining together), or if they are coming off as boring. I’m sure they worry about whether they remembered to put deodorant on, about whether they should kiss them at the end of the date or to leave them with a hug or awkwardly enough maybe even a handshake. However, online dating provides a way to skirt around those uncomfortable worries. I think of online dating sites as separate ponds and each separate pond is a different dating site. It is a large grouping of people looking for relatively the same thing, a romantic relationship, or sometimes just a sexual or nonsexual relationship, regardless they are all looking for relationships whatever kind it may be.
Online dating is centered on self-presentation, which is the act of presenting one’s core beliefs and traits that “convey an impression to others which it is in his best interest to convey” (Ellison, Heino, Gibbs, 2). So self-presentation alludes to two factors, first what is actively given and second what is passively given off. For instance, a person shares that they love to fish and hunt, but their body odor and dirty nails give off the impression that they do not practice proper hygiene. So once a person decides to join a dating pond they have to—in some cases—apply to be a part of that pond, or if there is no application they simply have to fill out a profile in which they discuss the finer intricacies of their personalities, physical attractiveness, fears, hopes, and dreams for the future, which is no simple task. Hence, it takes practice and a certain type of literacy to be successful at dating sites because there needs to be a balance between realistic and ideal self-presentation. Also one need to pay sharp attention to the subtle cues they are “giving off” through their unconscious behaviors.
First and foremost social media, especially the Internet, is about people because people support, fund, and perpetuate the Internet and its mind-blowing omnipresence. In the Journal of Computer-mediated Communication there was a case study that was done, its purpose was to study and note the process of self-presentation on dating sites. This is an extremely important subject to study for a few reasons. Firstly, it is a new area of society that has not been researched and discussed much, thus it is important to gain understanding about a large facet of contemporary society. This is especially true when online dating can (and does) directly affect personal relationships and humans’ abilities to interact with others when in a face-to-face situations. Secondly, dating is obviously an overt facet of society, so when the rules change for dating, rules for society change, thus the cultural world evolves and it is important to note these evolutions in order to fully understand how and why we act. Therefore, the impact of digital dating is significant because it affects the whole of society whether people realize it or not.
Finding a date or a mate online or in personal ads was never a very celebrated action, however, the ubiquitous access to the Internet and the mass communication involved on the Internet has softened the stigma attached to online dating. Now, 1 out of every 5 couples has met on the Internet. But how is it that dating sites, now more than ever, are succeeding? How are they providing their services? The surveys and profiles that each person who joins a dating pond has to fill out are terribly significant because these surveys and profiles are what make or break dates. If a person puts on their profile that they are 6’4’’, 200 lbs and that they do body building, you’re inclined to believe them because if someone lies on their profile, once the face-to-face encounter happens the lies will unravel. Hence, there is a constant battle between a person’s ability to blend the line between realist and ideal self-presentation.
According to the research done for the Journal of Computer-mediated Communication, “information and communication technologies (ICTs) shape and are shaped by social practices” (Ellison, Heino & Gibbs, 2). ICTs have the ability to do two things, enhance or constrain communication and our ability to connect with others. The interesting thing is that Internet dating does both of these. Online dating sites enhance peoples’ capacity for connection because the act of not having to initiate flirting and other such things in-person takes away a large part of the anxiety of dating and interacting away. Also online dating allows for people to introspectively search their personalities and traits in order to better present themselves to others. Thus, the act of online dating is a very personal experience that can have beneficial effects. If a person studies their characteristics and finds some to be disagreeable to their ideal self they could actively work to alter that reality in order to better themselves and make themselves more contented. Thus, their journey of self-discovery was ignited by the necessity to present oneself honestly and optimistically through self-presentation on dating sites. But what is it that keeps people from lying about their traits, physical features, goals etc? It is the impending face-to-face interaction. The shift from online to offline dating is what keeps people honest for the most part because if one lies about what they look like or their hobbies, or goals they will be caught up in their lies because it is much harder to fake your personality in person that it in over the Internet. There is obviously a push to present one’s positive attributes but the idea that there may be a face-to-face interaction also pushes the individual to present themselves as authentic as possible so as to actually acquire and maintain a relationship. After all, it is the reason they joined the dating pond in the first place.
The fact that people are joining dating sites is, indeed, a progressive step forward in the quest for love because either they think they have nothing to lose or they want more control in carefully selecting their partner. This is a positive shift because it asserts the notion that people want to curb the loneliness of the world and they want to have control of their happiness, which is a great thing to happen to people in society. It is great because it shows that people still strive to connect with one another rather than give into the constraints and anxieties of social interaction. Thus, people are being themselves and hoping that someone will find them and connect with them on a deep and loving level. Strong and successful relationships are founded on “Intimacy in relationships [which is] linked to feeling understood by one’s partner” (Ellison, Heino, Gibbs, 4). This notion promotes honesty in self-presentation, because if one wants to find a successful relationship it is a necessity to be honest rather than fake because duplicity contradicts the whole purpose of dating. Therefore, the social impact of digital dating is beneficial.
Naturally, though there is a flip side to the benefits of Internet dating because with every positive there has to be a negative. Small cues in regards to Internet dating are used as a means to glean unspoken characteristic attributes of a person. In the study done for Computer-mediated Communication the researchers noted that the majority of participants explained how they “read” a prospective boyfriend or girlfriend’s profile. Foe instance, if a person has poor spelling and grammar it could be understood that the person is uneducated or simply does not care enough about their self-presentation, thus, it is marked as a “turn-off”. Another example is that if a person has not logged on in over a week it can be assumed (and generally is assumed) that the person is either dating or something is gravely wrong. One of the participants explained, “I’m not going to email somebody who hasn’t been on there for at least a week max. If it’s been two weeks since she’s logged on, forget her, she’s either dating or there’s a problem” (Ellison, Heino & Gibbs, 11). Another example is that people pay attention to how long their responses to replies are because it is said if they seem too long then the person sending it seems “too desperate” so they do not receive replies back. These examples point out the heavy amount of judgment at play on Internet dating. Obviously there is judgment in the dating world regardless, however, this type of judgment is linguistic and strange to me because people are judging others’ subjective opinions and actions and treating them like objective truths. For instance, in the profiles they always ask how attractive one thinks he or she is and if they answer “handsome” or “pretty” and then in the face-to-face interaction the person who was meeting the “handsome” man or “pretty” woman can easily be let down because those are such subjective questions to ask. Also a person cannot separate themselves from themselves and their opinions, thus, if a gorgeous woman thinks she’s ugly, she very well may answer that she is of “average” attractiveness. It all depends, so I find it to be counterintuitive to ask these kinds of questions because then in real life and offline situations a person’s ability to deem what is subjective and what is objective is skewed. Thus, these types of subjective inquiries “constrain” connectivity rather than “enhance” is because these types of ideologies and questions promote an objectivity that is then projected onto offline society.
Therefore, people’s literacy is impacted in a way that endorses an objective view of the world rather than an open-ended subjective view, which as previously mentioned inhibits connectivity between people. Internet dating is a horse of a different color because it forces those participating in it to objectively scrutinize themselves because they know that others will analyze their page much like they objectively dissect other peoples’ pages in order to look for and decipher small cues that hint at a quality of the individual. Therefore, Internet dating has it’s beneficial and its not-so-beneficial impacts that alter the way in which we interact with each other both on and offline.