An Introduction to Online Dating

Obviously, online dating is a relatively new activity, “with more than 38% of single Americans having used online dating systems as of 2015” (Smith & Anderson, 2015). Since then, the numbers keep increasing and online dating continues to evolve and change. The introduction of mobile dating apps has changed the way in which people “meet” even more.  Tinder is the most widely used mobile app, but as many of us know, it’s more of a “hook-up” tool than anything. Studies have shown that people are becoming more inclined to use Tinder like a game—a game of finding someone attractive who is willing to meet in person for a hook-up.

According to two of the founders of Tinder, Sean Rad and Justin Mateen, they designed the app to challenge and supplant online dating websites by offering a more fluid experience (Stampler, 2014). Tinder was designed to ‘take the stress out of dating’ by being a type of ‘game’ that required less time and emotional investment to play (Stampler, 2014).This design philosophy is reflected in the features of the software, where people’s profiles are similar to a deck of playing cards, and love, sex and intimacy are the stakes of the game. (“Data cultures of mobile dating and hook-up apps: Emerging issues for critical social science research”, https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/2053951717720950)

Online dating sites and mobile apps have created a new phenomenon which researchers/psychologists call “relationshopping” (Heino, Ellison, & Gibbs, 2010).  This is a rather damaging activity which influences users’ behaviors and views about dating and potential partners.  Relationshopping is basically a mindset created by the online dating sites and apps.  This mindset is much like that of consumerism–one can merely use the internet to shop for a potential date, partner, hook-up, whatever.  Having the ability to browse through photos like browsing for a pair of shoes, viewers/users can just swipe, click, scroll…making people much like commodities to the viewer. This has created a sort of detachment from all the typical (traditional?) characteristics of human interaction and courting practices.  People have become mere images of “products” available to the viewer. And, because users’ faces are the first thing a “shopper” sees, the first initial assessment of the “product” is based on looks (exteriors), which is an incredibly superficial way to evaluate a person and their inherent qualities (as a potential match and as a human, in general).

As they describe (p. 437): “[…] the ability to filter through thousands of profiles […] encouraged a shopping mentality, in which participants searched for the perfect match based on discrete characteristics and reduced potential partners to the sum of their parts. Decision making based on these qualities was quite different from offline dating situations in which individuals often get a more holistic impression of the individual, usually taking into account unquantifiable aspects of personality (such as energy level) and interaction (such as chemistry).”

There is a somewhat negative cycle of psychology created by this mindset, called the “self-preservation” mode, but I will not go into detail about that. The gist of it is that when people create their profiles, they’re painfully aware that they are being compared to thousands of people—and compared based on superficial characteristics which are quickly assessed by the viewer. As a result, they tend to be more deceptive about their appearance, characteristics, etc. in order to be “selected” by the viewer. This is one of the problems with online and mobile app dating.  Deception is a HUGE drawback/hazard. I will certainly discuss my experiences with this subject in future posts. It’s a doozy!

Another aspect of online dating is that, more and more, people are using them for casual sex and hook-ups. Which, is fine—if that’s what you’re into; and I have no qualms with casual sex and promiscuity…as long as you’re “ethical” about it. (Another subject I will discuss in the future—the ethics of casual sex and hook-ups.) However, using apps and online dating sites to find potential sexual partners adds to the cycle of deception because often times users are unwilling to be overt in their intentions. So, they disguise there “relationship goals” in order to attract more potential partners by stating that they’re looking for a long-term relationship.

Casual sex is a type of relationship goal that online daters commonly pursue or are open to experiencing (Blackwellet al., 2014; Couch & Liamputtong, 2008; Hardy & Lindtner, 2017; Zytko et al., 2015). Recent work has indicated that heterosexual men and women sometimes disguise this relationship goal because of the belief that its disclosure may negatively impact their achievement of this goal (Zytko et al., 2015). Work in the psychology domain regarding social stigma around promiscuity supports this user concern (Crawford & Popp, 2003). If users are unwilling to elucidate their interest in casual sex, they stand to have difficulty probing for casual sex interest in others. Collectively, this increases the chances of relationship goal misinterpretation […] (The (Un)Enjoyable User Experience of Online Dating Systems:Doug Zytko, et. al. 2015, http://dougzytko.com/research/FUNOLOGY_chapter-zytko_grandhi_jones.pdf).

To be continued…

ghosted

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