The Harm and Benefits in Online Dating

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The development of the ICTs popularized the searching online for love, sex adventures and settling down just with several clicks. Modern dating scene is developing quickly and dynamically due to the emergence of the Internet and social media. Internet seems like a perfect solution for the singles across the world to find their ideal match. Tinder, Grindr, OkCupid, or even wedding agencies are supposed to facilitate our search for a “soulmate”. Is that so? Globalization provides people so many options – one can meet not only the girl from their neighbourhood, but someone from across the country or even across the globe. The diversity and the amount of the options has both advantages and disadvantages. On one hand, there’s a higher chance of “ending up with someone they are really excited about”, while having too many choices makes it impossible to pick one person, because an individual is influenced by “fear of missing out” phenomenon thinking “what if the next person is the one?” (Ansari, 2015). The rise of technology altered both the way we perceive romance and the way our physical world rotates around the timeless ICT world. There are both points of convergence and divergence of online and offline ethics. This essay explores the challenges of both online and offline dating and the changes on the perception of intimacy and sex in the cyberworld by answering the question “How has the rise of online dating shaped the dating norms, perception of the intimacy and its relation to offline dating?”

Online dating is an unalienable part of our lives – connect to the Internet, download the App and enjoy the endless options of potential partners. One can do it wherever and whenever. Despite cyberspace being the world of its own, many dating apps lay out the guidelines of etiquette and there are some established unspoken social norms that are gendered and reinforced regularly. Social media can be a liberalizing platform promoting gender equality. More women are actively initiating the contact, however the men are still expected to make the first move. Once the conversation starts, there is a question of how fast one should respond to keep another person interested, but at the same time not to be annoying or too eager. Perhaps it’s due to the human nature of to be desired and seem unattainable, keeping space for the intrigue and “cat and mouse” game. The mystery and playing is a big part of the online dating, and some find this stage the most thrilling as it keeps a person alert all the time. Dating Apps enable involvement into several virtual relationship, challenging the view on loyalty, commitment level and relationship duration. It’s acceptable to have several “hook-up plans”. As a result, some may find dating apps as redundant and leading only to invariably transient flings.

According Aziz Ansari, the conversations on the dating apps are explicit and direct (Ansari, 2015). On one hand, texting allows more time to carefully plan the message, personalize it, but also people prefer to “shoot their shot” straight away. The cause of such frank message as “wanna bang?” is as many forget that behind the screen is another alive human, who can get hurt and offended by such straight-forwardness. What is more, one is protected from a direct anger by the technology. The way we communicate over the technology is not how we would approach a potential partner in the bar or any other public space. Here, online dating has “no filter” in what is being said. It’s common to send the same template text to more than one person as one tries to get as many options as possible. If it doesn’t work, they rely on more options. If the date turned out to be nothing more but a pretty picture, “ghosting” is a common way to end the communication. One just stops responding to messages leaving the other person guessing. Another prominent feature of online dating is sexting. The exchange of the sexual content has become a norm and definition of the trust and level of engagement between the couple.

Contrary, there are also many cases when much talking, flirting but no concrete action is a norm. The dating app becomes a messenger. When someone meets the Tinder date offline, there’s a degree of the psychological pressure. Firstly, there might be a discrepancy between the online and offline personality, appearance and behaviour, as nowadays having a totally different “online self” is normal. Secondly, many view an online dating as an easy way to find a one-night stand. One of the interviewed women told that she “felt obliged to have sex” with a guy on the first date (Henry-Waring, 2008).

Another interesting aspect is how the grammar and spelling affect the chances for the people to get along. Many perceive bad grammar or using colloquialisms is a red flag. The reason is that people want to be treated and respected, finding a good, educated person.

The traditional gender roles and norms are projected on the online dating scene, going through the alternation process; however, the main ones remain stable. The above examples show that there are behaviour expectations – making the first step, intimacy level and speed – and if changed might undermine the social norms. For instance, a man may feel emasculated if the woman makes the first step, taking more of an independent role. Lastly, it’s not only how one responds to the online date, but also the websites design and technology emphasizing the gendered activities such as male users being able to purchase a flower and “send” it, or the types of the emojis normally used by each gender. The technology opens room for various sexual practices liberalizing sex and intimacy, yet it makes people to conform to the heteronormativity.

Based on the previous section examples, online dating is more of an “online introduction service” (Ansari, 2015). Keeping the online interactions are important aspects of our daily routine – deeply rooted into the society. To understand better the way the online dating changes our lives one needs to consider the differences and similarities offline and online dating have. The dating apps are the platform that may facilitate the creation of the “pure relationship”, implying the egalitarian partnership that democratizes and individualizes the sexual lives (Tang, 2017).

The degree of involvement and depth of the relationship is different. Offline dating is associated with a long-term stability, while the online is usually a short-term affair, with little expectation for further development. The involvement into many flings cases the loss of ability to maintain strong bonds (Henry-Waring, 2008). According to Bauman online dating contributed to the increased fragility of our social interactions, making the definitions of love and intimacy fuzzier and more fluid. Involvement implies a level of commitment; therefore, the online space has altered the way one perceives cheating. Simultaneous flings are an online norm, while polygamy in real life is usually disapproved. Yet, a double-standard for men and women exists. Once a woman has more than one partner she’s seen as “slut”, while a man will be associated with qualities such as “experienced, masculine, macho”. In this case, the online dating gives women more agency over having several sexual partners.

Using Goffman’s Presentation of Self, one can trace the offstage and onstage performance, involving a presentation of many different personalities. For instance, a neat profile creates a pleasant first impression. However, the real offline-self can be a total opposite. In the cyberworld it’s common to see that people double text or write “hey” many times if the person hasn’t responded, while in the real life one wouldn’t come up to person in the bar repeating “hi” 15 times. This indicates that the comfort level and privacy boundaries are blurry in the online world.

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The online dating constantly fuels the hyper-connectivity and hyper-communication. The reason is that every individual needs validation and care, thus if one is unable to get this validation in the real life, they resort to the online one. The rejection online is easier received than the one face to face. Not matching with someone on Tinder can hurt, but it’s nothing compared to the humiliation in person of rejection in the bar with the audience. This implies that social pressure and appearance in public plays a great role in our decision making and the way we behave.

Online dating involves less effort and courage (Henry-Waring, 2008). It gives more time to look up the option and provides us with endless choice. Given more time to fix the wrong message or think about the response cannot compensate for the facial expression and body language. The concept of “presence” is also distorted. As the green circle under the chat “online” appears, there are different degrees of the emotions involved. For instance, the person is always online, but isn’t responding, making another feel unwanted.

Lastly, too many options are the downside, as one can never stop searching for a better one. The cyberworld became a borderless space that promotes freedom on the surface, but deeper down the exposure of the affairs publicly leads to the convergence between the private, public matters, emotions and ICTs.

Moving to the similarities, one expects to be respected, have good manners and decent behaviour. Even though the online dating has more variations for non-heterosexual orientation, the dating scene reinforces the heteronormativity. Even when engaging into an online date, people seek to meet the person offline as soon as possible as the majority prefers “bodily, fleshmeet contact” (Henry-Waring, 2008).

What is more, appearance is one of the main criteria somebody gets picked whether on Tinder or in the bar. The person is judged by the look immediately, and if they comply with the other’s preference, they may check out the profile information. Same in the real life – one evaluates the look and then approaches.

Despite the differences, the online and offline dating have the same goal – to find a partner (Henry-Waring, 2008). It’s only the matter of how one achieves it. Online dating platforms became an online-shop for the relationship, commodifying the intimacy- and love-commodification through the digitalization. The networking and globalization highly affect intimacy and love, leading to conflicting views on whether the social media is liberalizing or spoiling the intimacy. The reasoning behind is Internet providing socialization opportunities with anyone across the globe on any level – creating superficial connections. However, developing a relationship over a distance and then finally meeting may cultivate a deeper understanding.

If the online dating results in the successful relationship, there are many of the couples who are ashamed to tell that they met only, so they come up with a romantic story. Here one sees that the pure notion of “romance” and dating are closely related, and the online dating is perceived as deviant. The social stigma projects that the person was unable to find someone in the real world and had to choose the last resort means.

When talking about intimacy, it’s not only in the sexual terms. Take an example of the friends on Facebook. An individual normally has more than hundreds of friends, some of whom they’ve never met. The question rises here, are we talking about a new form of “online intimacy”? Online dating permits a new level of intimacy democratization through breaking the imposed isolation by the social institutions through telecommunications (Broadbent, 2009). As the modern society is dependent on the social media, the age of the Apps’ users is decreasing with more of the younger population using online dating, affecting the perception on intimacy. What is considered a norm in dating for the younger generations varies from older ones searched the significant other.

With the popularization of sexting, the intimacy has been exposed to potential public leakage or even the digital material being used for blackmailing. The new intimacy makes the population highly vulnerable and cautious about what they send in their chats to avoid consequences. That wouldn’t happen frequently back in time, as not many people would have an idea to send a nude photograph in the envelope to their beloved ones. Technology both lets the love bloom and spoils it.

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