Online or Offline: A Shift of Attitude Towards Dating
In recent years, the Internet has become an important part of people’s daily lives, and therefore the element of dating and romance online is no longer a surprise to people. For as long as humans have recognized the urge to form romantic relationships, they have also recognized that finding an appropriate partner can be challenging, and that sometimes it is useful to get some help. According to recent data, some 55% of the 7.6 billion people on our planet now have access to the Internet (InternetWorldStats.com, 2019). Every domain of contemporary life, from commerce and politics to culture, is now touched by the Internet in some way. With respect to forming romantic relationships, the potential to reach out to nearly 2 billion other people offers several opportunities to the relationship-seeker that are unprecedented in human history.
Recognizing these opportunities, numerous commercial websites have come forth to provide these services to users seeking romantic relationships, specifically:
a) Access to potential romantic partners
b) Communication with potential romantic partners
c) Matching with compatible romantic partners
However, just as technologies have changed over the years, attitudes towards online dating has changed as well. Years ago, the use of personal ads on magazines and newspapers were used to make pen pals or look for romantic partners but it never became widely socially accepted.
It is discussed by Schmitz et al (2011) regarding the circulation of a myth that people only use online dating because they are unable to acquire a partner offline, in the traditional way of doing things. This perception is discussed and related to users being “desperate” due to unfavourable traits or characteristics, or simply being less than ideally desirable in the offline environment.
In addition, online dating was assumed to be for “nerds,” “the desperate,” and the “socially inept” (Goodwin, 1990; Orr, 2004; Smaill, 2004; Whitty & Carr, 2006; Wildermuth & Vogl-Bauer, 2007). It is also a common reference to online dating that it being something of a “last chance saloon” for the undesirable. This could be due to the residual attitude left off from the early days of Internet, popularized by the media, whereby users were seen as shy, socially inept and awkward people.
Although online dating may have its vices which cause a plethora of negative attitudes to be aimed towards it, that isn’t all there is to it. Positive attitudes towards online dating are cultured through the individual’s own experience using online dating which can also be cultivated through the development of friendship or acquaintanceship with users of online dating (Leslie & Morgan, 2009).
In recent years, through the take-off of popular online dating services such as Tinder, Bumble, OkCupid and Match, more and more people have found an increased success in using online dating services (Barry & Hurley, 2011). It is stated in a survey conducted on the Irish, “57 per cent said that they knew someone who dated someone online and 23 per cent said they knew someone who married someone they met online,” (Grehan, 2015).
A research conducted by Smith and Duggan (2013) found that “59 per cent of internet users agreed that online dating was a good alternative to meeting new people, showing yet again a positive trend from the same survey that was conducted in 2005. Positive attitudes and awareness about others’ favourable experiences can then lead to the desire to try online dating. Although some stigma about online dating may still exist (e.g., Doan & Meyers, 2011), growth in rates of participation has increased dramatically in recent years.
In the case of both genders, it is reported that deception on the Internet is a rampant occurrence (Lewis, 2006). This in return makes the initial in-person meetings to be perceived as risky. Participants in the study conducted by (Vandeweerd et al, 2016) reported that individuals often lie about their age, weight, height, and post pictures that are misleading on their online account.
Another element of deception that participants encountered comes in the form of lying about the presence of STIs and HIV. Research focusing specifically on women’s use of the internet to seek sexual partners found that although women who sought sexual partners online engage in higher risk behaviours than women with no internet partners, the women seeking sex partners from the internet also engaged in more protective behaviours than those who did not use the internet to seek sexual partners (McFarlane et al., 2004).
Another risk of online dating is the risk of ‘unwanted contact, non-consensual behaviour and violence’. Women especially are at a significantly higher risk than men when it comes to meeting face-to-face. Instances whereby upon meeting in person, men became physically sexually aggressive are also possible and are unwanted risks to the women using online dating (VandeWeerd et al., 2016).
A significant benefit to online dating is additional access to an expansive range of people online. When comparing online dating with meeting individuals in bars and clubs, the majority of individuals felt that the Internet provided a more positive alternate venue for dating. In general, the majority reported that the Internet allowed them to overcome the lack of an accessible dating pool, the primary barrier cited to traditional dating (Miller, 2011). Not only that, there are specific barriers that the Internet helped them to overcome, including a busy lifestyle, caregiving responsibilities, recently moving, and/or health issues. Individuals indicated that the Internet provided an opportunity to meet people, creating a social outlet otherwise inaccessible (Ben-Ze’evm, 2004).
Online dating through the use of Tinder, Bumble, Okcupid and Match gives users the control to decide who they match with and how their matches conform to their standards or preferences. This also allows users to be able to regulate the information that they divulge, the pace of the interaction, and it gives users the leeway to decide whether or not their match is compatible enough before meeting them in person (eHarmony, 2011). This significantly reduces the risk of physical retaliation when it comes to female users meeting males for the first time, which also coincides with the advantage that it is easier to end the relationship if it is just online (Wolak et al., 2011).
To investigate the main motivators, for example the issue of trust, are important for resulting in a positive change of attitude towards online dating, a problem identifying research from a marketing decision with a conclusive research design is to be used. A descriptive research utilizing secondary data analysed in a quantitative method – a structured questionnaire survey is used to collect data.
Since this study is focused on people who are used to primarily dating online, it will only be limited to respondents that are among the age 18-30 years old as of 2018 and 2019 only. This segmentation of generation is chosen to be investigated because:
1. There appears to be a lack of research carried out on attitudes towards online dating and
2. Ages 18-30 make up a significant portion of the world population
A set of questionnaires with open and closed ended questions will be sent to the target respondents through physical approach. Closed ended questions will generate data as these produces either numerical data or data that can be put into categories (McLeod, 2008). This way, unwanted responses that qualitative methods cannot obtain can be filtered out. Many studies focused on attendees from only one event or two and do a comparison out of them. They have also adapted the Likert scale into their surveys. Quantitative surveys allow respondents to focus on one and only one subject that is the main topic of survey, this prevents respondents from drifting apart from the main subject.
The attitudes and perceptions held towards internet dating are more well understood as part of a dynamic and reflexive process of cultural adaptation. More than often, the adaptation of culture happens at a slower rate than the conditional developments in society. This basic relationship is evident in the effects of internet technology on the changing beliefs and practices of online interaction.
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