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Online Dating: Using the Internet as the means and the end by Lawrence kalogreades

Online dating:

using the internet as the means and the end.

Like many of my friends, I myself am also guilty of trying, at least once in the distant past, to arrange a date via the internet. I won't get into the details, but disappointment, surprise, and even shock were some of the reactions that were communicated to me (and by me!) by my friends who admitted to using the internet in order to arrange a date. There are of course golden examples that are contrary to this, but they do not seem to be very frequent.

About ten years ago, internet dating was something that was mainly happening in the channels of old, basic chat applications such as mIRC (www.mIRC.com). One user would communicate with another, have a pretty basic conversation, and some times they would arrange to meet up. Nowadays however the scene is quite different. The internet dating scene has become quite organized, structured, and somewhat acceptable, with a very wide range of choices for anyone interested in just about anything.

First off, there are the social networking sites such as www.FaceBook.com and www.Myspace.com, which aim to connect people via their capacity to create online profiles. As on any resource, a lot of people use these massive pools of people in order to find individuals that they find attractive and message them in order to arrange some sort of date. In other cases, intimate relationships develop naturally between strangers over the course of multiple conversations, without having actually met. It is a matter of debate how many people go ahead and make these internet relationships materialize into real physical ones.

For those who want to go right into the deeper end of the spectrum, there are adult social networking sites, commonly referred to as Sex Sites. Through these pages, such as www.AdultFinder.com, one can create an online profile through which they can display photographs, their location, and their desires, with the hope that other users will get in touch in order to arrange a meeting. These meetings are not however intended to lead to anything other than casual sex.

Another increasing phenomenon is that people are forming strong bonds through platforms that are not necessarily designed to promote the initiation of direct contact. This is especially true with online multiplayer games, where the emphasis is on achieving a goal in a game while cooperating with a team of other users. However, when considering that a large number of players dedicate many hours to playing such games and often interact with the same team of players, it is a natural progression to expect that some form of bonding will take place. Indeed, there have been a number of "marriages" between players of MMoRPGs such as World of Warcraft, regardless of them having never met in real life (see http://fayexuan.blogspot.com/2008/02/world-of-warcraft-wedding-vow.html).

Although this may sound very strange and alien to us who became immersed in the internet in our early adulthood, it is important to understand that children these days are born into an interconnected world; therefore it is important to not discard this as a fad or transient phenomenon, but as the new way with which kids and adults choose to interact, something that they are entirely comfortable with (Chou & Peng, 2007). In fact, Whitty (2008) concluded in her literature review of research on online relationships that they can be empowering and can provide a unique environment for people to explore different aspects of their personality, social bonds, and sexuality.

However, Wolak et al. provide a more sobering note. In their investigation of a national sample of 1501 Internet users in the USA between the ages of 10-17, they found that highly troubled boys and girls who lack quality communication in their families, tend to be the ones who form close online relationships. This may also make them more vulnerable to exploitation by engaging in more online risky behavior (Beebe et al., 2004).

Similarly, in adults, the internet allows them to re-create their image of themselves via what they present to the rest of the public on the internet. In reverse fashion, research seems to suggest that when a user's profile is validated online and offline, it alters their belief about themselves and how they behave online and offline (Yurchisin et al., 2005). Essentially, people are recreating themselves and using the internet as the first step.

Internet dating is the result of the shrinking gap between the online and offline world. Although it may seem odd to us, a generation from now it will be completely acceptable and normal; indeed, it already is. Still, like all encounters between people, when they actually meet they may reject each other or they may miraculously end up getting married, even if the initiating stage was the internet (Lawson, 2006).

Beebe, T. J., Asche, S. E., Harrison, P. A., & Quinlan, K. B. (2004). Heightened

vulnerability and increased risk-taking among adolescent chat room user: Result from a statewide school survey. Journal of Adolescent Health, 35, 116-123.

Chou, C., & Peng, H. (2007). Net-friends: Adolescents' attitudes and experiences vs.

teachers' concerns. Computers in Human Behavior, 23, 2394-2413.

Lawson, H. M. (2006). Dynamics of internet dating. Social Science Computer Review,

24, 189-208

Yurchisin, J., Watchravesringkan, K., & Mccabe, D. B. (2005). An exploration of

identity re-creation in the context of internet dating. Social Behavior and Personality, 33, 735-750.

Wolak, J., Mitchell, K. J., & Finkelhor, D. (2003). Escaping or connecting?

Characteristics of youth who form close online relationship. Journal of Adolescence, 26, 105-119.

Whitty, M. T. (2008). Liberating or debilitating? An examination of romantic

relationships, sexual relationships and friendships on the Net. Computers in Human Behavior, 24, 1837-1850.