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The rising popularity of online communication changes the way people socialize. Friends and relatives can stay in touch and feel as though they are close to each other, even if they are at opposite corners of the world. Moreover, now people can find friendship and love online. The increasing interest in online dating also raises the question of whether this particular phenomenon is helping or damaging the current quality of relationships in society.
Many scholars attempt to answer this question by exploring different aspects of online dating. Many of these research articles come to a similar conclusion – online dating has a number of issues that stem from human nature as well as some technological factors. The central problems highlighted in the works of these scholars deal with individuals’ expectations and hopes. While dating online has benefits for finding people with similar interests, it also distances people and makes them suspicious of each other’s true identity.
Human relationships, romantic or otherwise, may be hard to establish and maintain for many reasons. The creation of online dating sites and applications was most likely intended to eliminate these issues and make the process of finding new partners easy and stress-free. Nevertheless, people encounter many problems as they create profiles, search for other individuals, and engage in a conversation. The following arguments show that online dating can complicate an already intricate process of finding affection.
Truth and Trustworthiness
It has been shown that people’s choice to date each other is strongly connected to the aspect of trust. According to McGloin and Denes (2016), attractiveness plays a significant role in both men’s and women’s desire to continue their relations. However, their reactions to this factor are somewhat opposite. Men, as the study finds, are more likely to trust female profiles with less attractive photos. These pictures are usually untouched or not enhanced with professional lighting and photo editing. Men consider images, which appear to be of much higher quality or have various visual effects as suspicious and fictitious. On the other hand, women find retouched photos more attractive and more trustworthy at the same time.
These findings show that online dating makes both men and women perceive their potential partners through a lens of distrust. Constant uncertainty of whether they are talking to the person they see on the screen may disrupt the usual process of bonding, which is typical for real-life meetings. People who cannot trust each other because of their visual appearance may start doubting different sides of their relationship. Interestingly, men, while being more suspicious of an attractive profile picture, are still more interested in dating women with edited photos (McGloin & Denes, 2016). This way of thinking can lead to such issues as the creation of unrealistic expectations and false ideals.
Expectations and Reality
The problem of manufacturing an unrealistic image also results in many negative experiences for older individuals. While younger generations are used to the technological world and usually have a better understanding of the online culture, adults and the elderly encounter many difficulties trying to make themselves more attractive. An article by McWilliams and Barrett (2014) states that older adults feel pressured to appear more youthful online than they are in reality because of the competition from younger individuals. Women suffer from the concepts of beauty being centered on youthfulness and physical attraction and rivalry from younger women, while men have a limited social network.
Therefore, many older individuals try to become someone who they are not. This manipulation of pictures, descriptions, and even behavior leads to the creation of a false identity, which adults often try to retain while interacting with others online. For example, men focus on their abilities, often exaggerating their achievements and assets (McWilliams & Barrett, 2014). Women, as a contrast, try to appear more youthful physically and by editing their pictures to adhere to the current standards of beauty. These characteristics are the primary interests of these two groups because men are more concerned about their partner’s attractiveness, while women look for someone engaging and financially stable.
Denial and Avoidance
When two individuals overcome the issues connected with finding each other, their interaction uncovers another range of problems. Flirting is the primary activity and intention of online dating applications, and it is also affected by all previously mentioned elements. Imagery plays a significant role in finding partners, and flirting online is often connected to one’s appearance. However, as people start to learn more about each other, the desire to exaggerate one’s physical attributes can evolve into the need to present oneself as a completely different person.
Mortensen (2017) argues that online flirting allows people to show themselves in a different light and express personality traits that they usually do not have in real life. The fear of being rejected by another person pressures some individuals to behave differently from their personalities.
Such artificially created personas cannot continue their relationship in real life and are bound by their fear of personal intimacy. This issue strengthens the divide between the online and the real world. While the purpose of online dating is to bring people together and have a positive and accepting atmosphere, it may result in people trying to avoid or ignore negative experiences (Mortensen, 2017). Imaginary visuals and personalities do not have a positive impact on people’s perceptions of reliable partners and stable relations.
Perceptions and Waiting
If people finally decide to meet in real life, their thoughts about each other may differ from the persons they see face to face. A study by Ramirez, Sumner, Fleuriet, and Cole (2014) evaluates the outcomes of individuals meeting face to face after communicating through dating sites and applications. The authors find that people’s behavior, amount of accessible information, and period of interaction influence their final reaction to the first real-life date.
For instance, people that talk to each other online for a long time are often disappointed during their first meeting. It can be explained by the fact that both individuals start to imagine some personal traits and qualities of their partners and idealize their physical appearance and attitude. Therefore, upon meeting face to face, they are disheartened as their created image is not real.
Some inaccurate expectations do not come from simple idealization but also from dishonesty and exaggeration. Self-presentation, which is often exploited by people online, leads to various disappointing outcomes. To avoid these issues, people can meet each other after some brief online interaction. Alternatively, they can use different platforms for communication to exchange more information about each other.
Various personalized forms of communication, such as phone numbers and personal e-mails, are able to bring people closer than online dating applications can. Furthermore, more private information sharing can also fill the gaps of knowledge that would be otherwise filled with one’s imagination. Photos, interests, and other aspects of one’s everyday life can increase the level of trust and intimacy between people. The authors find that individuals who do not share information cannot spark any interest in other persons (Ramirez et al., 2014). Therefore, people can quickly fail at realistically portraying themselves online.
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The Need for Improvement
It is clear that technology is not the only reason for the issues of online dating. People often misinterpret or abuse the information that is available to them. Therefore, online dating, as a concept, can bring some positive results. Moreover, it can be improved to help more individuals build healthy relationships. Although the quality of relations most likely decreased due to the growing lack of trust, people gained an opportunity to find each other with a click of a button. The issue of false imagery can be fixed if individuals stop pressuring each other to fit particular standards and instead focus on real and reliable connections.
Currently, online dating has a number of problems that significantly affect the state of relationships in society. People that meet each other online base their desire to interact on trustworthiness, which is directly connected to profile pictures and personal information. Photo editing is a problem that leads to heightened expectations. Also, many individuals try to behave differently online, which creates false personalities and further contributes to one’s trust issues. Misunderstanding and idealization are also common issues, which further interfere with one’s ability to create meaningful connections in real life. Online dating has adverse effects on people’s relations, but it can and should be improved.
McGloin, R., & Denes, A. (2016). Too hot to trust: Examining the relationship between attractiveness, trustworthiness, and desire to date in online dating. New Media & Society. Web.
McWilliams, S., & Barrett, A. E. (2014). Online dating in middle and later life: Gendered expectations and experiences. Journal of Family Issues, 35(3), 411-436.
Mortensen, K. K. (2017). Flirting in online dating: Giving empirical grounds to flirtatious implicitness. Discourse Studies, 19(5), 581-597.
Ramirez, A., Sumner, E. M., Fleuriet, C., & Cole, M. (2014). When online dating partners meet offline: The effect of modality switching on relational communication between online daters. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 20(1), 99-114.