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ONLINE DATING

Introduction:

 

Technology has rapidly evolved and its acceleration has changed virtually all areas of life. The advancement of technology has caused the World Wide Web’s transformation from a small user group to a global phenomenon. The use of the World Wide Web has evolved to encompass all aspects of living. For many people, it has even become their matchmaker, providing an alternative to the traditional way of dating. The advantages of online dating have already lured many into trying it, despite its drawbacks.

 

 

Advantages of Online Dating:

 

            Looking for a romantic partner online is a fairly recent strategy. Many have turned to the internet for love because of its many advantages. One benefit is that it is safer than meeting strangers in the real world. When meeting a stranger at a nightclub or bar, there are personal risks involved. Getting to know a person by communicating via a computer from a distance is safer because there is no immediate threat of bodily harm. Another obvious advantage is greater intimacy. Dr. Adam Johnson, an internet psychologist, states that people will disclose four times as much through the computer than face to face (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/2508793.stm) . Online dating allows people to look past physical appearance and form relationships based on similar values and interests. Also, for socially anxious people, internet dating can be very helpful by making it easier to reach out and form relationships with others. A 1998 study at Carnegie Mellon University summarized in an article published in the American Psychological Association’s publication Monitor on Psychology by Rebecca A. Clay on April 4, 2000, entitled “Linking up Online” posted on http://www.apa.org/monitor/apr00/linking.html?CFID=2742261&CFTOKEN=54702901 found that socially anxious and lonely people can safely open up and express more of themselves to others through the internet. Many people, not just those with social anxiety, have had success from engaging in online dating. A leading match-making site, http://www.Match.com states that 7,000 people a month leave their online dating service because they have found a match. According to an article by BBC News Online http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/2508793.stm, 75 engagements or weddings in the UK are reported every month strictly as a result from of using Match.Com.

 

 

Online Dating Services:

 

The popularity of online dating is increasing rapidly. Many love matches found online can be attributed to one of the many online dating services. It is thought by many experts that love is just a process of exclusion, which the online match making services certainly do provide.  Not so long ago, personal ads were thought to be only for the socially impaired. A study summarized in the article “Online dating becoming common” by Marlene Habib of the Canadian Press, written on February 7, 2001, http://www.canoe.ca/CNEWStechnews0102/07_dating-cp.html , pointed out that online dating began about seven years ago. Its popularity has increased a great deal since those days. In 2002, the money spent on personals and dating sites more than quadrupled to $302.1 million reported by http://www.lovecompass.com/weblog/archives/000041.html on April 24, 2003. Nowadays, an estimated 20% of the internet user population subscribes to at least one online dating service according to an article written by Janet Kornblum of USA TODAY on February 11, 2003 reported on http://www.detnews.com/2003/technology/0302/11/technology-81798.htm, entitled “Online dating: No longer in the ‘geeky’ domain”. Most of the people using an online dating service are looking for a date and/or a long term partner. For women, online match making can be an especially worthwhile option. This is because men outnumber women two to one on most of these sites. Also, the men that do subscribe are most likely to be well educated, social, and employed according to an article by Megan Easton written February 12, 2001 called “No more strangers in the night?” posted on http://www.newsandevents.utoronto.ca/bin1/010212k.asp  .Of the many match-making services, Match.Com(http://www.match.com) , launched in 1995, is the most popular, followed by Yahoo Personals(http://personals.yahoo.com) reported by “Online dating: Everyone’s doing it” by Bob Sullivan for MSNBC News written on September 19, 2001 posted on http://www.msnbc.com/news/806278.asp?0cb=-116105685 . Most online dating services today are very advanced. They allow users to make videos, audio clips, instant messages, and even talk on the phone anonymously to find a match.

 

 

When a Match is Found:

 

            Some relationships that begin online lead to long term commitments. Of course, for that to happen, eventually an offline meeting is necessary. Most long term relationships are formed after the individuals have lengthy online contact before the first meeting, found by a finding noted in the previously mentioned article http://www.newsandevents.utoronto.ca/bin1/010212k.asp. Experts suggest that it is advisable to spend just enough time online to screen potential partners, and then to arrange an offline meeting as soon as possible.  It is always wise when screening people online to omit one’s real name in the username. Also, when calling a potential match for the first time, it is better to ask for their telephone number first, and then verify it through the white pages to see if they are legitimate. Another way to check their honesty is to ask the name of their employer, and then verify that they work there by finding the number in the white pages.

 

When the time of the first offline meeting arrives, there are several precautions one should take.  One of them is to tell a trusted person where and with whom one intends to go, should anything go wrong. Another is to provide one’s own transportation, and not accept a ride from the potential match. Also, it is advisable to bring a cell phone in case of emergency. When arriving at the meeting place, memorizing important landmarks, such as the location of telephone booths, and well-lit areas, is a recommended precaution.

 

 

Disadvantages of Online Dating:

 

          Because of its availability and accessibility for many, the internet is the place to go looking for love. Although online dating has many advantages, it also has some notable disadvantages. For instance, some research studies concluded that being glued to the internet in the pursuit of love will not improve one’s social life. The previously mentioned article, http://www.apa.org/monitor/apr00/linking.html?CFID=2742261&CFTOKEN=54702901,   found that subjects had decreased social engagement with higher internet use. This same study also found a link between internet use and mental health. It found that greater use of the internet resulted in small increases in loneliness and depression. Another drawback to online dating is that it does not work for everyone. According to the previously mentioned article http://www.msnbc.com/news/806278.asp?0cb=-116105685, nearly one-fourth of the people who quit online personals because they find the right person, re-subscribe in the following year after it fails to work in the first place.

 

 

Deceptions and Lies:


         
Many people use either chat rooms or online match making services to find love. Unfortunately, some of those people lie and misrepresent themselves to others online. In a survey described in the previously mentioned article http://www.newsandevents.utoronto.ca/bin1/010212k.asp , more than one-fourth of respondents lied on the internet. In that survey, the most common lie was age, followed by appearance, and marital status. One way to sense if a possible match is telling the truth is to see if they would agree to a phone conversation. According to a website devoted to the understanding of online dating risks http://www.saferdating.com, launched in 1998, if they seem content to only talk online, and not proceed to phone conversations most likely they are lying about one or more aspects of their life. Also, if they put off a first meeting for as long as possible, they are most likely lying about their physical appearance or age.

 

 

Infidelity:

 

          Individuals from many backgrounds use the internet to date. One sector of the online dating world is married online daters. A majority of the time spent online, 70%, is used for romantic purposes, such as participating in chat rooms or sending e-mails, according to a statistic reported by Michael Adamse, PhD., posted on http://www.infidelitycheck.org/statistics.htm. Many subscribers to online personals may not realize it, but approximately one-third of online personals users are married according to the previously mentioned article http://www.msnbc.com/news/806278.asp?0cb=-116105685 . It is not surprising that spouses looking for romance online can lead to divorce. In fact, the article http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2003/08/04/earlyshow/living/caught/main566488.shtml  written on August 4, 2003 from CBS News entitled “A look at Internet Infidelity” reports that one-third of divorce litigation is “sparked” from online affairs. Marital status is a difficult area to prove via online. However, there are signs to look for when in doubt. If the person whose marital status is in question seems overly flirty, flattering, and attention-demanding, those could be warning signs. Some married individuals who are looking for romance online do not need to lie about their marital status. Some match-making sites, such as http://www.match.com, let married individuals register, and declare their married status. Other personals sites, such as http://www.personals.yahoo.com  do not allow married people to register. There are even sites specifically established to facilitate online affairs, such as http://www.married-match.com .

 

Cyberstalking:

 

          In many cases, online dating proves successful, and many can find the right match through this process. However, there are also instances in which the person seeking a lover finds an individual who turns out to be a cyberstalker. Harassment on the internet through e-mail, chat rooms, messaging, and the World Wide Web is all classified as cyberstalking. According to The Web Police, an internationally recognized police authority started in 1986, located at http://www.web-police.org/ , cyberstalking takes up 11% of their reports, e-mail abuse takes up 9%, harassment and threats take up 9%, and chat room abuse takes up 2%. Cyberstalkers are classified the same way as offline stalkers. The five types of stalkers that are described in a journal article located at http://www.firstmonday.dk/issues/issue8_9/mcfarlane/ , is hosted on a peer reviewed journal on the internet called First Monday, in the September 2003 issue, entitled “An Exploration of Predatory Behaviour in Cyberspace: Towards a Typology of Cyberstalkers” written by Leroy McFarlane and Paul Bocij. The cyberstalker types are: Rejected (those who had a relationship with victim and are/feel rejected), Intimacy Seekers(those who want to pursue a relationship), Incompetent Suitors(those who want a relationship, but are socially or intellectually limited), Resentful(those who harass because they feel wronged), and Predatory(those who stalk for information or fantasy rehearsal for sexual attacks).

 

 

Crime and Cyber Dating:

 

            Online dating can sometimes lead to more serious outcomes than broken hearts. Rarely can it lead to serious crime. The National Police Agency in Japan did a very informative study about the link between online dating and crime. They found that the crime rate rose 8.5% over the year 2000; an increase that the researchers believe may be due to the increase of online dating. http://www.msnbc.com/news/743744.asp , entitled “Creeps, Crime, and Online Dating, written by Lisa Napoli on April 25, 2001 for MSNBC News. Another Japanese study, summarized at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/low/asia-pacific/2209084.stm (an article from BBC News, written on August 22, 2002, entitled Japan Internet Sex Crimes Rocket”), found a connection as well. This study reported that in the first six months of 2002, crimes linked to internet dating services in Japan more than doubled. One murder, 23 rapes, 400 child prostitutions, and 213 child protection law crimes were recorded by police to be related to internet dating services. Although anyone can be a victim of crime linked to internet dating, women are more at risk according to the article “Online Dating is a Hit” written on October 9, 2000, by Amber Irbeck for LubbockOnline shown here http://www.lubbockonline.com/low_res/stories/100900/loc_dating.shtml . Also, minors are at a much greater risk as well, taking up 80% of online love crimes according to the previously mentioned article http://www.msnbc.com/news/743744.asp. Although internet dating carries many risks, most do not relate to physical harm, just fraud and broken hearts.

  

Conclusion:

 

The advantages of online dating have popularized the use of the internet for matchmaking, despite some of its aforementioned drawbacks. However, matchmaking is only one of many uses of the internet. In recent times, a broad array of needs and tasks has been fulfilled through the internet. The widespread use of the World Wide Web has changes many aspects of everyday life. The internet is just one of many technological advances that have changed the world and the nature of our relationships.

 

By: Sarah Hayman