Wednesday, April 29, 2009

On-line Dating

Given the large number of reports of relationships that initiate online there is now a need for understanding exactly how these relationships began. A study was conducted in order to explore and comprehend how this phenomenon works.

One hypothesis that stated that the body would be used to flirt with as frequently online as offline, was partly supported. However, it was found that individuals downplayed the importance of physical attractiveness online. Women flirted by displaying nonverbal signals (offline) or substitutes for nonverbal cues (online), more than men. In chat rooms men were more likely than women to initiate contact.

This study aimed to explore whether men and women flirt online in traditionally defined ways. While it is recognized here that there is a great range of flirting behaviors that social scientists ought to consider, this study limited its focus to the following: nonverbal behaviors,
such as smiling, gaze and touch; substitutes for nonverbal behaviors, such as emoticons (smiles, winks), acronyms (LOL ó laugh out loud), descriptions of physical attractiveness, descriptions of socioeconomic status, and initiating contact.

Body language can signal attraction without the obviousness of the spoken word. This ambiguity protects people from any humiliation if the person to whom they are signaling attraction does not share their sentiments. Some basic codes that are important to consider in flirting include kinetics, oculesics, physical appearance, olfactics, vocalics, proxemics (personal distance) and haptics (the use of touch). While individuals might be skilled at displaying these flirting signals in face-to-face encounters, the question is how are these traditional offline cues replicated online -- if at all?

While the current study does provide some evidence that we must consider the online presence of the body, it must not be ignored that it was found here that physical appearance does not play as important a role online as it does offline in the development of romantic relationships. Perhaps by minimizing this, individuals are able to maintain some anonymity, and being unidentifiable possibly creates more opportunities for individuals to open up.

The gender differences revealed were interesting. Despite the changes that the women's movement has brought about and the increased likelihood that women can
support themselves and their children, when it comes to initiating relationships women still
pay more attention to men resources than to their physical bodies. This appears to be evident across all media, including face-to-face, personal ads and, as this study has found, chat rooms. Despite the opportunities provided by the Internet to experiment with identity, this study suggests that gender roles are not transcended online.

The study demonstrates that women tend to flirt more than men both online and offline by emphasizing physical attributes. This study challenges the oft-touted claim by theorists that the Internet is a place where there is a meeting of minds, in absence of the body. Instead,
it is suggested here that researchers focus more on how the body is reconstructed on the Internet.


Podblack said...

... where does Bowie's 'Tin Machine' figure into it all, btw? ;)

Mariana Soffer said...

I guess nowhere, neither in my post nor in your's. It was probably related to other text (that was posted in the podblack blog) by a blogger that suffered from a temporary lack of coherence.

jinjir minjir said...

Psychologically, it all makes sense. But I'd be interested to know whether we have began making pheromones (of which we still know little) irrelevant (by hiding behind a screen) and, by extrapolation, whether a new evolutionary element is emerging: that mating will now be overwhelmingly mental rather than physical (even if the latter did take place sub/un-consciously)

Anonymous said...

This is interesting. There is a lot of study about the anonymity of the internet and identity creation, but for online daters (like myself) who are realistic, the internet is literally only a meeting place. In that way, all the same rules apply and it's not surprising that these study find that women tend to be interested in men's financial assets...because many are in "real" life.

B.G. Sanford said...

Being a writer of romantic novels, I read everything I can on relationships. I must admit that on-line relationships are a mistery to me, and I've never written about them. Though your article was informative. While I'm here, let me promote my new book, "Beth:Love Along The B.G.Sanford,"and just released by Eloquent Books. It's the story of one woman who overcomes all odds and two disasterous marriages to find true Love......Along The Way. It's an amazing story you won't soon forget. If so inclined, you may order it off the internet or have your local bookstore order it for you.
Good Reading..............

Mariana Soffer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mariana Soffer said...

Very intresting the idea. Besides of wondering whether we are evolving phisically thowards a human with a more mental related-sex, you made me ask myself
-if we are evolving
-how are we evolving
-what is the purpose/motive of the evolution

I think it might be happening and we are not noticing it.(of course if it is related to fermones there is no way we might see it).

Mariana Soffer said...

Thanks for your comment medicated lady, I was thinking that one might also invent onself in real life, like an actor playing a character. Many people do that.

Mariana Soffer said...

I think it is ok that you promote your book here, cause it is a reminder about how non-online dating differs from online dating. For example I was wondering if in on-line dating flirting through the computer or having "Cyber-sex" (whatever that means) is considered cheating.

Anonymous said...

I really found this interesting, Mariana.

You know, I had one online experience before and it had nothing to do with physical appearance but was completely a meeting of the minds. We both did not know what the other looked like, it really didn't matter to me though I found his mind and writing sexy, he was an exceptionally deep and beautiful poet). To make a long story short, I loved this person too much, I'd never had that kind of meeting of the mind experience before, to the extent that 'in real life' men who were interested did not interest me, so it was a frustrating situation to be in. Because it wasn’t fully real.
So I wonder about this whole online business, and whether it is healthy or not. There are real advantages, as you say, to chatting with someone you can’t see because it allows you to look beyond the body to the spirit. Then again this whole on-line experience is only a simulacrum of the real thing, and a large part of romantic feelings is really what your mind is projecting onto an idea of a person, even though your feelings are very real. So it is a difficult position, you see, that is what I am trying to say.

What do you thing J Baudrillard would say about all of this? :)


Mariana Soffer said...


Thanks a lot for sharing your experience and thoughts. I think online dating is neither healthy nor unhealthy perse, it depends on how it is performed.

Baudrillard argues that media serve a social function, the reduction of all they reproduce to pale models, foreclosing any possibility of genuine stake. However, neither
Meaning that love would become a feeble imitation of love.

Let me know if you thought about something else regarding this topic.


jinjir minjir said...

- "if we evolve"If I was Karl Popper, I'd be extremely proud of your thought :)

- "how we evolve"Perhaps theories of chaos could be able to explain. This is the interdisciplinary century, after all...

- "what is the purpose of evolution"Are we sure there is one...? Who says evolution isn't nature's sense of humour?

Paul said...

One must always be aware of the letter 'x'. Even unintended. I have learned to avoid using any word containing that letter unless unavoidable.

Anonymous said...

Seven years ago I met my now husband online.

He contacted me after seeing my photograph, in which I was wearing a baseball hat turned backwards... something I never do in real life. Was he disappointed? Probably not - we've been together 7 years.

Physically attraction and the ability to carry on a good online chat session - including the ability to not take one's self too seriously and to make me laugh - those were my criteria.

Good post on an interesting topic!

Mariana Soffer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mariana Soffer said...

Excelent coments, I can even imagine someone despectively saying IF we evolve.
The last comment is genius

Mariana Soffer said...

Paul: There is something wierd about that letter, is a mix between satanic
and perverted.
but also it intresting that you omitted words with that letter, cause
I think X means also deleted.

Mariana Soffer said...

Thanks a lot poetgrin.
You know my best friends, who I call them mom and dad, met online 8 years ago, and are still very happy.

I think you are right among the most important things are:the ability to not take one's self too seriously and to laugh.

Chris East said...

Anonymous said...

I met my lovely other half in a chat room and we spent many months in that environment before deciding to meet in the flesh. One of the most telling aspects of initiating relationships in that chat room was the a/s/l question. Age/sex/location were generally the first things that people wanted to get a sense of. That, of course, came after the intial contact questions like 'are there any single girls from Moscow here?', and statements like 'single guy looking for fun'. The aliases play a big part too. Big boy, 12inch rock and AussieHotBlonde say so much, don't they?

I wonder what a consideration of the Second Life phenomenon could add to the study. Do you have a link to that study, Mariana? I am keen to take a look at it.

By the way, thanks for trying to comment on the Evolving Blogroll. The post is closed to comments but there is an Evolving Blogroll page that is open for discussions. Looking forward to seeing you there. Cheers.

Mariana Soffer said...

Thank you Chris. People do read Chris follow up, it is more intresting than the originail part.

Mariana Soffer said...

Maekito, regarding the study I am emailin to you, guess you have your email online, otherwise if you do not get it send it to me.

Takes for you comments, it is amazing how people experience where and how they lived them. A mix between luck and personal intervention/interpretation.