Technology and connectivity are progressing at a rapid rate in the present world, which has important consequences for the social dimensions of our lives. Nowadays, one computer may be used for many functions and, in particular, for the transmission of audio, images and video communication. Cyberpsychology is concerned with how we use technology and how technology affects our behaviour and psychology. It also takes into account how technology can better complement our strengths and limitations by providing advice on the simplest and most intuitive systems to use (Power & Kirwan, 2013). An attempt is made in this essay to explore dating communication in cyberspace and evaluate the positive and negative aspects.
It will further assess research on the topic, in particular, the application of technology in day to day life.
The value of the internet in enabling dating, a preeminent human need, cannot be underestimated. Specifically, this falls under the wider framework of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, a theory that provides guidelines on many aspects of life which include interpersonal relationships online. According to it, one basic need of human beings is safety (Maslow, 1943). To this end, concern over the safety of Mobile Dating Applications (MDAs) is valid, given the risks of online communication. Notably, this helps in ensuring that when people look for partners online, they achieve their objective without compromising their safety in the process.
The danger in online dating occurs when individuals reveal too much information to other persons with whom they have been communicating through a MDA because they feel that they have a connection with such persons and know them well. Such self-disclosure happens because the sense of intimacy in online relationships is almost as real as that of a face-to-face relationship. It is easy for an individual to conceal their real identity online by constructing a virtual one. There is a negative impact if the individual who has assumed a false identity fools another individual, who believes that the relationship is genuine (Weiten, Dunn, & Hummer, 2014). That said, there are aspects of online relationships that pose a unique challenge which needs to be addressed.
In case there is a need for individuals in a cyber initiated relationship to meet, there is an absolute requirement for caution. A plan has to be made before a face-to-face meeting has to have an exit modality in case something goes awry (Zhao, Grasmuck & Martin, 2008). Some individuals can plan a meet up with an express intention of harming an innocent person or otherwise taking advantage of the relationship (Weiten, Dunn & Hummer, 2014). One is advised to always meet in open public spaces and ensure that a friend or family member is aware of where you are headed to and exactly whom you are going to see (Ravenscraft, 2013). It becomes easier to know where to start in case something goes wrong and resolution is urgently required.
To reduce doubt when dating online, some individuals insist on asking the other party to reveal their other social accounts, in particular, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Snapchat. In doing so, they hope to gain evidence that the individual they are in touch with is indeed who they claim to be (Ravenscraft, 2013). Although this can be useful in some instances, it is wise to be more vigilant in pursuing safety first.
Relationships like dating have a need element that requires fulfilment. They are belongingness, love, and esteem (Maslow, 1943). Intimacy is the basis for friendship and love. Esteem, on the other hand, is guided by the desire to achieve and the gratification that comes with it. There is a reason to believe that this is good motivation for trends seen whereby individuals use MDAs to find and share intimacy. In addition, being in a relationship that is stable and progressing well may fulfill an individual’s sense of achievement. In line with this stands what is at the top of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs – self-actualization. At this level, an individual has the potential of achieving “everything that one can in order to become the most that one can be” (Maslow & Murphy, 1954). A fulfilling relationship has the potential to raise the level of happiness in individuals, increase their sense of responsibility and result in good psychological health. It is important that safety needs, in which intimacy is key, are met before an individual can realize benefits that come with ultimate self-fulfilment.
The audience directed to by this blog are students in middle and upper levels and anyone else who has experienced Mobile Dating Applications (MDAs), because these groups mainly have young people in their teens and early twenties who have access to Internet-enabled digital devices, and/or have a significant interest in online relationships. In addition, other individuals who have experienced MDAs could be having a unique motivation to do so which cannot be ignored. Individuals in this group could include unmarried adults, the divorced and those who have lost their spouses. According to the book The Psychology of Sex, many such people consider online dating a real avenue to get a partner (Gackenbach, 2011). The implication is that they are likely to gain or lose in online dating depending on the outcome. As a result, it is crucial to have the interests of all such groups protected.
While various studies have been conducted to investigate different aspects of cyberpsychology and online dating, this topic is far from being exhausted given the dynamics of relationships and that of technology being used. The rationale behind choosing this topic was the fact that currently, the use of Mobile Dating Applications has become more popular (Collins, 2016). In America, 15% of adults have used mobile dating applications and/or online dating sites. In fact, there has been a 9% increase in the use of online dating in the past two years and one in ten American adults have used a mobile dating application which is nearly three times the amount compared to 2013 (Collins, 2016). A survey was carried out on 2,001 adults aged 18 to 24 years old and according to this, 27% have used online dating. The number of adults aged 55 to 64 has increased by 6% since 2013 showing that 12% have used cyber communication in order to assist with dating (Collins, 2016). The numbers above suggest an upward trend in cyber dating, thus giving impetus to the discussion topic.
The introduction of smartphones has had an impact on society. Evidence of this lies in the manner that they transverse time and space courtesy of an internet connection. Indeed, such a device can easily convey communication where the parties involved are remote from each other. As discussed earlier, this kind of communication comes with high levels of self-disclosure necessitated by a lack of verbal cues that are present in face-to-face communication (Snell, 2016). Despite challenges associated with this mode of communication, smartphones are the new way used by people looking for intimate relationships. In many ways, online dating is more pleasant nowadays with many people admitting they like the experience. According to an article in Forbes Magazine as read by Bercovici, online dating sites are adopting mobile technology to enable more face-to-face interactions, a key ingredient to successful relationships (Snell, 2016). The likelihood of a relationship evolving from an online occurrence to text messaging and to the use of the call function using the same device makes smartphones a useful tool. In the dating world today, the smartphone plays a significant role from the initiation, continuation, and conclusion of the love experience.
When online dating was first introduced, there was a stigma surrounding it. A contributing factor was mainly that most people had not been exposed to it or to anyone who had used it. Nowadays, it is more common, with almost half of the public having either met someone through dating online or known someone who has (Smith & Anderson, 2016). The ability to ‘sort’ potential partners using technology via text and images means that individuals can protect themselves against the danger of unexpected surprises. Davis and colleagues as read by Danielle Couch and Pranee Liamputtong describe it as a process that develops “interpretation and self-construction”. Accordingly, online daters engage in activities that “circumvent the constraints of the online dating environment while exploiting its capabilities” (Couch & Liamputtong, 2008). In this regard, online dating is not scary at all but rather one that needs to be adopted by those who feel constrained to pursue face-to-face dating.
In 2005, research was carried out by the Pew Research Centre to investigate people’s attitudes in the U.S towards online dating. The findings showed that only 44% of individuals viewed “online dating as a good way to meet people” and 29% of individuals viewed “people who use online dating sites as desperate” (Smith & Anderson, 2016). The same survey was conducted in 2015 and it showed that “attitudes toward online dating have grown progressively more positive”. The poll now shows that 59% of people now think dating online is a good way to meet people and only 23% now view it as desperate. Although some people still seem to be confused about why anyone would seek an intimate relationship online, it is generally more accepted culturally than it was over ten years ago.
Having a blog is a unique way that can be utilized both by researchers as well as general readers to get or deliver information. For the purposes of this paper, clicking on the link will lead you to the homepage of http://datingonline.edublogs.org/. It is titled ‘Dating Communications in Cyberspace’. The purpose of the blog is to explore the research behind dating communications in cyberspace, discuss the advantages and disadvantages and explore research on the impact of the use of technology in everyday life. Links to relevant articles will be availed in the blog. The image below is a screenshot of the welcome screen of the blog.
While developing http://datingonline.edublogs.org/, I surveyed other blogs to view content in order to relate it to my topic. The blogs were titled “Study Reveals ‘Sad’ Reality Of Online Dating Apps”, “5 Facts about Online Dating” and “How to Stay Safe When Meeting Someone From the Internet”. They provided me with useful information that helped with the understanding of dating communications in cyberspace. One issue focused on is the response rate to messages on dating apps and how the exponential growth in popularity of such apps has made them part of the current dating culture (Woody, 2016). In them, the acceptability of online dating is clearly outlined. In addition, they highlight that the demographics of online dating have changed, from being common to those in their late fifties to early sixties to currently among those under twenty-five years (Smith & Anderson, 2016). They also share the view that about one-third of those who agree to date online never meet those they communicate with in cyberspace. Individuals are offered guidance on how to stay safe when meeting someone that they have been communicating with through cyberspace. Overall, these blogs provided an insight into issues related to cyber dating and suitable approaches to deal with them.
In research conducted by Jennie Zhang and Taha Yasseri (2016) on 400,000 heterosexual single people in America, interesting findings were made. First, the research participants were equally distributed between the genders. With reference to an unnamed dating application, a total of nineteen million messages were investigated. It was realized that men were 79% more likely to initiate conversation than women. In 39% of the investigated cases, no response was gotten while in 11% the second message marked the termination of conversation. The average number of conversations was capped at 9 with 27 messages being the point at which an exchange of numbers was made. The results of this research may appear disheartening; nonetheless, they serve to console those who feel they are at fault when they attempt online dating (Zhang & Yasseri, 2016). The outcome is that dating communication in cyberspace is not a guarantee that the will be a relationship.
The likelihood that some individuals may use false identity is a major drawback. An investigation conducted in anonymous settings like chat rooms revealed that some people show their negative side once they feel that no one will know who they are (Turkle, 1995). Current research has attempted to unmask how individuals behave in other less secure set ups like when using online dating or dating applications on their mobiles (Ellison et al., 2006). The outcome was that a change in behaviour was apparent and this lent credence to the argument that behaviour was not a constant but rather varied as far as the environment in which the dating experience occurred was concerned. In another research conducted by Zhao, Grasmuck and Martin (2008) on the personality that individuals present on the social network, Facebook, the findings mentioned above were corroborated. They noted that people on this site only reveal their “socially desirable” personality, a state that they are unable to express in the real interpersonal experiences. The findings were further corroborated with research done on cyberspace dating communications. It was realized that when individuals set their settings to less anonymous on dating sites and on Facebook, they appeared to be truthful and sincere (Ellison et al., 2006). In this case, people strive to be socially desirable by trying to “stretch the truth” (Yurchisin et al., 2005). The final outcome in the work of Zhao et al. (2008) reveals that identity is dependent on social environment and is not specific to certain individuals. Past studies suggest that cyberspace is an avenue for the fulfilment of fantasies that otherwise would not be achieved. In truth, behaviour is a social construct in which norms apply to all and one who deviates is culpable to be punished. In an anonymous setup, individuals get an opportunity to behave differently since the threat of punishment is absent.
Overall, the attitudes and perceptions of both the male and female participants in the studies discussed above show that they were receptive to cyber communication as an avenue to initiate and establish relationships via dating apps. The significant success realized in establishing relationships is evidence that for those keen in cyber dating, chances for success are real. Similar to the normal face-to-face dating experience, dating in cyberspace was associated with certain common expectations. In one sample, it was clear that men were expected to make the first move as compared to women. Further, there were no hard rules, successful contact did not automatically translate into a relationship, but the longer the participants communicated in cyberspace, the higher the possibility that they would hit it off. All this lies within what is considered normal. Overall the results in the studies provide the need for more extensive trials.
There is significant research detailing the merits and demerits of cyber communication in dating. The subjects discussed in these studies are a representative sample of a large subset of individuals who engage in cyber communication for dating purposes. The implication therein is that the success or failure of such communication is reliant on exposure and utilization of technology that enables such interaction.
To date, there is growing evidence supported by valid research that supports the use of technology in dating. There is also evidence that supports the use of cyber communication as being satisfactory and comparable to face-to-face interaction. The cases summarized in this paper further lend credence to the use of cyberspace communication as a means to establish dating relationships without compromising values or expected outcomes.
Importantly, those likely to benefit more from this intervention are individuals across the social divide meaning that anyone with access to a smartphone and the internet would not hesitate to use it for such dating were the need to arise. The data given is encouraging which suggests that the attitude towards dating in cyberspace communication has been greatly transformed which is akin to an “augmented reality” where the advantages of digital information intersect with the need to have a physical presence, (Jurgenson, 2012). The marriage between cyberspace and reality is the uniting factor in online dating.
Although the efficacy of cyberspace communication in dating is relatively established, there is some reluctance to fully adopt it because of some deviant behaviour like in the case of character switching and the reality of criminal conduct in cyberspace. The evidence is seen in the coming up of sexual deviance, self-harm and hate groups (McDonald, Horstmann, Strom & Pope, 2009). Nonetheless, this is insufficient to stop communication aimed at establishing genuine relationships. Several studies discussed indicate a variety of protective measures to ward of deviants and deviant behaviour. A significant benefit is where individuals reveal their true character where MDAs are used. Through use of less anonymous apps, the observed psychological impact was more sincerity and truthfulness in communication. This supports the view that dating communication supported by less anonymous apps has a positive psychological impact that involves discouraging deviant behaviour.
The study on anonymous chat rooms revealed a knack for individuals to express negativity (Turkle, 1995). The explanation therein could relate to the sense of security offered on such platforms. However, with a MDA, anonymity is hardly guaranteed by virtue of the phone and number being easily traceable by service providers. The implication is that such apps apply a positive force that reinforces good conduct.
Some limitations merit a mention. The main study relied upon here depended on reviewing a single app and anonymously investigating messages, the others referred to singular items. Future research on this topic may benefit from utilizing several apps across various demographics and using a qualitative analysis that would have components to allow user feedback and balanced ethnic representation in a qualitative manner (Woodly, 2016). There is the likelihood of gaining useful insight into how this technology affects different social groups in terms of age, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, education levels and religious beliefs among other parameters. In this regard, additional research is warranted.
Future research should focus on developing strategies for ensuring more acceptability and appropriate use of MDAs by all who want to benefit from them. Communication dating in cyberspace poses a challenge as well as great opportunity for psychological study and in particular, continued discussion on how this affects individuals using them.
In conclusion, research confirms that dating communication in cyberspace is a valid way to meet people and establish new relationships. However, it is not perfect. A preeminent disadvantage exposed is the fake personality that some individuals may portray online in order to achieve acceptability. Out of five people who have tried to get dates online, four claim that is a great way to establish new relationships. However, 45% of those who have actually gone on and dated online and in particular women are of the view that it is an unsafe way to meet people (Smith & Duggan, 2013). It is clear that cyber dating is here to stay and thus future research should focus on how best this can be incorporated without unduly disrupting other aspects of daily activity.
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