The alterations in people’s lifestyles are a reflection of the state of the society as a whole, which includes issues with politics, education, employment, and the general state of the economy. This essay addresses such potential causes while taking into account how advancements in technology may affect people’s quality of life by expanding options for finding love online. The impact of online dating sites on the love relationships of the present day is described with the aid of accurate statistical data from the perspective of the changing environment of education, financial development, and technological improvement. Moreover, the social theories such as the strong and weak ties theory, the social information processing theory, self-presentation theory, social penetration theory and the social exchange theory try to illustrate the ways with which people can get more assured romantic relationship with the help of online dating sites. Hence, the paper seeks to find possible reasons to explain why the usage of online dating websites and related services in Canada has grown in recent years.
There are various reasons that can explain what kind of people are more likely to start a relationship with the help of online dating sites, but this paper focuses on five namely age, gender, education attainment, income, and social background.
Online Dating Versus Traditional Dating
Online dating has become the new trend today allowing millions of people of all age groups conveniently find their desired partners on the virtual platform (Jin and Martin 320-321).The chief differences between the online dating and the traditional dating can be analyzed with the help of identifying the differences between social exchange theory and social information processing theory. The social exchange theory highlights the interaction between individuals on the basis of social exchange which also depends upon the sociological and psychological perspectives (McGloin and Denes). As per this theory, the interaction among two individuals tends to be influenced by external factors. As a result, the relationship cannot be started abruptly.
Social exchange theory indicates that lower racial groups tend to trade their wealth or education for a racially higher status (Lee 1). In other words, they tend to find lovers from ethnicities of a higher status such as whites so that they can use their education level or wealth to attract suitors. However, because they are a higher status ethnic group, whites only benefit financially when they date low status groups, nonwhites (Lee 1). The traditional dating through friends and family seems to follow this theory where the meeting has been arranged by others and the family; education and professional background of both individuals are analyzed before the meeting. Here, the economic, sociological and psychological plays major roles (Bridges). On the other hand, social information processing theory highlights that interacting session between individuals in the computer based online environment in a non-verbal technique. The online dating seems to follow this theory where the individuals do not much care about evaluating backgrounds of each other (Brooks 4).
Contrary to online dating, traditional dating requires more time to develop into a relationship and limits people’s choices of search for a desired partner. Traditional dating may mainly involve emotional and psychological aspects, objectives and commitments of people involved in a relationship whereas online dating primarily aims to create a conducive platform for people interested in a relationship that may or may not end up into a long term rewarding committed association. Furthermore, the impact or impressions generated by traditional dating may last for a much longer time than online dating. Online dating is often perceived as an ideal alternative for seeking enjoyment and intimacy by people of all age groups today. It is important to note that online dating websites are flooded with singles that need someone to share, communicate, interact, and experience a mutually rewarding relationship whether physical, emotional or psychological (Brooks 4).
This can further be explained by the media richness theory and hyper-personal computer mediated communication theory. The media richness theory holds that communication occurs more quickly, with greater clarity, and results in better performance of certain tasks when the electronic media used provide immediate feedback, personalized messages, and can better estimate social cues (Dennis and Kinney 12). In other words, the more technology mimics daily life, the more successful people will be in their interactions with one another because they are able to accurately interpret the messages.
On the other hand, the hyper-personal computer mediated communication theory describes how computer mediated communications contribute to greater levels of intimacy in relationships because of the nature of disclosure in a text-based medium (Walther 12). Users choose the characteristics they wish to present, both in content if messages and the process in which the messages are constructed (Walther 12). Both of these theories allude to applications in message construction and importance of clarity, and are highly valuable for considering the initiation of contact relationships. Moreover, social penetration theory, explains how social disclosure manifests in computer-mediated communication across different cultures (Altman and Taylor 12). As per this theory, people share information characterized by both depth and breadth in an effort to grow more closely to people. They also expect that a similar process will be followed by those to whom they are sharing information.
There are different factors that come into play here and they include age, race, gender, economic status, and education attainment.
Based on Factor of Age
Some experiments confirm the effectiveness of dating on the Internet. For example, in the study by the British psychologist Jeffrey Gavin, volunteers, who helped the scientist to evaluate the effectiveness of online dating, were young people, ready for serious relationship, aged from 19 to 26 years old (PewResearchCenter). Their task was to register on a dating site to find a partner. At the end of the experiment, 72% of participants continued to communicate closely in real life, and 12% of them later got married (PewResaerchCenter). Moreover, teenagers mainly show greatest interest in searching their love through Internet, as they possess the maximum excitement about love and relationship (Clayton). However, the Gavin found out that “the share of 18- to 24-year-olds who use online dating has roughly tripled from 10% in 2013 to 27% today, and 12% of 55- to 64-year-olds report ever using an online dating site versus only 6% in 2013” (Pew Research Centre). Regarding demographics, “online dating is most common among Americans in their mid-20s through mid-40s”. Some 22% of 25- to 34-year-olds and 17% of 35- to 44-year-olds are online daters (Pew Research Centre). People who met online via dating social networks were “more likely to be older (30 to 39 is the largest age group represented); employed and had a higher income” (UChicago News). Young people show grater interest in trying the online dating sites, which offer the complete arrangement for a romantic date with a similar person. The excitement to meet a completely new person generally drags the teens along with people under twenty five years. On the contrary, the adult and experienced people, who are over 35 years old, seek the help of these online dating sites. The famous online dating sites of Canada such as Spark.com, eHarmony.com, PerfectMatch.com enable the experienced person to find love with a logical questionnaire (Farrugia). If the love interest, compatibility, choices and preference of two individuals match with each other and both of them agree to proceed, these sites provide the option of further communication. For that matter, online dating encompasses people aged between sixteen to sixty five years.
Based on factor of race:
Social history is a broad entity that includes the disposition of one’s race, country of origin, ethnicity, and many other related factors. The concept of background is especially important following the finding that by 2050, over half of the US population will have been classed as ethnic minorities (Hwang 32). One key finding related to dating based on race is that dating tends to be strongly inclined towards race among the racial-ethnic groups. This can be explained via the lenses of the social-exchange theory as highlighted by Lee. Minority groups that intermarry with whites, which are regarded to have the highest ethnic status, tend to exchange their highest economic social status for the higher stats of a white spouse. Nonwhites gain a higher status by dating whites (Lee). Conversely, whites only gain financially but have minimal gains in terms of status when they date members of a lower race (Lee). To support this finding, Fisman and Iyengar note that the racial composition and one’s overall background plays a huge role in influencing the same-race preferences for online dating (117). There is a high willingness in dating interracially and it is primarily defined by one’s social status (Fisman and Iyengar 117).
Based on Factor of Gender
Gender is also a prime factor in the understanding of the dating patterns that are exhibited on online fora as potential suitors seek their mates. The significant findings that have since been cited pertaining the consideration of race are that women tend to display stronger racial preferences than men, and older and physically attractive subjects exhibit weak same-race likings (Fisman and Iyengar 117). Hwang’s study on the role of ethnic and gender factors in online dating revealed that men have a high willingness to date interracially. Meanwhile, women of higher social status tend to be less prepared to date members of other races compared to those of the lower social groups. To describe the reasoning for the patterns in racial and social entities, Lee cites social exchange theory which affirms that those of lower racial-ethnic classes are more willing to trade their material wealth to attain a higher status through their mates. In other words, minority groups that intermarry with whites, which are regarded to have the highest ethnic status, tend to exchange their highest economic social status for the higher stats of a white spouse (Lee). By dating whites, nonwhites gain a higher status. On the contrary, whites gain little in terms of status when they date members of a lower race but may benefit financially (Lee). The gender patterns that manifest on social media thus emphasize the matching and sorting notion that is common in both offline and online dating (Hitsch, Hortaçsu, and Ariely 130). This means that potential daters sieve through the options that are available to them and select those that fit their preferences.
Based on factor of economics status
Furthermore, one’s economic status also plays a huge role in the success or failure in online dating as income is a huge consideration for some users. Women have more preference to date men who are financially stable or having a higher socioeconomic status than those who are at the same level as they are in the income levels. It would mean, therefore, that the reason women prefer older men is that the older a man is, the more likely they are of a higher socioeconomic status. The trend is a consequence of the evolutionary theory that suggests that the women desire men who can support them and their children (Blair, Cooper, and Fahnestock). As a result, men would be prompted to lie about their income potential because of the role of the interpersonal deception theory that promises them more acceptance (Jin and Martin 320).
Based on factor of education attainment
Lastly, the element of education also tends to play a significant role in the type of mates that one selects while seeking for suitors through online chatting media. The most desired suitors for women are men who have higher levels of education and a high occupational class as they are thought to be able to provide for the family. As a result, they would be more willing to lie about each of this segments to appear more educated than they are (Blair, Cooper, and Fahnestock). However, according to Ong, some people prefer similar educational statuses in choosing life mates because it strengthens the bond and would help in the success of the dating process (1822). The consideration of education is especially noted because it comes with other attractive benefits such as income whereby hookup seekers aspire to find mates of higher socio-economic statuses even if it meant another race. Overall, there is little evidence to warrant that education and dating is causal (Ong 1822).
Advantage and Disadvantage of Online dating
In Canada, there has been a growing demand of using the online dating sites among the young people who do not want to indulge in the partner selection process with the help of parents and other friends. Online dating has its own unique merits and demerits. Some of the important advantages of online dating include ease of accessibility to thousands of member profiles, time convenience, comfort of interacting instantly anytime, knowledge about prospective partners, and allows members to determine whether to proceed with a member or quit based on user set criteria anytime during the interaction (Hertlein, Katherine M). Secondly, it does not create a significant negative impact as in case of traditional face to face dating, provides enough room to know each other and determine the course of relationship, and lastly, it requires mutual consent from both parties involved (Hertlein, Katherine M). Moreover, these dating sites also help to know the partner in a better and personal way without much revealing the identity before meeting them physically (Hertlein, Katherine M and Katrina Ancheta).
However, these online dating sites also have certain disadvantages for romantic relationships. Single individuals often face the obstacles to choose their suitable love partner through these online dating sites because they provide a huge number of candidates with similar career prospects and family backgrounds (Hertlein, Katherine M and Markie LC Blumer). On the other hand, the physical distance between the singles becomes the major obstacle to maintaining their communication properly. Moreover, it is important to note that the disadvantages of online dating outweigh its merits due to the fact that there are increasing incidences of identity theft, fraud, falsehood, and betrayal. According to Adams, 85% of online dating sites encounter some degree of fraudulent activities. Online dating is always vulnerable to these menaces since that directly challenge reliability and authenticity in building a successful and lasting relationship (Adams).
Social exchange theory can be applicable in this perspective of online dating. According to Tanya and Hoffman, the main concept of this theory is to provide fairness and reciprocity through required rules. With the help of this theory, online dating sites can improve their information giving procedures which can automatically increase the satisfaction level of the users. Proper information sharing procedure ensures the success of the love matches, organized by these online dating sites. However, Lenhart, Smith, and Anderson also opine that the employment of this theory does not ensure the success rate of the romantic relationships. Couples may start their romantic relationship with similar type of person from opposite sex but they also may face some issue in their relationship later that can affect their relationship.
On the other hand, from the viewpoint of Lynn, the Social Penetration theory also can be applicable in this contact where the need of personal information of the members of these online dating sites among its members. By applying this theory, the online dating sites can gain maximum authenticity in arranging the pair between members with similar liking and preferences. When a member becomes able to know more information about their future partner, they can feel more secure on the arranging process of such relationships. On the contrary, Madden, Mary et al. indicates the fact that, romantic relationship covers various dimensions such as understanding, compatibility that cannot be satisfied only with the collection of personal information. These things can be developed after communicating and spending sufficient time with the person.
According to my research topic, I am so interested in non-traditional couple and mate preferences. I am planning on studying the relationships that exist between gender, age, race, income, and education using the HCMST dataset. The HCMST surveyed how Americans met their spouses and romantic partners, and compared traditional to non-traditional couple. This collection covers data that was gather over five waves, Wave 1 2009, Wave 2 2010, Wave 3 2011, Wave 4 2013, Wave 5 2015, including 4002 cases and 534 variables.
In summary, it is critical to emphasize that the through the review of the literature on the published works describing the trends and preferences in online dating, people tend to be more selective online. It underscores the fact that that the generation of assortative mating patterns is similar to those in marriages even in the absence of the internet and technology. The primary factors considered in social media include the socio-economic status, education, gender, age, and social background though it is apparent that the existence of confounders ensures that intersections in the factors occur.
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