Online Romance and Communication: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

You just got out of a serious relationship. Maybe you want an easy way to meet new people around you. You possibly have friends who suggested it. Or perhaps you are simply curious about the world of online dating. So you decide it would be harmless to sign up for an online dating website. As you mindlessly scroll through the potential romances, a photo of a person you find overwhelmingly attractive catches your eye. The question is: what do you do now? We have all seen the advertisements for websites such as eHarmony, Christian Mingle, or match.com or mobile applications such as Tinder, Skout, or Zoosk. Thousands of people all over the world utilize this social media every day in hopes of finding a hook up, a casual dating relationship, friends (with or without benefits), or even the romantic partner of their dreams.

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It is still yet to be determined if online dating is a new and improved form of dating. Of the 16 million Americans who have used online dating services, some have had success in finding that special someone while others have had bad or even traumatic experiences (Frost, Chance, Norton, & Ariely, 2008). People remain skeptical because it is a fairly new phenomenon. However, understanding the pros and cons, as well as the proper communication to be used when online dating will ensure one is able to tackle online dating with full confidence.

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It is only safe for people to be fully aware of the risks involved in online dating. Traditionally, people meet potential partners via mutual friends, school, or work. This allows for a gradual period of getting to know the person face to face and to witness who they are first hand. Online dating eliminates that opportunity. One is not able to fully learn about someone simply from the information on their profile and their personal electronic communication style. These “two-dimensional displays” of the person are not nearly enough for one to decide if that person would be romantically compatible (Finkel, Eastwick, Karney, Reis, & Sprecher, 2012). Because of this, people often have misled expectations of a person. What they have been made to understand of a person is often very inaccurate. One has complete control of the impression they give others through dating media. They are even able to manipulate these impressions to make themselves seem more attractive, more outgoing, more educated, and so on than they actually are. Online, there simply is not enough information or interaction with the person to be able to have a vivid impression of who the person truly is in regards to their personality, social style, and communication style.

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As a result of the implications of false impressions with online dating, meeting people from dating media for the first time can be potentially dangerous. In one such instance, a young mother, fresh out of an abusive relationship, met a man through an online dating service who turned out to also be a physically abusive partner, beating her on multiple occasions (Yvonne, 2006). Abusive and sexual predators like this in addition to cyberstalking are serious potential risks of online dating. However, these issues can easily be avoided with the right prior knowledge and skills to watch out for predators online.

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Despite these negative aspects of online dating, if one is able to carefully analyze the potential partners on dating media, both false impressions and potential risks can safely be avoided. In order to avoid false impressions, it is helpful to see multiple photos of a person, rather than just one profile picture. If someone only has one individual photo of themselves posted, it may be a fake photo. Multiple photos gives you evidence that the person is who they say they are if the photos are of the same person. One safety tip to avoid the potential dangers of online dating is choosing to give out personal contact information such as e-mail, telephone number, or resident location sparingly and gradually. Often times, potential partners request such information immediately after the initial contact made on the dating media. Giving out personal information right away, before long-term contact with a person on the dating media is dangerous.

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Today, there are still hundreds of people who support the use of online dating due to their personal successes on such websites or mobile applications. If one is careful, online dating has so much to offer. One benefit of online dating is the fact that it is a tool that allows you to come into contact with people near you that you never would have met or known of otherwise. Given that people generally first meet their partners from mutual friends, school, or work, online dating goes past those areas of life and introduces you to others in a convenient way.

Another convenience of online dating is its ability to show you basic information about a person before you even meet them. This, in a way, gives you a sneak peak on the other person. While the information and communication that comes from dating websites is not enough to determine if a relationship would work or not, there is enough information for one to decide if a person is their type or meets their standards for a potential romantic partner. This helps prevent people from wasting time meeting someone that they would not consider dating.

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Many online dating services have features that will show you others who share common interests, hobbies, and experiences as you. This saves you time from having to discover common interests yourself and also works as a conversation topic generator for the first contact between two people. The technology of the dating services randomly matches you with others, but does so by making sure you are matched with others with some similar interests. Being matched with those of common interest makes it more likely that you will be introduced to those you would potentially get along with.

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Online dating is a new, advanced social community. Like all other new, unfamiliar things, people are going to be skeptical and emphasize the negatives. This is reasonable but people cannot ignore the benefits of online dating. It works better for some than it does for others. For those who understand the precautions, safety steps, potential dangers, and proper communication required for online dating, it can lead to great experiences and introduce you to people who can have a great impact on your romantic life. After all, it has been said that with online dating, “in the absence of the body, emotions are supposed to flow freely between authentic aspects of the core self” (Frazzetto, 2010, p. 26)

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