This week i’m tackling the popular practice of online dating from a rather sociological perspective and analysed self-presentation processes in the online dating environment. In particular i read an article written by Nicole Ellison, Rebecca Heino and Jennifer Gibbs. This reading explores self-presentation strategies and processes involved among online dating participants. Online dating provides a unique platform which is in the modern day a mainstream practice for individuals to affordably, discretely and free from social stigma, attempt to find love and/or a sexual partner.
Online dating as a whole represents changing social norms and dynamics of social interaction and relationship formation. Technology-mediated relationships are dictated by our online impression formation, as well as our self-presentation and online behaviour. Ellison, Heino and Gibbs explain however online dating provides an inherent assumption that the mode of the relationship formed online will change into a face-to-face relationship rather than be strictly online. Thus common social practice generally ensues as well as diminishing participants’ sense of anonymity.
Online dating leads individuals to balance the act of presenting the most desirable impression or ‘ideal image’ of oneself, yet provide an accurate and authentic profile of their identity and person. Computer-mediated communication allows individuals to manage their own behaviour and online interactions more strategically with the ability not only to censor one’s verbal and linguistic cues but also alter the portrayed image of their own gender or sexuality. Research suggests when individuals expect to meet a potential dating partner for the first time; they will alter their self-presentational behaviour in accordance with the values desired by the prospective date (Rowatt, Cunnhingham, Druen, 1998). This however can be detrimental to the intimacy and development of the relationship which usually occurs through the disclosure of more personal information, thoughts or feelings to a partner.
Above all, online dating provides an opportunity to bend social standards and common courtesies when being selective of a potential partner.There is substantial statistics and evidence that there are many examples of individuals specifically replying to only people of a certain appearance or race. Dating apps such as Grindr are notorious for individuals to request and desire particular identities such as ‘masculine’ or ‘no Asian’ males. Under any face-to-face social circumstances these practices would be deemed incredibly racist and frowned upon and yet on gay dating apps such as Grindr and its straight/lesbian equivalent Blendr it is common practice and widely accepted. Online dating represents the breakdown of social interaction right down our sexual desires, and creates a platform at which we can blatantly choose exactly who we find sexually attractive. And so i ask, is it wrong to do this? Are our primal sexual desires naturally prejudiced? Is online dating an acceptable platform to ignore people of a particular race, age or appearance?