The Psychology of Internet Dating
Megan Pace, April Reid, Jonathan Santarelli

Can you be the one?

Internet dating is truly a 21st century phenomena.  Many people today spend a great deal of their time on the internet in hope to make a special connection with someone. From meeting in chat rooms to posting a self profile on a dating website, this is a fad that is becoming more and more popular every year and will continue to grow as the internet grows.  The purpose of our tutorial will be to survey online dating and inform the viewer of the psychological dynamics that it presents. 

Internet dating is becoming more popular as it allows people to present themselves to the world in hopes of finding a potential mate.  The process of going through online dating allows a person to explore their self, so that when they present themselves it is their true self that people see.  The concept of being anonymous allows people to explore who they are without fear of being judged and letting them do things they would not normally do in face-to-face situations.  Once people have figured out their true identity, they work on presenting themselves to the world as truthfully as possible.  However, there are some down sides to internet dating sites.  When thinking of dating sites, we often associate some level of deception along with it.  And for the most part that is true.  People intentionally deceive others in order to sound more appealing and gain more views and potential dates.  But not everyone is misrepresenting themselves on purpose.

Internet relationships form for a multitude of reasons.  The anonymity of the internet allows people to connect across all demographics to people who fulfill their emotional needs.  Often these relationships take the form of extra-marital affairs but much of the time they occur between single people who share common interests.  Given the large pool of people on the internet, there are good odds that someone with unique interests will meet a like-minded person.   People often enjoy a high level of self-disclosure particularly in areas of sexual preference and interest.  Underwood and Findlay (2004) found that people are able to disclose more of themselves in their internet relationships than in their “real world” ones.   Perhaps the most appealing feature of internet dating is that people can express their “true selves” more openly and find a person that is accepting of them.  According to McKenna, Green and Gleason (2002), the “true self” is the honest part of a person that is not freely and openly expressed in real world communication.  Relationships that form as a result of “true self” virtues often become far more pleasurable than typical real world ones.  In fact, it isn’t unheard of for people to travel across the country to meet with a person that they connected with while online.

The appeal and proliferation of internet relationships is also having an effect on existing face-to-face relationships.  By their nature, internet relationships are relatively easy to conceal from a spouse or significant other.  Virtually any type of relationship could be found online as well, whether that person is looking for a deep emotional connection or a discrete intimate affair, there are people online who will participate in anything.  Research has shown that internet affairs affect existing relationships as much as traditional affairs do.   Like they do with regular affairs, people who meet on the internet neglect their responsibilities and relationships and they also ignore problems in their existing relationships, while focusing their energy on their online affair (Cooper, McLaughlin, and Campbell 2000).

Experimenting with sexuality on the internet is also becoming more and more popular. The internet provides users with a place where they can explore their sexuality in ways they might have previously only imagined and remain anonymous while doing so. It also provides users with a vast market place for finding partners with similar sexual fantasies.  As well as allowing people to be able to play the role of whomever or whatever they chose to be and change their virtual self whenever they please.  You will see in our tutorial that some researchers believe that exploring one’s sexuality on the internet can actually be a good thing for certain individuals, but can also lead to negative outcomes. You will additionally notice that although internet sex definitely has sensory limitations, studies show that the level of intimacy present in social sexual situations can be developed much faster on the internet.

You will additionally notice that although internet sex definitely has sensory limitations, studies show that the level of intimacy present in social sexual situations can be developed much faster on the internet thanks to the absence of social cues and the possibility that a goal of a sexual encounter was made previously clear. The issue of trust is additionally easier to get past online because of being able to remain as anonymous as one chooses to be. Experimenting with sexuality online is also popular because people have no fear of being “unsafe.” Users are able to experiment sexually by whatever means they please and do so without physically engaging in sexual behavior.

Years ago the thought of developing a personal relationship with someone over the computer was unheard of; today that is not the case. Online dating is a very popular phenomenon that many people across the world are taking part in.  The internet gives people a place to meet others without some of the awkwardness and uncertainty that is present in social situations and that is very appealing to a lot of people. Online dating is here to stay and will only continue to grow.