What Do You Think About Internet Dating?
Match.com has the largest number of registered users of all internet dating websites and claim that 1 in 5 relationships now start online. Online dating seems to be coming increasingly popular and it is now estimated that the global online dating industry is worth over £2Billion.
There seems to be a growing number of adverts on TV encouraging those singletons among us to get online and create a profile. There are indie couples meeting at train stations and thrift shops, business women scrolling through their matches as they strut down corridors from one important meeting to the next and, if you watch after 9pm then you might have seen a couple who want to ‘cut to the chase’ going out to meet each other in just their underwear. It seems that whatever sort of relationship you are looking for; there is a site for you.
If I was to look for love online I think my profile would say: 5’2’’ female seeks male who is willing to endure dubious television programmes and make cups of tea. Luckily, I do have a male who is tolerant of my viewing habits and not averse to brewing up and last night we were watching a new series on MTV called Catfish: The TV Show. The term ‘Catfish’ is defined by urbandictionary.com as a person who ‘pretends to be someone they are not online to create false identities, particularly to pursue deceptive online romances’.
The programme follows people who have fallen in love online but are, for whatever reason, yet to meet the person they are in a relationship with. After a bit of scene setting the couples meet and more often than not it transpires that someone has been pretending to be someone they’re not, or ‘Catfishing’.
Obviously the programme’s main objective is to be entertaining and generate income from the enormous amount of (usually dating website) adverts that interrupt viewing every 15 minutes but I was glad that it doesn’t demonise those who had lied about their identity and gave them a chance to explain their actions. In the episode I watched they even became friends afterwards.
It has been suggested that when creating online profiles people try to find a balance between presenting an authentic version of themselves while also managing the impression they are giving to others and this results in presenting their ‘ideal self’. Obviously some of the people on MTV had found the desire to create a good impression more powerful than the desire to create a true profile. Couple this with the high level of anonymity provided by the internet and it is easy to see how illusory relationships can occur.
Clearly there are risks when it comes to internet dating but it can still be a great way to meet people and we shouldn’t get carried away with thinking that everyone online is out to deceive. However, there is a lot to be said for being sensible and careful – use Google to your advantage and be wary of people who only use the same few pictures or are reluctant to meet after a few weeks of correspondence. Also be wary of people who are unwilling to make tea.
For an insight into alternative dating check out ‘The Undateables’, which is currently showing on Tuesdays at 9pm on E4.
Other interesting publications:
Ellison, Heino, Gibbs (2006) Managing Impressions Online: Self-Presentation Processes in the Online Dating Environment. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication
Whitty & Joinson (2009) Truth, lies and trust on the Internet.
By Rebecca White, North West Development Officer