Dating in Cyberspace

My ignorance of a new trend in American dating recently placed me in an embarrassing situation.  “I just don’t think the statement ‘I met my husband on anything.com sounds very romantic’” was my comment in a conversation about marriage with my boss and co-worker.  Both women paused, clearly insulted, then informed me that they both online date and they plan to meet their future husbands that way.  I should not have been surprised at the popularity of online dating since it is very consistent with other aspects of American culture.

The historical particularism element of Boasian theory can be used to explain the development of this trend. In colonial America, marriage was primarily based on reproduction or for creating a stronger connection between two families. The matching process was more formal and couples were often set up by friends and family members.  While reproduction and social relations are still important in nuptials, individuals’ opinion and romantic feelings have become increasingly important in choosing a partner. Parental control over dating has decreased dramatically.  Perhaps events in American history such as the women’s suffrage movement also caused this change of our views on marriage by improving the status of women.  Such movements were essential to the development of the principle that women are not property and should have equal opportunity to choose their own partners.

Functionalism can also be used to describe this phenomenon because the character of technological and social culture in America has caused traditional forms of dating to be unpractical. Social networking sites, text messaging, and Skype are integrating communication into the high-tech era of American culture.  Decreased face-to-face contact has changed our social skills to make us generally more comfortable with online interaction.  Also, with more time and energy devoted to work there is less time to spend going on physical dates.  Many Americans say their schedules are constantly becoming busier. Therefore, it is more convenient to eliminate unsuitable matches from a computer rather than wasting time on an awkward date.  Functionalism can be described by the analogy of different parts of a culture being organs and the culture as a whole being the whole body.  The need for convenience, the nature of social skills, and the technological boom are three organs of the American culture, and another fitting organ is online dating because it works well with the other organs.  Functionalism also says that cultures evolve to fill basic human needs.  The growth of online dating sites suggests that romantic companionship, but not necessarily love, is a basic human need.  Matching services do not promise to find love, but rather match couples that will co-exist well.  Online dating can be a great way to fulfill human needs while allowing Americans to maintain the level of convenience expected in other aspects of our lifestyles.

— Morgan B.

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57 Responses to Dating in Cyberspace

  1. Luke Nelson says:

    I think you brought some really neat analysis of Functionalism and Boasian theory into this essay, especially the portion about historical particularism. I think the advances in technology and social networking mentioned in the third paragraph can also be applied to the idea of historical particularism. At this moment in time, technology allows the experience of meeting people, dating, and ultimately marriage to be carried out completely online. This unique aspect of our current social experience is totally new and different from any other time period in history, and in my opinion is a defining factor of our generation. Also, I think it would be interesting to approach this topic from a structural-functionalist, particularly how even though the social structure of marriage has not dramatically changed, the ways people engage in arrive to it is dramatically different than previous generations.

  2. Rebecca Powell says:

    What really pulled me into reading this essay was the way that it began with a personal opinion on online dating being questioned. Although I can see online dating’s appeal for other people, I personally have always agreed with the author in that I thought the whole concept of online dating could kill the romance. Going into this essay with my feelings on the topic already well-defined, it was interesting to follow the author’s train of thought. By the conclusion of this piece, I found myself looking at online dating as a list with pros and cons, and I must say that the pros were starting to outweigh the cons.
    What I found myself thinking about as I read this essay, though, is the idea of romance. I think that both the author and I feel that the biggest reason not to online date is that in doing so, a person surrenders to the idea that meeting their significant other probably won’t be romantic in and of itself. But really, when it comes down to it, many people who don’t online date still meet their significant others in “unromantic” ways: at a party, in a bar, through a blind date, at work. When I look at online dating from this perspective, it seems that it is really only practical to participate, especially since our world is changing with work schedules and technology as the author stated. I think that maybe it’s time for us, as a society, to define romance and to reassign where it fits best into our relationships.

    • Tanya Fink says:

      Rebecca,

      I really appreciated your comments– I thought them to be clear and backed up with many examples, which always strengthens an argument.
      Personally, I struggle with the statement that online dating kills romance. Yes, it might eliminate that cute “meet in the elevator” or “bump into each other in the grocery store” epic meeting moment, but is that really what makes up the romance in a relationship? The initial way you meet your significant other does not hold all of the romance in a relationship. Romance happens on the first date, or second date, or third date, or maybe even marriage. Just because people meet online does not mean the rest of their relationship will exist only on cyberspace.

      My mom always tells me that it’s not like college anymore. People in their 50s are either married, not Jewish (which is important to her as a rabbi), or just non-existant. It’s easy for us to meet people because we live in a bubble of 30 or so thousand people all college-aged, and many single.

      Online dating simply introduces… it does not define what comes after. Romance can still exist if online dating only eliminates step one in ladder of relationships.

    • Lucille says:

      Rebecca,

      I was lured in the same way. It made me consider another’s opinion in contrast to my own. And I agree with you in the sense that online romance is not the path for me, but I am unlike others in the sense that I do not rely on technology as much as the average person of our era does so my opinion is slightly skewed. Yet crooked as it may be, still concludes me to believe that online romance is not the answer for all solely because it is ‘practical’ and convenient to the times.

      Romance is neither practical nor compatible, and rather cannot be measured in how many things one has in common with another’s profile or interest in the same hobbies. Romance is, as it always has been, a feeling of completeness that another body gives your own. The feeling is different to each person in their own particular way, but regardless of if you met your lover in the ER or online it’s not the meeting to me thats important but rather the love, or lack there of, that follows.

  3. Hannah Chatelain says:

    I think it is interesting how you incorporated the feminist prospective into why women may have more freedom of dating, especially young women online today. To further expand on the feminist theory the beginning paragraph made me think why do both of these women feel the pressure to get married so much that they are turning to online dating. If women are as free as many women in the feminist prospective like to believe why are these social pressures still there? The assurance that these women had that oh no we will find husbands this way was a fairly disturbing thought to me, maybe they are too busy to find a man currently but online dating almost seems like shopping for a fairytale.

    • Holly Zink says:

      I agree; the feminist perspective was an interesting approach to take.
      When I was reading your comment about finding husbands, I immediately thought of the new website Zoosk. In their ads, they note that you can “flirt, hook up, or meet your soul mate” through their site.
      The first sites that popped up [pay-services for ‘honest’ relationships] like EHarmony offered ‘true love’ and attracted those seeking marriage – not necessarily women. Perhaps Zoosk – the playful and less committed version of online dating – represents a new frontier of “Internet feminism” because of the variety of options available.

    • Kylee Smith says:

      I agree that there are still social pressures on women regarding marriage. I have found that in general in our society men’s identity is based on their job/status, while women’s identity is linked to their husbands. While women may have more choice in who they marry, it is still common for women to take their husband’s last name, etc.
      That these women were cyber-dating for the sole purpose of marriage is very interesting. I feel that feminist anthropologists would have a field day looking at the data from these dating websites; what are men looking for in a woman? How do women present themselves on their pages? Gender is created and performed, and it would be interesting to see how gender is acted out over the internet, where body language, style, tone, and overall physicallity are not as apparent.

      • Keith Jones says:

        Kylee, this would be extremely interesting to look into. It would be fun to look at the situation of online dating from a gender anthro. perspective. Online dating could serve as a valuable window into the state of gender and sexuality in our culture today, whether it be masculinity, femininity, heterosexual relationships, homosexual relationships or anything else outside of those binaries.

    • andersca316 says:

      I see the points that you make Hannah , and I also would not turn to online dating , but after reading this essay I have some new views on this practice. First off i don’t know if a agree that if you have that feminist view of freedom like you mention , that you are automatically going against those view by online dating. I think we could take this in a positive way and say that yes , these women are busy with their daily lives , but just because they are working women doesn’t mean that what little time they have left shouldn’t be used in possibly finding their future husbands on the internet. I think it could be a very good and empowering thing for women to be able to work and take time out to find a lover. I don’t know if getting married is a social pressure for all women who online date ,but I think that most people want to love and be loved and if finding happiness over the internet works for them , then they should go right ahead and do that.

  4. Alex Bayer says:

    I really enjoyed this because I personally still have similar reactions when I hear people met online. I find the actual linguistic side very interesting and how through linguistic anthropology looking at performance the role of male and female language both written and verbal are critical for understanding. Also the Ethnographic approaches to language are used to attract a certain type of person.

  5. angie larson says:

    Both my dad and one of my sisters have used online dating, and my dad is now married to his online match and my sister is happily dating hers. It is a strange concept to get used to, developing relationships with someone via a computer, but it must work! Personally, I think that life needs to slow down a little bit and people need to make more time for face-to-face, quality time with each other. Work and busy schedules tend to take precedence over friends and relationships, which is where online social networks come in handy to keep in touch, but I don’t think it should become the dominant way to interact. I have friends who could never live without their Facebook or cell phone, they would freak out! But if one would try traveling to another country (maybe 3rd world) and leave all of that behind for a while. They’ll still be alive and well when they return! Our reliance on technology can be a good and bad thing. I just would hate to see relationships and time for relationships take a backseat to the materialistic things in our lives.

    • Rebecca Oliver says:

      I think Angie’s comment is really interesting because she brought up the point that people use online dating for convenience of keeping in touch and eliminating the time you spend with them in person. This seems contradictory to me though. Wouldn’t you want to spend as much time as possible getting to know the person you will marry or love? Also if everyone is so busy in their own “real lives” that they can’t even find the time to go on dates or meet people, does that make for a good partner or someone who is ready to be in a relationship? I agree with Angie that our society is too dependent on technology and that people should take a step back and appreciate the interactions that they have IRL (in real life). If people create the time to be out meeting people and dating instead of editing their profiles and updating their statuses, maybe they will have more luck.

    • Anna Hermann says:

      Do you think these things have occurred as a result of these busy schedules? I feel like this is a chicken and the egg discussion… are we adapting to increased activities and schedules with technology or are our busy schedules a result of all the technology, all the stuff we didn’t do before but are now making time for? It seems we are merging everything in our lives, those materialistic and those immaterial in order to function at our supposed highest level. I was involved in a lengthy long distance relationship, and even though we didn’t want our relationship based on technology, it had to be for a while because of circumstance, and we had to rely on those cell phones and computer videos to simply maintain our relationship. This led me to think that we are creating a new niche in society… one where couples are often separated because we move around all the time for jobs, for school, for experience. Regardless of the situation, be it a long distance relationship or meeting people online, it seems this technology can sometimes be a result of filling those needs we have created with new lifestyles.

      • Keith Jones says:

        This is also a culturally specific phenomenon. Core countries are the main countries using these new tech utilities. This is due to obvious reasons such as this technology not even being present in periphery countries but there are some other differences between the core and periphery that Anna kind of touched on. As core countries have progressed, citizens of these countries are becoming increasingly mobile; people are no longer staying in one place. This can potentially make it difficult to meet people and build/maintain relationships and services such as online dating are ways to help fill this void. This is in contrast to periphery countries where, for the most part, people end up living their whole life where they were born, which in theory would make it easy to create and keep your relationships therefore making online dating and such unnecessary.

  6. Alyssa Paylor says:

    I think it would be fascinating to apply a symbolic anthropologist’s perspective to this. When I think of online dating or see advertisements for websites promoting matches, I tend to associate those websites with some type of desperation. Romance aside, I ask myself why someone would need to pay a website for the services of matching them with another individual. Online dating puts a very specific symbol and set of associations in my mind. I like this essay because it reminds me that not everyone is good at meeting people, and that to see online dating as a symbol of desperation or unromantic is not in line with the other aspects of technological life today. If someone told me that after exchanging Facebook messages with a briefly met acquaintance they were planning on dating them, I wouldn’t bat an eye. If I actively choose to pick up the latest cosmo with the newest tips on how to snag a guy, why be so skeptical of online dating? After all, they both serve the same function; to aid in the meeting of a compatible significant other. Why then does online dating carry with it such a strong association to a lack of romance or desperation?

    • Morgan Spyker says:

      I really enjoyed that you brought Facebook into this conversation. I know many people out there that meet a person once, have a 5 minute conversation, and they add each other as friends on Facebook. This also, is a form of online dating that many don’t realize is a way of connecting two people. Let’s put romance aside. How “romantic” is it really to meet someone drunk at a bar? or a frat party? How often are any of us running through a field of daises and see our one true love on the other side? Meeting someone is almost never romantic. The relationship can be romantic if you want it to be, and with the advent of online dating people are starting to be more real with what they want in a partner. Someone can be picky, instead of choosing to ignore the fact that so-in-so chewed with their mouth open.
      A symbolic anthropologist would have a field day with this, because of it’s changing perspective over just the last 10 years. Also, what website is used is important as a symbol of how important an individual is placing on finding their true love. For example, one may look at a couple who started dating off of myspace and compare them to a couple from match.com. I feel that as a culture online dating is starting to become more acceptable. An old roommate of mine signed up and met some interesting people online, and it is more of a hands on approach to meeting new individuals than buying the latest Cosmo (as Alyssa stated) for an article on how to get the guy by wearing short skirts and throwing your hair around.
      My current boyfriend and I met on Halloween four years ago. To think about it, meeting someone for coffee in a little shop after matching up online seems more romantic than say meeting someone on Halloween while dressed as a slutty nurse and he as a farmer. Boy, if we have kids will they hear an interesting story!

  7. Anna Hermann says:

    When I began to read this essay and the author started talking about an awkward situation resulting from a talk about the nature of online dating, I assumed he or she would had offended someone who had used online dating to meet a significant other. What shocked me is that they were offended not from a past experience but from what appears a future one. They expected their love life to come about purely from online dating…confidence that they *would* meet their husbands-to-be online and not in any other fashion. I think Angie made a really interesting comment about our reliance on technology, and when I look at this particular situation it screams “reliance” to me. I’m all for using the internet in whatever form to enrich someone’s life, be it another means to find that special someone or to communicate when in a long distance relationship, but when we expect it or believe technology and relationships must be connected then I think we have crossed that threshold of reliance. We don’t need technology but we can use it to advantage to enhance our chances of meeting people. But when we live virtually, so much so that we forget to maybe search for our mate in the real world as well, technology has created a symbiotic relationship with our lifestyle, and it’s scary that we might not know how to possibly live without it.

  8. Kelsey Robb says:

    I really enjoyed this essay, but I was wondering about the historical particularism aspect of the Boasian theory that you mentioned. I agree that people today have more say in who they date and that parental control has diminished, but don’t online sites revolved around match-making decrease the personal choice a little bit? Yes they are still able to decide whether or not they actually want to meet the person picked by the online dating service, but they didn’t physically find them. I think this relates back to the topic of arranged marriages, where the family chooses who the daughter/son is allowed to marry. Although online dating is nowhere near this dramatic and life changing, the premise is somewhat the same.

    • Noah Starburner says:

      I enjoy how Kelsey related online dating to arranged marriages. It’s true that online dating does limit a person’s ability to physically seek out and find a match, but in another way it allows someone to reach an even broader range of people. Through the expansion of online dating, and the internet in general, people have been able to come into contact with a greater genre of individuals that wouldn’t have been possible before. Through the “filtering” system of online dating, a person can be paired with someone they share similar interests with, or they could go in the opposite direction and be paired with someone who has interests they have never had. Either way, online dating has allowed people to reach out to broader spectrum of individuals.

    • Ariane Robertson says:

      I completely agree with you Kelsey. I think that online dating fits very well into a Boasian Historical Particularism theory, but rather than changing the nature of being “set up” on dates and having other people try to help find someone to marry, I believe that online dating site only perpetuate this. Internet dating does seem to be reminiscent of arranged marriages. I feel like having a third party find a partner is more restricting to people rather than, as the author suggests, offering more freedom to people seeking companionship.

  9. Rebecca Powell says:

    I think that’s an interesting point you bring up, Kelsey, about historical particularism and modern-day matchmaking. I do think, though, that on the horizontal comparison that is offered by historical particularism, it could be argued that there is an arranged and prescribed formula of who to date (or be with) in nearly every culture.
    It’s true that online dating could be considered the modern development stemming from arranged marriages, but what people are mainly concerned with is compatibility. In cultures where arranged marriages are popular, the matchmakers will try to find a compatible match based on things like economics and family standings. And yes, in online dating people also try to find matches based on compatibility (although now compatibility is based on individual lifestyle choices). But the fact that people CHOOSE to use dating sites cannot be trivialized.

    • Courtney Antone says:

      Great essay! I like what you say, Rebecca, about compatibility being a main concern. It’s true and it’s interesting that online dating is a very efficient method but there are still some people who struggle to accept this as a legitimate method of finding love because of the change in values that it represents. Instead of valuing physical, chance meeting, people are valuing methodically, quantitatively figured connections. Cultural change in the making!

  10. Brenda Camenga says:

    Overall I found this essay to be extremely interesting, especially because I wrote my own “Love Essay” on divorce, and a lot of what I wrote about had to do with arranged marriages. I brought up the fact that marriage in the US used to be a very conventional engagement, especially because in the earlier part of the 19th century men were at war and women had very little rights. Then I compared it to Indian culture, where arranged marriages have remained unchanged over the years, but the ideology of marriage in the US has proved static. Your essay brought up an excellent point though, something that I failed to recognize while writing my own paper; even though America doesn’t formally present marriage as an arranged system, there are certainly modern forms of connectivity that follow a romantic “arrangement”- in this case, online dating. Excellent job!

  11. stephanie ahlgrain says:

    I don’t think that marriage ideals are necessarily static in the US or India, even though it may feel this way if we look only at the big picture. If marriage and dating are studied at a level deeper than just arranged marriage vs individual choice, I think it is easy to say that ideologies have not changed much. Though I can only speak of my knowledge of relationships in the US I feel as though the social norms in dating are constantly changing. There are different practices in how people act on dates than even a few years ago. I think it is interesting to study the progression of physical relationships between dating couples. I can remember hearing in movies and from older friends that they will never kiss on a first date. I feel like this is no longer rule that people, mainly women i would say, follow. I think levels of physical intimacy are happening at different stages in relationships now. Also, I think there have been changes is the things we do for ritual, such as adopting the husband’s last name or wearing a white wedding dress. Many couples have reassessed what these traditions mean to them, and have decided to keep them or to make new symbols in their own wedding.

  12. Everett Warner says:

    This essay reminded me of something I heard awhile ago, which I’m not necessarily sure is true, but I was told that 15-20 percent of all married people met online. At first I couldn’t believe it, I didn’t think anybody actually used those dating services. But I noticed the abundance of commercials for online dating and i realized how normalized online dating had become. Not only that, but I started thinking about facebook. Tons of people meet via facebook, through their friends or because you go to the same school as the other person. It’s incredible how common online dating has become.
    I also really liked how Kelsey brought up the fact that on online dating services, computers find these matches for you and how your mate can be selected for you. I feel like this really symbolizes the common age which emphasizes technology and precision. We are now using our present day technology to find the perfect or most compatible match via the internet. If you think about how accurate and precise our technology has become, it’s almost stupid not to let the computer find your PERFECT match.

  13. Hannah Chatelain says:

    Another interesting way to look at this that no one has mentioned directly is who the ads like E-harmony and other matchmaking commercials are created for. I never took much notice on the ads before, but upon looking at them further there are only male and female relationships. Is this a form of social norms being enforced into society? Many of these websites are created specifically for heterosexuals and the commercials are kind of directed at women, in particular women who are desperate and want to get married. A lot of the advertisements have women in wedding dresses or with rings on their fingers reminding women over the age of thirty their biological clock is ticking and they had better find some man to marry quickly so they too can be as happy as this couple you see before you. This may represent a form of informal social rules placed on women of a certain age. Although it is more accepted today that women go work and do their own thing they still need to find a man (emphasis on man) to settle down with and have babies with.

  14. Brian Ruddle says:

    Morgan, I really like your arguments using the Boasian theory. You bring up a point about how romantic feelings have become increasingly important in choosing a partner in our Tech-savvy communities. I might have to disagree slightly with you on that point. With the rise in personal living costs in out industrial world, it is almost impossible to live comfortably with only one source of income. I think that people need to find a partner out of economic necessity, not only out of personal opinion and romantic feelings. Great end of the Boasian paragraph in tying in feminist anthropology, you might also want to talk about the “sexual revolution” that took place here in the U.S during the late 60’s associated with “free-love”.

  15. Halle Bennett says:

    Online dating is not something I am necessarily accustomed to as no one in my family has used it; however it has become increasingly popular in the United States. There are three parts to a romantic relationship- intimacy, commitment, and passion. Passion is simply a sexual attraction. In online dating this is present in the pictures presented on the profiles. You will automatically respond and try to form relationships with the most attractive people the program chooses for you. Commitment is a little uncertain in online dating because you normally don’t follow around the people to see if they are seeing others- and they most likely are meeting with some of the other people the program chooses. Intimacy is the most interesting part of online dating because people in the first seven months of online relationships report a lower level of intimacy than those who don’t have an online relationship. However, after that time period the relationships are equal in a level of intimacy. This shows that romantic relationships are have a definite possibility of success.

  16. sleepy head says:

    The phenomenon of online dating, and different peoples’ opinions about it fall into a general pattern of how we view new technology. For example, when cell phones first became common, many people were hesitant about certain implications of being able to be contacted at any time, anywhere. This seemed intrusive to many people because they were not used to this new demand. The same applies to new forms of dating such as speed dating and online dating. Many people again are unaccustomed to dating people that they have never met or heard of before. It does seem odd to think that a website has “matched” you with someone it expects you would be interested in without ever having seen that person. This could just be because, like in the case of cell phones, we are still in a intermediary phase of the acceptance of online dating that results from unfamiliarity of technology being applied in this manner.

  17. Robin Fiore says:

    I thought the paragraph on Functionalism was very interesting. In particular, I thought it interesting that online dating was described as an organ that works well with the other organs of American culture and helps fulfill basic human needs. However, after thinking about this awhile I thought that there might be a flip side to this. Is online dating meeting a need? Or is it eliminating one? The prevalence of stories and fairy tales involving romance would seem to suggest that romance is a basic human need. Are online dating sites taking the romance away? Is it actually fulfilling the need it claims it is, or is it just faking it? I’m wondering whether this organ actually functions with the others at all, or if it is actually harming the rest. Our society values interpersonal relations and social skills very highly, every job requires them. But it seems that our increasing reliance on technology to avoid face to face communication may be leading to a reduction of these skills in people, which seems like a contradiction. I think there is a balance of technology and personal interaction that we haven’t yet reached.

  18. Hayden Griggs says:

    I love that online dating was brought up in regard to cultural conceptions of Love. I think the most striking aspect of online dating is how normalized it is becoming. there are even scholars who predict that at some point in our near future meeting your mate will occur almost exclusively online. It seems that not too long ago, dating online was stigmatized as kind of sad, depressing, or even lazy, and yet it’s becoming… trendy. There are ads everywhere for online dating sites like match.com, etc. and I can’t help but wonder what younger generations, maybe those in grade school today, will learn from this exposure. Is online dating becoming the ONLY form of dating? There is something very odd (Superficial, maybe?) about the idea of selecting a mate based on an online profile… yet for all I know, this method could work in humanities favor, resulting in more successful marriages and happier relationships, purely because you know (supposedly) exactly what you’re getting into. And better yet? You’ve got it in writing. What a strange new world.

  19. Lyndsi Wisdom says:

    This is an interesting point of view. My father had multiple girlfriends he met through online dating, but none of them worked out. Robin, you have an interesting question…”Is online dating meeting a need? Or is it eliminating one?” On the one hand, online dating expands the possibilities of finding someone you will fall in love with. Instead of dating within your own community, you have a huge range of new communities-almost any place in the entire world. Some people say “good guys/girls finish last” but online dating makes it so it might be possible not to “finish last.” So, in a way, online dating is meeting a need. If someone wants to feel love and compassion so strongly and they haven’t had any luck in their own community, cyberspace adds a much larger pool. However, on the other hand, what do you get out of online dating? The problem for my dad was that all the women he met turned out to be complete idiots and not at all who they claimed they were. If there is a lack of face to face interaction the person you think you love is only the person they presume to be. It is almost like a catch 22. You can either come out of it with the absolute right person, or you can look and never find anything.

  20. Robin Fiore says:

    Lyndsi brings up an excellent point about people lying on their dating profiles. Though I have never used online dating, I would imagine that it would be almost iressistably tempting to portray yourself in the best possible light, maybe better than is actually realistic. This reminds me of something I was critiqueing for my wikipage project. One of the critiques of Culture and Personality theory was that it ignored the possibility that people were portraying their personality in a good light, and one that might be unrealistic. Is the temptation to lie to great? Maybe instead of online dating becoming the major source of relationships the fad will die out because of this. If everyone starts being dishonest, no one will want to do it anymore.
    I also thought your point about having a larger pool of people to choose from was interesting. But is that actually helpful? People tend to seek a mate that is similar to them and therefore compatible. The most similar people to you probably live near you, so is it really helping to have more choices?

    • Erica Edelberg says:

      Robin, I think it is interesting that you say “the most similar people to you probably live near you”. While that may be true to some extent, when you think about the fact that there are 6.7 billion people in this world, it is hard for me to believe that the only people you will likely truly connect with are those within your community. I think that online dating allows you to explore areas and people that you would never have otherwise met. Many people get married to someone because they’ve just been with them so long, or they are afraid they will never find anyone better. These types of marriages based solely on convenience are very likely to fail. Dating websites, however, are a pool of people looking for love and I believe that this resource may help eliminate people’s fears of being alone, and therefore eliminate the willingness to settle. If there are opportunities to meet people beyond your community, why settle with finding something mediocre just because it is nearby?

      • Mackenzie Clarkson says:

        But at the same time this ever expanding “pool of potential mates” may be entirely overwhelming. If your pool is so big isn’t it possible that you might constantly be passing fish up just in case the next one is better…too much metaphor? I think in some ways internet dating deals with increased globalization by giving people a way to deal with that daunting group of anybody. It’s also interesting, Erica, that you said dating sites may “help eliminate people’s fears of being alone” which automatically makes me think about why people are so scared of this. And one of the reasons I came up with (surprise, surprise) is that technology, where people are only ever a send button away, makes being alone scary. That’s not to say that fear of being alone is a new phenomenon, but I think technology exacerbates it and simultaneously buries the reality of it ever deeper. I have nothing against online dating, I think it is a great resource for some people, but I think it only increases our disconnectedness.

  21. Katie Carbaugh says:

    I very much agree with this functionalist-perspective analogy when applied to online dating. Communication technology in general, acts as an organ (one could argue that it is so essential in a modern society that it acts as a brain or a the nervous system) . But it is very easy to take apart this organ and the reason for it’s existence if we look deeper at the narrowed down topic of dating as a direct, or indirect, consequences of this technology. In order to understand how this organ system developed, we can study how love or partnership has been obtained due to all kinds of modern advances. One could can say that even the invention of the telephone, though significantly prior to online dating, allowed individuals to meet and have conversation where they otherwise wouldn’t. Taking it back even further, one could argue that transportation (whether it be the invention of the mail service, ships to travel around the world, or commercial airplanes to transport people across the country within hours) is similarly a technological advance that allowed people to meet, date, and find partners. If finding love/companionship in a culture is a difficult task (access to mates is poor), then the culture must adapt in order to continue to exist. Therefore, this desire to contact potential mates could play a very large roll in the motivation for developing such advances. Overall, many technologies (the purest example being online dating specifically) were developed (at least in part) in order to serve societies ‘ desires to find potential partners, which perfectly exemplifies the functionalist theory when applied to forms of development.

  22. Mia Lewis says:

    I really liked this essay topic. The way you described how each part would fit into anthropological theories was very intriguing. The introductory story about the two women you were talking with really drew me in because I’ve had a few conversations just like that one which made this essay easily relatable.

  23. Parker Robbins says:

    Online dating would be a very interesting subject to a Marxist anthropologist as well. Marxist anthropology’s emphasis on classes in society, would be concerned with who is taking part in online dating. Are all classes involved? Is online dating something only for the poor? The rich? The middle-class? It seems that most people taking part in online dating are a part of the middle-class, maybe this is just the image that advertising campaigns try to display, or maybe online dating is a part of a middle-aged, middle-class person’s life. It would be interesting to see which kind of people are registered users on online dating sights, and how the number of users correlates to certain classes.

    • Anna Hermann says:

      You bring up an interesting point… I would think that the people using online dating are those who are most accustomed to computers, the internet, and all of the above that relates to the two. Then, it would seem it is catering to a specific audience…maybe one who looks for efficiency? If you can cut to the chase, put yourself out there as looking for someone and weed out those who may get in your way of that via the internet, is that the reason people are using these websites? Are they the same people that apply technology to every aspect of their lives? I would agree, just from personal observation, that the people who employ the websites are those often of the middle class, maybe those who simply don’t have the time to go out and look? Or prefer not to?

  24. Jessie Kronke says:

    I thought it was interesting that you brought up the idea that online dating has its advantages in that is allows a person to nix a potential candidate without having to experience any awkward encounters with them. I find this very telling of the ways technology has influenced the way we relate to our peers in today’s culture, as I think the popularity of text messaging or Facebook, just for example, has in a sense isolated and detached people from their surroundings. Its very easy to judge someone based off what they put on the internet, but you can’t really know a person until you’ve met them in person and interacted with them-simply viewing a profile is not enough, in my opinion, to tell a person whether or not someone could be a potential match.

    • Clair Trousil says:

      I agree that the fact that online dating has become so popular really shows something about American culture today and how we are all looking for speed and convenience. But I remember in one of our first recitations in class, we were discussing a topic in the textbook that revolved around the issue of teens giving too many hugs. Lately it’s been becoming a problem in schools that students are spending too much time hugging and there is a risk of sexual harassment along with that. I think that our society has become so reliant on the internet and technology to do the relationship work for us and we feel so desensitized from real, face to face relationships that we are beginning to over-compensate. I think maybe this same problem could be happening with online dating – that people are becoming so reliant on technology that when they use it to find a partner, they become quickly attached to the person that the computer says is “perfect” for them. Again, overcompensating for a face to face relationship experience that they are missing out on.

  25. Adam Sammakia says:

    I really like this topic. It would be interesting to see how people choose their mates online and see if what we are looking for in a mate has been changed by these services. It makes the process of finding a mate much more like finding a job, I wonder what qualities get somebody’s name picked out of the digital “stack of resumes”. I also wonder if people who don’t use the sites themselves are being effected by a more general trend started by online dating services.

  26. John Vertovec says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed this essay. It brings up relevant points in today’s society. One idea that it did not bring up though is the idea of online dating services that are aimed towards people who are married and looking for other married people (an online dating service that revolves around cheating on your spouse). This idea of an online dating site geared towards affairs could be examined through Anthropology of development. Could it be that our society is moving towards an environment where committing adultery is alright? I doubt it, but it is interesting to see how an idea like this would be absurd a few years ago and now, because of a market that allows for people to make money in absurd ways, the idea is not that foreign.

  27. Catherine Molnar says:

    Your personal connection and your boss’ reaction kind of made me realize how much of a “norm” online dating has become in our society. It’s sad to think about the loss of human interaction we now have when it comes to finding the person you want to spend the rest of your life with. The thought of time ticking away, our biological clocks running out and how much we put work and being successful over our own personal relationships and feelings is astonishing. I also found that your link to the woman’s suffrage movement playing a huge role in making people realizing that women are not property and that they finally had a say in their own lives was a really good observation.

  28. Megan Long says:

    @ Catherine, I definitely agree that the lack of human interaction and the rise of reliance on technology is a very sad thing. It is amazing how some humans have now become so consumed with work or their education that they have lost the time to find a mate the traditional way. This shows an extreme shift in the values in our society. Before the rise of technology as a substitute to human interaction, it was the number one goal of a woman to find a husband and have many children. Today, woman have been entering the workforce at increasing rates and it is actually the women who are now getting higher level degrees more so than men. Feminist Anthropologists may be interested in this change in goals among women in society and how the male’s goals have changed in correspondence to this.

  29. Alex Myers says:

    I too agree with Megan and Catherine. I find online communication, not necessarily dating, to be a flaw in our society. It takes away the face-to-face personal contact. It devalues being able to talk to a large, or even a small audience, which i find to be a very important quality in day to day life. Many things online come to be untrue, that is not the case for personal interaction. You can read body language and physically interact, where that is not possible online.

  30. Ben Perkins says:

    Although taking a feminist approach on the subject was very interesting, I felt that the direct connection between women suffrage movement and online dating was a little hazy. I see that the feminist movement has allowed for women to take more control over their relationships, but that doesn’t explain why online dating has become so popular. Having freedom to choose your companion does not explain why people have chosen to turn to online dating, opposed to traditional means of meeting someone. Online dating is a very strange concept to me, however; in our go go go culture that produces immediate results as well as our obsession with new technologies, people are further separated. It only makes sense that people would utilize technology as a way to connect as well as produce immediate results(boyfriend/girlfriend) with little effort(clicking a button).

  31. Tess Porter says:

    Though not completely similar, I can see some connections between online dating and arranged marriages in India. In modern arranged marriages, parents try to find prospective matches for their child and their children can accept or reject proposed matches. The children believe that their parents are the best person to find a match for them because the parents are experienced, want the best for their child, and know their child’s personality best. Some people put their trust into online dating websites in a similar way. They fill out a personality profile and people who have been hired by the dating company (in the case of eHarmony) find people they think would be the best possible match. The web surfer than can go through the list and choose who they do and don’t want to get to know.

    I thought it was interesting how Morgan said online dating fits into the functionalist approach of everything working together in a system. People look for love online because it seems simpler to have someone else find you a match if you have a busy schedule. But why do they put their trust in someone they don’t know and a form of compatibility that’s supposed to work for everyone, instead of someone who knows them personally? Are we so reliant on technology that we are also using it to replace friends and family too?

    I have relatives that have used dating websites with moderate success, and I’m not completely against them. But I think it’s interesting how much we are utilizing technology to “better” certain parts of our lives.

  32. Zoe Anderson Edenfield says:

    Morgan- I found these explanations of cyber-dating to be very interesting; I think a good perspective to add would be one of the Feminist Anthropologist. With the age of cyber-dating, one can see how the females role in choosing a mate has become more equal to that of the male than in the past. These days women can choose a man over the internet, and have much more options, whereas until recently it was on the shoulders of the man to ask out a woman, allowing the woman only choice in who she accepts. A woman can now have more say in choosing who she dates; in the past a woman asking men out on dates was seen as generally strange and not quite socially acceptable. Even further in the past, as Morgan stated, couples were paired by their parents and neither really had a say in the matter. But with the age of internet bringing more choice to men and women across the country, will there really be more love? Does hand-picking someone you think is perfect for you really work in the long-run? Will this lead to stronger marriages, can people really know what they want in a spouse? Or is taking a chance, having some mystery, an important part of a relationship?

  33. Tim Baker says:

    In a way the new phenomenon of online dating can be seen as a continuation of a major trend in American society and culture today. That is the trend to try to make everything more and more convenient. As you wrote, people really don’t have time today to go on a bunch of dates with people that they might not really have anything in common with. As with almost everything else today, people turn to the internet to solve this problem. I also think that this will become even more common as technology continues to progress over time. Functionalism is also a great way to look at this issue with its emphasis on explaining how different forces affect culture and are in turn affected by other factors. The overbearing reason for many of the advents we see today in American culture is the need for more ease and convenience and this definitely fits that model.

  34. Peter Zwickey says:

    The hook of this essay was awesome! What an interesting and I’m sorry that it was awkward, but kind of funny situation. I had no idea it was that common a phenomena. The paragraph about historical particularism was a good start and a good idea but I think that’s where your essay lacked. The part about women’s increasing right to choose didn’t connect as well as it could have to the topic of online dating. It needed just a bit more elaboration to really make a good connection. But the second body paragraph was extremely strong, everything in it about texting and Skype etc. is so shockingly true. We are products of our needs and how sad is it that our needs include being a lazy slave to our technology.

  35. Lila Zwonitzer says:

    I really liked how you chose to focus on technology, as it is so prevalent to our culture. Personally, I have always been wary of online dating and forums. I think it takes away from basic social skills and interactions, ie eye contact. It’s too easy these days for someone to hide behind an avatar or a username. You don’t have to be yourself, which is one great danger of online dating. I feel you pointed out really nicely how we use the internet as crutch, not only has it made our homework easier– but it has made it possible for us to “meet people” without leaving our computer screen. To be fair, 0nline dating has been an amazing thing for some people, but I fear that it has just become another search engine or shortcut.

  36. Katherine Caldwell says:

    If you think about online dating lingusitically, based on the names of the sites, it will agree with your statement, “The growth of online dating sites suggests that romantic companionship, but not necessarily love, is a basic human need.” Match.com, perfectmatch.com, eharmony.com, friendfinder.com — These don’t suggest falling in love. These names suggest only that you’ll find someone compatible. Notice there aren’t any sites called truelove.com (Okay, well not that I know of.) Its interesting that people settle for this companionship instead of love.

  37. Charlie Bezouska says:

    Katherine C – I think I would agree with you about the compatible companionship based only on the site names. However, when a potential user of these sites sees a television commercial for one of the sites, the way they advertise them visually is that they will help you found love through a complex system undoubtedly having to do with mathematical algorithms. So although they may only match compatible people, these sites advertise in an ambiguous way as to suggest that users have and will find true love.

  38. Ruth Harrell says:

    I agree with Charlie B. that these online dating sites, despite their names, are advertising love. However, I also agree with Katherine C. in a linguistically speaking way, that these sites offer no hope to a culture that is all about finding the “perfect mate” because it seems all anyone is looking for is someone to keep them company in their old age. And based on the time crunch of busy schedules in today’s culture, these sites serve an important function of setting up people of common interests and fulfilling the basic human needs of friendship and socialization.. However, looking back to the historical perspective, our society had been loosely based around matches that are not necessarily “perfect.” Our friends and family set you up with people that might not have been “perfect” however, I think that this was an essential part of the function of dating: finding out what is compatible. But if anyone else has any opinions please let me know.

  39. laine smith says:

    Recently in lecture, talking about arranged marriages versus romantic marriages, brings to mind the idea of a person that is “fitting” for you versus someone you fall head over heels in love with but might not be the right life partner for you. I was reminded of that when reading this essay: supposedly, an online site finds a person that you share common interests, beliefs, etc with, linking to how a family finds an arranged partner for their family member. In the case of finding someone with that bam, in your face, passionate love out there in the world, depending on fate, this links to romantic love and marriage, not so much on what you find through online sources.

  40. Sean Butler says:

    I believe that with our societies ever increasing dependancy on technology, the use of cyberspace dating is simply a response to the lack of physical human to human contact. People are more attached to their electronics more than ever and it may seem logical to meet someone through a forum that they are already familiar with. For example, in Junigau, many young people are using cell phones to contact one another as opposed to past processes, such as writing letters. The use of cyberspace dating is simply an alternative option to an ever changing society where communication is made easier via internet than by meeting in person.

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