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.