Unit 6: Socializing on the Internet

The internet has become a great way to stay in contact with friends and family, and to meet new people as well. In fact, online dating has become extremely popular- it’s now one of the most common ways that couples meet. I have many friends that have successfully met their significant other online. Even my sister met her now fiancé online. The Pew Research Center did some surveys on online dating and relationships, and discovered some pretty interesting findings. You can read the whole study HERE. The survey looked at 2,252 adults, age 18 years and older. Here are the findings:

  • 11% of American adults—and 38% of those who are “single and looking”— have used online dating sites or mobile dating apps
  • Focus on dating sites: 9% of American adults use online dating sites
  • Focus on apps: 3% of American adults—including one out of every ten between the ages of 25 and 34—use dating apps on their cell phone
  • Americans have significantly greater familiarity with online dating through others than was the case in 2005
  • Online dating is becoming more accepted over time; online daters (and those who know online daters) have more positive attitudes about the process
  • 5% of those Americans who are married or in a long-term partnership—and 11% of those who have been together for ten years or less—met their partner online
  • Using the internet to flirt with people—and to research past (or future) love interests—has become much more common in recent years
  • One in five internet users with recent dating experience have asked someone out on a first date online; one quarter have used the internet or email to maintain a long-distance relationship
  • One in three SNS users have checked up on someone they used to be in a relationship with, and one in six have posted pictures or details of a date on a social networking site
  • 30% of SNS users with recent dating experience have used these sites to research prospective partners; they also offer a venue for linking up with “friends of friends,” and for asking people out on dates.
  • For young adults especially, relationships and social media can make for a potentially awkward mix
  • One in six Americans with recent dating experience have broken up with someone—or had someone break up with them—by text message, email, or sending a message online

It’s interesting to me how much the internet has become an integral part of the dating experience- whether that means creating on online dating profile, using the internet to ask someone out, checking the social media profile of someone you’re dating or used to date, or even for breaking  up with someone. Chances are you’ve done at least one of these things. I know I have have.

One finding that I thought was especially interesting from this study was that online dating is becoming more accepted over time, and that online daters (and those who know online daters have more positive attitudes about the process. According to the study, 59% of people today think that online dating is a good way to meet people, compared to only 44% in 2005. This statistic reminds me of the dating app Tinder, and how when it first came out everyone called it an app just for hook ups. Today, I think it has become more accepted as a legitimate way to meet people. Actually, three of my good friends are in serious relationships with people that they met through Tinder. Another related statistic says that 21% of people believe people who use online dating are desperate, compared to 29% in 2005. I think it’s good to see that statistic decreasing, but I definitely know of a few couples who are afraid to tell people they met online for this reason. Of my three friends who met their boyfriends on Tinder, all of them lied to their parents about where they met. One of them even wouldn’t tell me at first where she met her boyfriend, because she was so afraid of judgement.

The internet has made it easier to meet other people with similar interests from all over the world with niche dating sites. Before the internet, if someone had a very specific interest or attraction, they might have a hard time meeting someone like them. Today, it seems there are dating sites for almost everything. If you’re a Christian looking to meet other Christians, christianmingle.com may be the perfect site for you. If you’re Jewish, don’t worry there’s a site for you too, called JDate.com. Some other interesting niche sites include Sizzl– a dating app for bacon lovers, Meet-an-Inmate.com which is exactly what it sounds like, seacaptaindate.com for those with a passion for the ocean, and Lovestat.com,  for healthcare professionals looking to meet other healthcare professionals.

These niche sites work because of interpersonal attraction, which is the attraction between people which can lead to friendships or romantic relationships. People who are similar in characteristics, life goals, and appearance are more likely to give each other positive reinforcement which makes them more attracted to each other- this is also known as the similarity attraction effect. This happens on niche dating sites because everyone on it has at least one thing in common, making starting a conversation easy. From there, users may start to experience the propinquity effect which says that the more we see and interact with a person, the more likely he or she is to become our friend or sexual partner. The similarity attraction effect gets the conversation started, and the propinquity effect keeps it going.

The internet facilitates interpersonal attraction, and also unfortunately interpersonal aggression. Interpersonal aggression is defined as overt, often harmful social interaction with the intention of inflicting damage or other unpleasantness upon another individual. According to Smith and Mackie’s (2007) Social Psychology textbook, there are two subtypes of aggression. Instrumental aggression is the first, which involves a more systematic thinking about the situation as opposed to an immediate emotional reaction. This type of aggression depends on people’s perceptions of costs and rewards. The other type of aggression, hostile aggression, is an emotional response to provocation. A person may act aggressively without thinking through the consequences when threats to self-esteem are made.

Interpersonal aggression can be seen online in the forms of cyberbullies and trolls. Trolls comment offensive things for the sheer enjoyment of it, exploiting controversial topics to make other users appear overly emotional or unintelligent in some way. According to a survey reported by CNN, internet trolls are actually everyday sadists. You can read the whole article HERE. Dealing with a cyberbully is a bit more intense than dealing with an internet troll, and has a greater effect on it’s victim.

One victim of cyberbullying, Francie Diep, wrote about her experience dealing with a cyberbully in her article “Confronting my Cyberbully, 13 Years Later.” Her cyberbully ‘Amanda’ used instrumental aggression over the course of 3 years to make Diep’s life hell. She hacked into her email account, and deleted all of her emails leaving mean messages in their place. She also added calendar reminders telling Diep to kill herself, and they would pop up unexpectedly. Diep mentioned in her article that she witnessed Amanda bully other girls in the past too, but she hadn’t done anything to stop it because she was just glad that it wasn’t her.

It’s interesting to me that when Diep confronted Amanda years later, Amanda didn’t have any recollection of telling Diep to kill herself. Meanwhile, it clearly still had a huge effect on Diep. All those years later, she was still nervous to even open messages from Amanda on Facebook. It just goes to show how much of an impact cyberbullying can have on a person. However, bullying is not a new phenomenon, it existed long before the internet. Even Einstein has wrote about his experiences dealing with it. You can read about his experience in the article “Einstein and Curie Dealt With Trolls All the Time.” The difference today is that people trolling have a new, easier medium to do it with.

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