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Romantic Relationships and Online Dating

The influence of technology in our lives has seeped into nearly every aspect of how we relate to others. We connect with our friends and family through text, email, social networking sites (SNS), and instant messaging to name but a few. Through a variety of online platforms we seek old and new friends, business partnerships and collaborations, employers and employees and of course, we seek candidates for those relationships most dear to us, romantic relationships.

This chapter can-not attempt to address the vast area of how technology changes the ways in which we interact in all of our relationships, but rather will focus on the influence of technology and the Internet on our romantic relationships, in particular how we find those relationships through online dating.

Meeting online has displaced other ways to meet

Meeting online has displaced other ways to meet, and has become the third most likely way for people to connect with a new partner, with one in five relationships now starting online ( Rosenfeld & Thomas, 2012). As such, it is important to understand how people present themselves and perceive others, how we relate to each other during the process of online dating, and how we view the positive and negative aspects of the overall experience. It is also important to understand that not everyone experiences online dating in the same way, and the expe-riences of different groups, such as men, women, and LGBT daters will be examined.

There are significant quantities of research being under-taken on the subject and the focus of this chapter will be to examine and review the academic literature relating to the psychology of online and app-based dating to determine what insights have been gleaned for both daters and businesses involved in online dating in over a decade of studies. The chapter will address the process of online dating from a dater’s perspective, for example, looking at the effects of photographs and language on attraction online, what we find attractive and how we make partner choices, how authenticity is determined and trust developed, and the prevalence of deception and how daters attempt to counteract it.

Recommendations will be made to help users improve their experience dating online. Online daters’ experiences of dating sites and applications, while generally positive, also comprise a range of frustrations and difficulties that are imposed by the limitations of the platforms. The research conducted on online dating to date suggests a number of areas in which improvements and additions can be made to sites in order to help users overcome these difficulties. These include interactivity, social possibilities, and interface design.

Who dates online and where do they meet?

Online dating has grown exponentially across many areas of the world since first emerging around 1997, and meeting partners online exploded with the growth of Web 2.0 technologies. Of cohabiting couples across 18 countries, including Europe, Brazil, and Japan, nearly one third have experience of online dating, and of those who have begun relationships since 1997, 15% are in a relationship that began online ( Hogan et al., 2011). Globally, there are differences in the adoption of online dating and other online spaces for finding romantic relationships, with Internet access and penetration playing a part. Northern European inhabitants are more likely than their southern counterparts to find love online.

A third of Germans in relationships that have begun since 1997 found their partner online, whereas Greeks are the least likely of all to have found a partner online, with only 15.5% having done so. Online dat-ing is used alongside and as a complement to more traditional means of meeting potential partners, such as introductions through friends, at work, or meeting in bars and other public spaces ( Rosenfeld & Thomas, 2012). However, there has been an overall decline in these more tra-ditional routes in general, and specifically in ways of meeting such as through church or community or hobby groups.

The social stigma that once existed around online dating

The social stigma that once existed around online dating has reduced considerably over time, but there is still a significant minority who consider finding a partner online to be an act of desperation ( Smith & Duggan, 2013). Interestingly, attitudes towards online dating can be changed by experience of the technology and engendering trust and confidence in it. Those who use it at all, even without success.

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