Imagine scrolling through a multitude of single people on an online dating site. You find an interesting candidate; their profile catches your attention, their pictures captivate your eyes, and the smooth way they chat with you online keeps you fascinated with their persona. Since your conversation online was always a thrill, it seemed natural to set up a face-to-face (FTF) meeting. When you finally get to meet this wonderful person, who has been roaming through your mind since the first online date, your eyes are appalled to see the drastic contrast of their online and offline self.
There is a significant error with the image you had in mind about what they would be like; their appearance is less attractive, their clothes were out of style, they smell and speak repugnantly, and their confidence they displayed online has vanished. This story ends with you running back home completely disturbed with how much deception was present. This situation describes the real problem with finding romance online. Even though the internet provides an efficient and prompt way of networking, those seeking long-lasting relationships should switch off the server.
The intimacy between online daters is artificially produced with the internet’s ability to give users more control over presentation of self (Goffman, 1959), misrepresentation, and the deception that comes with these elements. To begin with, it is essential to recognize how the ability to have control over presentation of self leads to deception. A primary reason why people turn to online dating is because of their control over their impression management (Lawson & Leck, 2006). Portraying confidence, coolness, and character becomes easier online than offline for this reason.
The internet allows daters to express an ideal self, as opposed to an actual self. Users of the websites are able to purposefully present themselves a certain way to attract others, and if someone falls for them, they will fall for the deceptive character created through the user’s control over presentation of self. The unique aspect about having control of presentation of self online is how users can control the information perceived about themselves (Lawson & Leck, 2006). This means the deception that takes place is intentional; the daters are fully aware of the information they are not including with their online identity.
Putting up the best looking photos, updating profiles with commendable information, and even proofreading the words used in messages are all intentional methods that lead to the deception that comes with self presentation online. Daters will consciously conceal any information that is likely to prevent others from continuing to be romantic with them. The difference between performing these actions online instead of offline is that offline controlled presentation of self in the dating world mostly has to do with shaping one’s appearance. On dating websites, a user can lie about multiple aspects of himself to a vast amount of other users.
Having control over presentation of self contributes to another concept defined as misrepresentation. Misrepresentation is the general term to describe any aspect about a person, physical or emotional, that is not represented online (Cornwell & Lundgren, 2001). The main difference I want to stress between this idea and impression management is how misrepresentation can lead to unintentional deception. “Face to face gives more than just appearance, but allows daters to have a better sense of what their lover is actually like” (Ramirez & Zuoming, 2008, pp. 305).
Certain characteristics, such as mannerisms and thought processes, will never have the chance to be illustrated online. These characteristics are then imagined and interpreted by online daters after viewing the information of their interest, which consequently, is controlled through self presentation. The deception is unintentional because daters have no authority on how others interpret the information about themselves they present. This statement holds about the same validity offline and online, however, discernment seems to be much more efficient offline rather than online.
The research done by Ramirez and Zhang indicates that many online daters who met FTF soon after their initial online meeting failed to continue their relationship (Ramirez & Zuoming, 2008). This finding may have been a result of the contradicting judgements made between the daters online and offline since they both have unique aspects that make them differentiate from one another. Online daters tend to fall in love with the person they think they know online, instead of the real person behind the screen. Despite these complications with misrepresentation, the benefits of online dating are emphasized by some enthusiasts.
There are others who believe online dating is more effective than offline. For some individuals, online dating is an easy way to be intimate and social with others (Henry-Waring & Barraket, 2008). Dating websites deliver a great multitude of people with a variety of interests that take the stress off daters by giving them plenty of choices. In addition, Having direct control over presentation of self helps introverts progress with their relationships as well. Intimacy online does exist, and the internet itself can be a vital tool for those who have not been so lucky in the dating world offline (Scott et al. 2006).
This is useful for those who have no time for dating, have had problems finding someone to be romantic with, and who are on a low budget. To summarize, online dating can provide an easy and comfortable environment for people. The internet is a useful networking tool that gives daters access to a vast amount of romantic partners. All appealing qualities mentioned can enhance the experience of dating. I stress, however, that the deception that plays along with them should not be overruled so carelessly.
Dishonesty can generate an angry feeling inside the person being lied to that overrides any other emotion experienced with the liar. So even though the dating experience online has multiple benefits, the drastic con of deception is enough to make these benefits irrelevant. It is extremely easy to deceive others on the internet. Having control over presentation of self just encourages daters to leave any flaws and downsides about themselves from their profile. Daters can finally create their ideal self for others to notice. Misrepresentation makes things more scary with the unintentional deceptions that come with it.
FTF brings out information about how a person handles certain situations and carries him or herself; all of which may be surprising to someone who formed an idea of these qualities when they chatted with the person online. Even though the benefits of online dating can be more intriguing than offline, deception will be an ongoing negative stress when trying to be intimate with anyone you meet on the web. Perhaps one day online dating will replace the need for FTF interaction, but for those who wish to form a long-lasting intimate relationship; the day has not come.