Dating in the digital world
In the Information Age, young adults connect with a click.
November 30, 2010 3:39 PM
Callie Waldman sits under the sunshine in San Francisco's Dolores Park, engaged in conversation with a new friend she recently met on an online dating website. Though she does not feel any spark flying, she is interested in having a friendship with the guy, as they seem to have connected. When he invites her back to his place a few blocks away to watch a few short films he has made, he starts to put the moves on her.
"He said, 'Would you suck my dick?'" Waldman explains, smirking yet obviously repulsed. When she asks whether or not he is serious, he says to her, "What if I paid you one hundred dollars?" In shock, she leaves immediately, quickly shutting the door behind her, and runs home.
Waldman has just experienced one of her first real life dates set up on an online dating website, something that more and more young people like Waldman have begun to do.
It has long been known that the advent of the Internet, and subsequent advancement of technology, continues to change the world in ways once thought unimaginable. New technology often unfolds too rapidly to question and some consumers adapt without a second thought. Before phones became "smart," being on-the-go was one way to escape the constant need to stay connected.
Because people have begun to live their lives on the Internet, be it through the use of social media, online gaming, or online shopping, there is no wonder why dating has also gone digital.
A Match.com commercial claims that one-in-five relationships now begins online. In the last ten years or so, online dating has become an increasingly popular way to meet potential dates. In the past, online dating has had many stereotypes associated with it, but those assumptions no longer seem accurate, as there is no one type of person that can be found on such sites. In fact, one of the biggest untruths of online dating is that only older generations are looking for potential love interests online. In the last few years, more young, college-aged kids have started using online dating sites as well.
When she joined her first dating website this year, Waldman was looking to find compatible friends. "I didn't have that many friends and I wanted to meet more people--extend my social circle," Waldman, 24, says about joining OkCupid.com, a free dating website popular among young adults.
Like most people, Waldman was inspired to join by her roommate, who was on the site as well. After her roommate reassured her that she did not necessarily need to be looking for love to join, Waldman created her own OkCupid profile last March and it took three weeks before she met face-to-face with someone she met online.
Though Waldman uses the website to find potential suitors, she still socializes the same ways she did before she joined the site. Because she hardly goes to bars, Waldman uses social gatherings and parties as a way to connect with new people, though she admits it is easier to meet someone online than it is in person. "It takes less energy. Sometimes I don't feel like going out," she explains.
Yet prior to the advent of online dating services, people were still connecting online. Before social media, chat rooms and instant messaging services were ways for people to connect and converse with one another.
In November 1996, ICQ released the first instant messaging computer program and the corresponding website site, ICQ.com, which offers free chat and game services. Pamela Remensperger, 26, first began using ICQ when she was in high school. She developed many online friends, including a chat buddy of four years named Dave.
At first, Remensperger and Dave were merely friends, chatting about their lives, loves, and the like. For her entire high school years, the two chatted online regularly. After graduation, Remensperger began attending California State University Sacramento and moved into the dorms.
It was after four years of chatting, that Remensperger and Dave decided to meet face to face. "He was coming to meet a friend in the dorms, and he asked if I wanted to meet up," Remensperger remembers. Eventually the two began dating and their relationship went on to last another four years before they parted ways.
Founded in 1995 and headquartered in San Francisco, Craigslist.com is another popular website that has been connecting people through their classified ads. A few years ago, Ilona Orshansky, 25, decided to use Craigslist to post a personal ad. While this was not her first time using the site, it was the start of a serious relationship. Orshanksy and Peter hit it off and Peter moved from San Jose to live with her San Francisco.
For two years the couple was inseparable and eventually they were engaged. While their engagement never made it to fruition, the two remain friends.
Social networking of all sorts is increasingly important in today's society and there are no signs of that slowing down. Whether you meet in person or over the Internet, relationships take work to maintain. While it may be more convenient to meet someone new online in the comfort of your own home, it is not without drawbacks.
According to Waldman, meeting someone under the pretense of dating can place unnecessary pressures. "There are certain expectations when you meet on a dating website that you don't have otherwise," Waldman admits.
Waldman warns potential online daters that appearances can be deceiving. In her experience, she has frequently dealt with encountering overly flattering profile pictures. "I've been more attracted to their pictures," she says. "That happens a lot."
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