The virtues of internet dating services are extolled by many happy couples; we wait for our eyes to glaze over as they recount that now-famous story of, ‘oh, we met online.’ Before we jump to conclusions exactly where online, it’s clear that matchmaking through the e-waves are becoming the buzz of social life across the country, and world.
Taking a closer look at internet dating sites and dating services gives the overall impressions of literally putting your best face forward, and waiting for the flocks to gather. Internet dating ‘gurus’ will tell you the utmost value in posting pictures, keywords for the profile page, setting up homepages to links and various lure-bait tricks. After you learn to climb the ropes of various dating services, with a strong people and profile filter in hand, you’ll be on your way to speed dating at its finest.
You also soon learn that the dating site itself is promoting, well, itself. Every e-mail, interaction, or comment posted to another user or e-dater is self-propagating the e-dating business. Not a problem, per se; after all, most people are paying money to subscribe to the possibility of fishing in the local or regional dating pool.
Taking it one step further find us creating friends, buddies, social networks, and you’re well on your way to a MySpace-style setup with crowds of friends galore. Some internet dating sites even promote their ‘just looking for friends’ component, hoping to match you up with other like-minded individuals to become fast friends.
If we step back for a moment, we can reflect on the idea behind matchmaking. Matchmakers are essentially picking up your key traits and personality characteristics, and matching them with either a twin (birds of a feather flock together) , or a complete opposite (opposites attract). In true essence, this would mean that your perfect match may just be a naïve to computers, non-online user. But I digress. Matchmaking is a social art form, initially inspired by social mavens who know everything about everyone; using their experience and judgment, matchmakers were often requested, sometimes paid, as an ultimate resource to begin the difficult quest to create a relationship. Whether it turned out for the best or not, is essentially not the matchmaker’s goal; their top priority is to make the best judgment call on behalf of the suitables, soon-to-be couples. E-dating sites attempt to fill this need with the use of technology, and filtering your personality traits with the same ‘intelligence.’ Of course, nothing is guaranteed for complete accuracy, but it certainly helps to filter if even at a most basic level.
Back in the old days (and in some cultures today) matchmaking was a highly structured task of taking into account a variety of factors: family background, social status, social class, financial status, assets, land ownership, and of course, visual appeal. People’s total relationship lives and futures were often left in the hand of just a few key people in society; their judgment meant everything.
Fast forward 100 years, and the spectrum of relationship-making is now up to the individual. With society’s emphasis on free choice and independent action towards life, it is now up to us to craft and seek out the best relationships for ourselves. What freedom! Technological capabilities enable communication at lightning speed; no need to wait for your significant other to send you a note via snail mail, just a few taps on the Blackberry, a click or two in an e-mail, or a poem transcribed into a text message, and behold, you are connecting with your mate!
One hallmark transition into internet dating, or using a particular internet dating service, is the increased frequency of communication; think of how many e-mails, occurrences, and even telephone conversations are continued and started simply because the other person is ‘there’. Never mind if they are physically unavailable, as the concept of long-distance dating is enough for many to continue their ‘relationship.’ Call it vicarious dating, or perhaps pseudo-dating. It is one comfortable and ‘safe’ way for many to create a relationship, or connection, with another individual.
E-mail conversations go one step further with the capabilities of instant messaging, chat rooms such as those offered by Gmail, discussion groups, and forums. We all are aware of the multitude of outlets of communication in today’s society, but when we combine this with relationship building, the grey lines begin to form something different; are we ‘in a relationship’ when we simply converse and interact through visual words and pictures? How is this different than a one-on-one conversation and relationship, besides the physical component?
Perhaps e-daters will confirm that their most valuable relationships are truly online; that they can be themselves, and use internet dating sites as a starting pool/bank of potential candidates. They affirm that all is good in their social lives as they can continue to correspond with like-minded individuals, exchange thoughts and emotions, and create a bond. It’s amazing to look back even just a few decades where the only way to meet new people was to spend time at a bar, join a community or volunteer group, host parties, go to coffeeshops or local events, or be set up on the most popular of all: the blind date. The social networks that have transpired through both internet dating sites, and webs of interaction such as MySpace, are all leading to a new frontier in the world of social communications.
We are looking forward to an entirely new type of social relationship, nothing like the one-on-one relationships that were the only form of connection just a few years ago. Dimensionally speaking, this type of relationship goes across country boundaries and state lines. “Will you e-mail me tomorrow?” becomes the normal response to the end of a ‘conversation,’ and the likelihood of a physical connection quickly dwindles. Day turns into night, but time zones are the only drawback. Limited ‘live’ conversations enable freer thinking, maybe even a breakthrough in the concept of time and space.
When you consider what actually constitutes a long-distance relationship, or dating someone with the challenge of time and location, it brings forward the elements of what is really necessary for a relationship to work. Is it truly just the social interaction, feelings of well-being and ‘knowing’ someone? Or is it simply a physical need of frequent contact and connection? Since the rules of dating outside one’s ‘social circle’ are completely broken with internet dating, how will this affect our choices for long-term friends now, and in the future?
All of these social issues are new to us for the upcoming years, as internet dating sites and dating services prospe. More people hop online to converse with each other, and an increasing number of people choose to travel, telecommute for work, slowly beginning to limit their radius of daily affairs. We’re becoming very connected ‘mentally’, and increasingly disconnected ‘physically.’ Yet we are continuing with a strong sense of life and purpose, nothing close to a negative ‘decline of society’ that many previous generations thought would be the outcome of technology and progress. Social interaction is evolving at a record pace, so it should come as no surprise as even more networks begin to develop and evolve over the next few years. If a long-term marriage or relationship becomes an outcome of this new dynamic, it may, perhaps, just be a side-effect of something bigger. Internet dating services are taking this social relationship to a whole new level; for better or worse, until the online podcast wedding proposal, perhaps?