Arts & Culture / Mosaic / February 11, 2010

Cyber love: the online dating world

Most people snicker when they see commercials for dating sites like E-Harmony. Some people even skim dating posts for entertainment. Admittedly, there are plenty of creepers on the Internet, and online dating has its cons, but the advertisements claim success. Can two people meet online and have a genuine relationship? Knox students share their successes and failures with online dating.

Professional Prospective

Professor of Psychology Frank McAndrew said that he guesses the majority of college students do not look online for relationships because online is more for when face-to-face does not work.

He feels there is no particular personality type that goes along with online dating. Usually, people that reach dissatisfaction with reality and decide to see what happens online.

McAndrew also said that some people may just be more comfortable with the first stages of a relationship being less personal. They may be more comfortable on the internet as opposed to in person. Especially people that are in small groups where they don’t click with anyone decide to try online.

In his opinion sites are popular because they are ways to meet people romantically quickly and efficiently. McAndrew said groups that used to exist like church, family friends and any groups where young people can meet in person are starting to disappear. Instead young adults are starting to go straight from school to work where it is harder to meet people their own age.

The typical online dater is a young person with only work friends who are older and possibly married. They need to connect with people their own age that share their interests.

McAndrew predicts that it is more common for young adults that are out of college to search for love online. He says college has a social network that is unlike any other social network. There are lots of people of the same age and interest in close quarters.

Accidental Love

Knox senior Ellie Poley started up conversation with another user on a creative writing site when she was in high school. Neither were searching for a romantic relationship, but the two girls got to know each other better and better. Finally they decided to meet face-to-face. After meeting and continuing to talk they realized there was enough substance there to spark up a relationship.

Five years have passed since then, two of which were spent being just friends. Poley’s girlfriend was a student at Knox and introduced the school to Poley. She came to Knox for her own reasons, but did admit to a small amount of influence from her girlfriend. Poley’s girlfriend now lives in the Galesburg area.

When people ask how the two met, Poley doesn’t jump to explain. “I always feel a little apprehensive before telling people we met online. We have been together for so long that people assume we met at Knox.” After all, many people prefer poking fun at online sites instead of praising their success. “I feel like there is still a stigma against meeting online. People may think if you meet a significant other online than you are not capable of normal social interaction, which is far from the truth.” Poley said although she was not seeking a romantic relationship online she still feels the stigma that goes along with looking for meaningful connections through the Internet. Even with the misunderstandings surrounding online meetings, Poley still feels most people she talks to are understanding.

Acceptance is relative. Poley admits to having to battle a lot of judgment in her relationship simply with titles. “I’m already battling people’s assumptions by being in a relationship with a woman, so I feel like that [online meeting] is just adding more.” Poley recognizes that some people just don’t understand. “A lot of people that haven’t had that experience don’t know how to think about it.” Poley has her own veiws of her relationship. “I think of it as just an interesting factoid of our relationship, since we have been together so long it is not a huge part of the relationship, it is just part of our history.”

Poley feels the difficulties of a long distance relationship were important in forming the strong connection they have now. She explained that they had to communicate a lot since they were far apart. They were able to build a strong foundation of communication that has helped them further down the road. Building upon an existing friendship also helped form a stronger connection. Poley has been living with her girlfriend for a couple of years and has been very happy. She feels lucky to have such an excepting family and community.

Poley has also stayed in contact with some of the friends she made while a part of the creative writing site. She didn’t feel fully accepted in her small, private high school so she was happy to make some good friends online. Now she tries to focus more on writing letters and sending cards instead of online communication.

Free Communication Trial

Senior Meg Allen was bored over winter break last year and decided to try the free communication weekend on eHarmony. The personality form took her one-hour and then she was able to start trying to connect with men. Allen said she liked that they only gave information and no pictures so members were forced to be attracted beyond the superficial.

Allen talked with three men more deeply. She thought she may have gotten along well with one of the website members, but they lost contact when she came back to Knox. One of the other men became a more permanent nuisance.

Adam was a very religious man that really enjoyed talking with Allen. He told her all about his life and might have even lied about his age. “He said he was 22 but he look like he was 44 on Facebook.” Allen said. She said he was completely harmless, but it took a while for him to go away.

He sent her a friend request on facebook, which she begrudgingly accepted and had to deal with learning about his personal life problems. She never told him anything personal so she had no extended problems with him.

Even with this experience, Allen said it was nice to meet men that were from her home and Illinois. The main problem she said is that it is not practical to expect to find the right one in a weekend during a free event. She wasn’t really looking for the right one though so she saw it as an interesting experience

Specific Search

Sophomore Joe Olvera did online dating for about a year and a half. His reason was to find a man that fit all the criteria he was looking for. However, he was unable to find people who were geographically close to him.

The sites he used were more focused on the picture than the personal information, but Olvera was happy with it. He was never able to find a romantic relationship, however he now has a really good friend from one of the sites.

Olvera now prefers to meet people in person. “Online dating can be a lifestyle. It’s not for me but I recommend to try it once,” Olvera said.

Jennifer Lloyd

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