The Summary of the Psychological Issues Raised by Online Dating Issue
Within the rapid growth of technological advancements in modern society, online dating is perhaps the most common approach to finding a life partner. Harrison (2016) outlined fourteen crucial steps that are supposed to promote successful online relationships. The Internet has a major impact on communication and interaction with one another in terms of “sustaining existing relationships and developing new ones” (Fullwood and Fox-Hamilton, 2017, p. 46). The main points that the author discussed concerning online dating skills inherently intertwine with some key psychological issues it might raise.
One of the salient points implies maintaining the inner confidence of what oneself brings to the potential partnership. Also, it is crucial to find a middle ground between online communication and proceeding to real-life meetings. According to Fullwood and Fox-Hamilton (2017), the lack of non-verbal cues might lead to inferior communication. Based on the social presence theory designed by Short and colleagues in 1976, the increased application of CMC (computer-mediated communication) in everyday lives significantly reduced the number of non-verbal cues. As a result, users commonly encounter reduced warmth, emotion, and involvement in their interactions. Furthermore, one should always stay honest about personal feelings and admit the possibility of not enjoying the time spent together. The attitude is considered as the determining factor of the successful interconnection with other individuals, specifically the sense of humour.
Any relationship involves two human beings, which means that it is essential to have something to give rather than demanding attributes from others. Therefore, Harrison (2016) states that one must correspond to the needs he or she is looking for in other people. Concerning the issue of honesty, Harrison (2016) recommends avoiding any misconceptions on the dating profile. It should only represent the true version of self when aiming for real relationships. Some users tend to display an ambiguous idea of themselves that is not in line with their genuine selves. Moreover, people sometimes create a dramatically different identity altogether. As described by Fullwood and Fox-Hamilton (2017), people have distinct impetuses for identity experimentation. This might refer to the issue of the catfish phenomenon when individuals intentionally create a false persona to lure someone into a romantic relationship.
Online dating is complicated and, sometimes, an unequal phenomenon for both men and women that are involved. Harrison (2016) believes that male users have to put more effort to “be on the receiving end of pursuit” and are more likely to deal with rejections daily. A woman, in turn, should beware of the inappropriate or vulgar intentions of strangers. It is crucial to stay focused on positive interactions for both genders. Some of the tips also include experiments with different dating websites, staying safe, and not taking any discrepancies personally. Taking a break is another critical step in establishing a thoughtful approach to this type of dating. Ultimately, both partners have to be honest about their final objectives and be open-minded. With that said, the online environment is associated with peculiar features that enable people to be more precise in managing other people’s impressions about them. The advances in online technology have both positive and negative implications for human communication and relationships.
A Critical Evaluation of the Self-Help Advice in terms of Psychological Theories and Research
Online dating is a fast-growing phenomenon with a two-sided nature that can promote intimacy and settle differences, as well as lead to unwanted and harmful experiences through overuse or infidelity. By discussing the key tips for a successful and safe relationship building that develops from the online platforms to real-life settings, Harrison (2016) also touches on sex and sexual relationships. Nowadays, people tend to perceive sexuality as a crucial aspect of a person’s identity, which is also one of the key elements that makes them who they are. However, many people address the misperceptions about their gender or sexuality, which makes them feel misinterpreted on a fundamental level. According to Bowes-Catton (2015, p. 194), people reflect upon sexuality as an “integral, natural part of themselves.” It is something humans are born with or gain in the early stage of psychological development.
It is important to analyse the types of relationships and sexual behaviours assumed in this excerpt from the psychological point of view. Harrison (2016), the author of the self-help advice article, is an international education specialist and a travel consultant. When examining the self-help approach in the psychological context, three different options explicitly emanated from the field of psychology. They include “positive psychology, attempts to change cognitive biases, and critical psychological self-help” (Week 26, 2017, p. 18). The main focus of positive psychology is defining basic activities that improve happiness. As such, Harrison (2016) recommends focusing on positive interactions to avoid any inadequate or rude conversations. Concerning cognitive biases, they might significantly affect the relationships and understanding of other people.
Harrison’s (2016) dating tips are primarily based on the distinction between the Internet and face-to-face communication. The importance of a person’s physical appearance is decreased during online communication as compared to prejudgements in real life. Fullwood and Fox-Hamilton (2017, p. 23) suggest that people benefit offline from being viewed as attractive due to the “halo effect,” which is one of the cognitive biases. It implies that a person’s general perception of someone influences the way people consider their features. Within an online space, individuals who feel restricted in real life by their physical aspects might feel more liberated and empowered to interact online without concern of being judged. The Internet environment also raises the issue of self-presentation, which is highly dependent on how the person sees oneself and the level of self-esteem.
The Concept of Sexuality
The emerging online technologies foster rapid changes in the relationship models, specifically in the context of sexual diversity. One of the issues regarding the online environment is presenting a real and honest identity. The concept of sexuality is the essential component of a person’s identity, which is usually defined in terms of the gender to whom one is attracted. The understanding of personal sexuality is crucial for investigating the unique sense of self. Bowes-Catton (2015, p. 193) defines sexual identity as a manner in which an individual “identifies oneself according to their sexuality,” for instance, as gay, bisexual, heterosexual, or asexual. The overall concept of sexuality is based on several culturally shared understandings. The advent of social constructionist theories of sexuality promoted a new topic of interest for further examination in the field of psychology. It was focused on the ways in which ordinary people conceptualized their sexual identities and experiences. As a result, the emerged area of research referred to the issue of LGBT identities and subcultures.
In addition, it was a time when evolutionary psychology emerged, and it quickly gained universal recognition. Despite its broad scope of complex study, evolutionary psychology made a valuable contribution to defining human sexual behaviour, which was incorporated and disseminated through popular culture since the 1990s. As such, many people are acknowledged with the common argument that men and women have distinct evolutionary interests regarding their sexual partners. Following the ideas of Bowes-Catton (2015, p. 207), critics propose that these theories use biology to “justify sexual inequality,” however, they lack empirical evidence. For instance, men are considered to have an evolving nature of interest in terms of spreading their genes so far as possible by sexually interacting with different women. Women, on the other hand, have a more significant biological investment in each offspring and, thus, are interested in a limited number of sexual partners, as well as the number of children.
Such an evolutionary perspective undoubtedly faced some crucial modifications in the current era. Women achieved more liberty and freedom concerning the issue of their sexuality and the number of their sexual partners. Moreover, the very concept of sex and human sexuality, as well as social relationships, faced a turning point during the stage of its modern development. Nevertheless, psychological theories continue to impact conventional perceptions of sex and sexuality. Harrison (2016) examines the topic of online dating, which, in turn, changes the notion of sexual relationships between individuals and people’s primary intentions. Concerning conventional understandings of sexuality, they might imply that gay men, for example, always existed, but were compelled to hide it due to the repressive environment they lived in. Nowadays, living openly as a gay man became an acceptable notion, which gave rise to new relationships and freedom of human sexuality in general.
Furthermore, the way people define sexuality today is relatively recent and is not shared similarly within different cultures. As a result, the notion of sexuality is socially constructed and is perceived as a concept with a history. In her self-help article, Harrison (2016) inspires to experiment with different dating websites since they vary by demographics, emphasis on serious relationships, ways of interacting, and others. People naturally have different sexual needs and intentions towards others in terms of relationships, which has been well developed throughout history. The author emphasizes that some dating platforms are more marriage-oriented, while others involve “more casual encounters.” She further explains that the quality of men and the experience related to them varies even within the same website but in different states. With that said, it is possible to analyse the interconnection between the concept of sexuality and the territorial aspects and time.
Social constructionists claim that people’s comprehension of their sexuality is inherently linked with the era and place they live in rather than with people they are attracted to or their preferred practices. It is important to note that people always had sexual preferences, which implies being attracted to a particular gender or experiencing specific sexual practices. Although, humans started to consider such preferences as fixed characteristics concerning their identities only after the nineteenth century. More specifically, the widely recognized terms such as homosexual, heterosexual, or bisexual, emerged in the late nineteenth century and were fully explained and accepted in the modern era. Before that time, people obviously did not consider themselves as gay, straight, or even bisexual. Hence, a social constructionist perspective indicates that psychology is rooted both in its social context and deeply involved in producing that context.
Conflict in Close Relationships
When examining the relationships, it is also important to mention the issue of conflict in close relationships. Such a conflict is a sociocultural phenomenon that might be relevant to online dating as well. Proper online behaviour can certainly enhance a successful romantic relationship, but conflicts can never be entirely avoided. According to Barker (Week 8, 2017, p. 10), conflicts emerge at three different levels, including “internal individual experience, interpersonal dynamics, and sociocultural messages.” One of the theories that can be applied to conflicts is the cognitive dissonance theory, which indicates that people sometimes have an urge to self-justify. The very dissonance touches upon the desire to be perceived as a reasonable human being and the fact that people find their conflict behaviour as the one that opposes the desirable notion. One of the decisions to eliminate such dissonance is to convince oneself even more strongly that the other person is wrong. Although, this might make the other person respond defensively to such a statement, considering that they are in a similar state of dissonance.
The psychological research and theory on sex and sexuality are highly significant within some applied domains. The sexual awareness and perception of oneself, as well as its development throughout childhood years and adolescence, might be helpful in the field of sexual education. Also, the issue of sexual behaviour is significant for the “criminal and forensic psychologists,” more specifically the sexual violence (Barker: Week 24, 2017, p. 102). The psychological research on sex and sexuality is, in general, useful and important when working with the victims, perpetrators, and population as a whole concerning these issues. The online data from different websites, as well as social media platforms, are the innovative form of information to use for valuable research.
As such, this paper discussed the critical aspects of self-help advice of online dating by Harrison (2016) in the framework of psychological theories and research, specifically in the field of sex and human sexuality. Presenting the real or false identity of oneself online is closely intertwined with the sexual preferences and intentions of this person. As a result, psychological studies are deeply implicated in the emergence of contemporary understandings of sex and sexuality and, hence, the relationship models. It will always be a relevant issue due to the need for reifying cultural assumptions and normalizing sexual diversity. Ultimately, the main goal is to shift the general perceptions of sexuality and sex to a more social focus based on personal experiences and individual understandings of these issues.
Barker, M. J. (2017) ‘Week 24: Sex and sexuality.’ DD210-15J Living Psychology, The Open University, pp. 1–104.
Barker, M. J. (2017) ‘Week 8: Conflict in close relationships.’ DD210-15J Living Psychology, The Open University, pp. 1–132.
Bowes-Catton, H. (2015) ‘Sex and sexuality,’ in: Turner, J and Barker, M, J. (eds.) Living psychology: From the everyday to the extraordinary. (Book 2.) Milton Keynes: The Open University, pp. 185–222.
Fullwood, C. and Fox-Hamilton, N. (2017) ‘Week 25: Living online.’ DD210 Living Psychology, The Open University, pp. 1–122.
Harrison, A. (2016) ‘14 essential online dating tips for women,’ Classy Career Girl. Web.
‘Week 26: Self-help – changing people’s understandings to change their experience’ (2017). DD210-15J Living Psychology, The Open University, pp. 1–101.