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Office Hours With Dr. Jim
by James Houran, Ph.D

In this column, "Dr. Jim" honestly and candidly answers your questions about dating, love and sexuality. He doesn’t tell you what you want to hear – he tells you what you need to hear. Dr. Jim is committed to offering you guidance based on responsible clinical practice and hard data from the latest scientific studies. Send Dr. Jim your questions today for consideration in an upcoming issue.

Online Dating Dangerous? | Trends | Exaggeration | Match Odds

Quick Access:
Is Online Dating Dangerous?
Online Dating Popularity Trend
Do Online Daters Exaggerate More than Offline Daters?
Does Greater Exposure = Better Potential for a Match?

Do you feel that online dating is dangerous because of the amount of personal information available to anyone?


 Like any technology, there’s opportunity for benefit as well as for harm. The fact is that everyone should always be cautious about divulging any personal information to anyone they don’t know – online or off. I mean how many of us put ourselves at risk in by throwing away documents available to anyone who picks up our garbage that contain sensitive and personal information?! However, experienced online daters and those who are Internet savvy already know that online dating can be safer in many ways because:

» You can meet and socialize with others without the need to give out personal information

» You do not need to be physically present with others

» You are not vulnerable to socially or physically awkward scenarios

However, scams do exist on nearly every online dating site – scams like Nigerian money laundering cons and Russian mail order bride arrangements. Also, there are predators, sexual and other types, who seek victims via online dating sites. In this way, the Internet mirrors the offline world. The responsibility for your own safety rests solely with you.

Do you feel that online dating is a trend that will decline in the future or is a new social institution that will grow in popularity?

With any trend, there is a growth curve. In the US that curve is leveling out. However, in the UK and the European Union the curve is steadily rising. I feel the anecdotal evidence indicates that online dating – be it through online dating sites or social networking sites and chatrooms (like MySpace, Friendster, etc) – is here to stay. I don’t see online dating ever completely replacing real world introductions and dating (and vice versa), but I feel online dating is now part of worldwide culture.

Do you feel that online daters exaggerate characteristics or features about themselves more than offline daters?

There’s no doubt that many online daters exaggerate some aspects about themselves in an attempt to appear more attractive and eligible to other online daters. This may not be a malicious effort at deception, but it can be hurtful when a person finds out the tall, rich Greek Adonis she has corresponded with is really short, slightly overweight, has thinning hair, and an even thinner wallet.

However, there are no studies of which I know that show this tendency is more pronounced in online dating. In fact, sociologist Michael Hardey (1,2) found that the disembodied anonymity that characterizes the Internet can act as a foundation for the building of trust and the establishment of real world relationships. That is, anonymity can promote increased honesty and disclosure over communications in the “real world.”

1. Hardey, M. (2002). Life beyond the screen: Embodiment and identity through the Internet. Sociological Review, 50, 570-585.

2. Hardey, M. (2004). Mediated relationships. Information, Communication and Society, 7, 207-222.

Since online daters believe dating Websites help people find a better match because they can get to know a lot more people, do you think that greater exposure to other people increases their odds of finding a suitable match?

Statistically speaking, this is definitely the case. The more people you have in the dating pool, the more likely you will find someone that is a suitable match. This is one of the major strengths of online dating. Traditionally, people meet romantic prospects in one of three ways: at work, through introductions by family and friends, or via accidental meetings. These three approaches are typically limited by geography, so singles really have a small dating pool. But, with online dating, people are exposed to millions of prospects worldwide. This is an unprecedented development for people’s social lives and social circles.

> - The best approach to find the one. <

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