Dear Nancy Baym,
Online dating, for so many years has had such a negative social stigma tagged to its title. There is a common misconception that people who join these sites are looking for brief sexual encounters, or are incapable of social communication. In your Personal Connections in the Digital Age Chapter 5, you tackle the constant fear people seem to have over the sincerity and honesty of the profiles conveyed online. You also mention in chapter 6 that online dating is becoming much more of a social norm, paralleling the change in our culture over generations, but it's the method used that illustrates a certain judgment rather than the act of using the internet to meet people. I cannot agree more with you. I've seen many people in my generation (21-28) moving to online sites to find matches because they simply do not have the time to meet new people. One of my very good friends is one who had been put online jokingly by someone else. She is a social butterfly and has no problem finding boys, if anything she can't get rid of them, they're lined up like puppies. What was interesting, though, was that most of the people she did see on the site were normal looking business types who just did not have the time to look for romantic partners in real life because of work. She herself had some trouble finding good matches in real life because the people in our age group aren't exactly...mature enough. After finding a person online, and moving their first meeting into face-to-face, they ended up hitting it off perfectly and have been dating for months. Their compatibility may have been matched online by the groups and choices they picked. On page 111, you point out that "our identities are entwined with the identities of others. Individual identities are deeply enmeshed with social identities. We build self-representations by linking to others." There is a feeling of connection by the two using the online site to find partners. Their representations are created by the means, or sites, they use to display themselves, and how fervently they create their profiles. Obviously, both my friend and her boyfriend did not try very hard on their profiles (because it was initially a joke for both sides) which is what made a more solidified connection because they both shared a commonality.
In Ellison, Heino and Gibbs' article, they research the self-presentation strategies of online dating participants. They also made it seem much more normal for people to move their romantic life online in order to find partners. They found in their study that profiles play the most important role in impression, considering it is the first thing people see, and that most people try to portray their online identities as close to their real-life ones. I think online dating is a great tool and something people should not be ashamed of using. It is reality, with this failing economy, that play is pushed back. It is harder to meet new people when you're stuck in the same facility or workplace.