Digital dating : online dating profiles of older and younger gay, lesbian, and heterosexual adults
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Online dating is a common way for older, gay, and lesbian adults to find a romantic partner, yet little is known about their dating motivations and self-presentations. Adults of different ages, genders, and sexual orientations may have different approaches to dating and presenting themselves online. Adults’ profiles are likely to differ based on evaluations of the desires of potential partners, as well as individuals own stage in life and place in their broader social environment. Using a mixed method approach in three studies, this dissertation examines thousands of dating profiles randomly sampled from two popular dating websites and various regions of the US. The first two studies examine the dating profiles of older and younger gay, lesbian, and heterosexual adults. Study 1 explores the extent to which adults emphasize the “self” versus connections to others. Study 2 examines the degree to which adults discuss and display their bodies and sexuality. Study 3 utilizes a separate dataset of older gay, lesbian, and heterosexual adults and focuses on common profile content and potential regional differences in profile content. Results revealed that older adults were more focused on close social ties in their profiles, while younger adults were focused on the self and were more likely to post different types of photographs. Further, older adults were just as likely as younger adults to discuss sexuality in their profiles, but less likely to display their bodies in photographs. Gay and lesbian adults were more likely to emphasize friendships, while heterosexual adults focused more on family. Gay men and heterosexual women seemed to craft their profiles to appeal to men’s desire for physical attractiveness and sexuality, using photos to display their bodies. Conversely, heterosexual men and lesbian women presented themselves as focused on others, perhaps to appeal to the communal nature associated with women. With regard to regional environment, older gay and lesbian adults residing in environments with low structural support for LGBT people were most likely to emphasize a desire for shared experiences, potentially reflecting feelings of disconnectedness to their environments. Findings suggest that despite the scripted nature of dating profiles, adults with different characteristics may have distinct motivations when seeking a romantic partner.