Relationship initiation and progression in the online matchmaking environment : phenomenology, idealistic distortion, and alternative dating partners




Steffek, Lisa Marie

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With the capacity to connect millions of singles through the virtual world, online matchmaking has altered the traditional, face-to-face romantic relationship initiation process. Users of online matchmaking sites have easy access to thousands of available singles and can communicate with partners before ever meeting face-to-face. Specific mechanisms by which online matchmaking environments operate are likely to distort both users’ appraisals of other users and users’ appraisals of themselves. This phenomenon in dating has left researchers to speculate about the effectiveness of romantic relationship initiation in such a context, and for relationships that are successfully formed online, whether the effects of online matchmaking extend beyond the relationship initiation process to influence the subsequent progression of romantic relationships. Seventy-five single men and women were recruited and agreed to subscribe to the online matchmaking site for 30 days. Participants completed measures assessing their individual background characteristics, sociosexual orientation, personality and attachment. In the event that participants scheduled a first date with someone they met through, they completed pre and post-date measures assessing idealistic distortion of, attention to, and ease of finding alternative dating partners. Upon completion of their 30 days in the study, participants completed a follow-up questionnaire assessing the degree to which they idealistically distorted themselves to other users and their overall satisfaction and experience using Logistic regression analyses revealed that the more users’ distorted the vitality and attractiveness of dating partners the less likely users were to experience a second date initiated by the dating partner. Future studies need to consider that traditional models of relationship initiation are out-dated and not applicable to the study of relationship initiation and progression in the context of online matchmaking. Relationship researchers need to investigate: gender differences in filtering potential partners, the function of filtering in such a context, the developmental progression of filtering and the subsequent potential heightened importance of physical attraction verses the importance of compatibility in predicting relationship initiation in the online matchmaking environment. Additionally, future research should involve comparisons of various matchmaking services’, should utilize larger sample sizes and should follow participants for a longer period of time.




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