People overestimate their chances of success with online dating compared to traditional face to face encounters, according to new research by cyber psychology researchers.
Dr Chris Fullwood and Dr Alison Attrill-Smith of University of Wolverhampton suggest that online daters attempt to carefully manage impressions of themselves that are portrayed to others online, and in doing so can construct a best version of themselves.
One factor believed to influence this type of online self-presentation is a person’s level of self-esteem.
Drs Fullwood and Attrill-Smith, of the University’s Cyberpsychology Research Group conducted a study in which participants were assessed for their level of self-esteem and the relationship thereof to their chances of dating success online and offline.
Dr Fullwood said: “In a world in which many relationships now begin online, it is no wonder researchers aim to understand the whys and wherefores of online dating.
“Findings suggest that regardless of one’s self-esteem, individuals may generally overestimate their chances of success in online dating comparative to an offline equivalent context.”
Participants were allocated to either an online or an offline dating group and were asked to imagine that they were single and looking for a relationship.
Those in the online condition were presented with photographs of potential dates and instructed to imagine that they had just joined an online dating site and were considering the online daters for the possibility of a date. Offline participants were also presented with the same sequence of photographs and asked to imagine that these were of individuals they had met on a night out. All 127 participants were instructed to rate the photographs for two things: how attractive they thought the person in the photograph would find them and how likely the person in the photograph would be to go on a date with them.
The results showed that dating location (online or offline) affected perceived levels of success but not attractiveness ratings. Moreover, the online group reported that they thought that online dating would lead to more success than offline dating, regardless of participants’ level of self-esteem.
Participants who had higher self-esteem thought the people in the photographs they viewed would rate them as more attractive compared with those in the low self-esteem group regardless of dating location (offline v online).
Dr Attrill-Smith added: “These findings offer an important insight into how and why people construct versions of themselves online that may or may not be in line with their real selves or versions of their offline self.”
Further information about the University's MSc Cyberpsychology course.
Date issued: Monday, 14 May 2018