Online dating has become so popular worldwide now, academic smarty-pants types from around the globe are finding computer dating sites a fertile ground for research into Internet communication, as reported by Lucy Tobin of The Guardian (www.guardian.co.uk).
While Britain’s lecturers and professors have probably been joining the likes of eHarmony and Match.com for years, now they are analysing their contents. Dr Jeff Gavin, a psychology lecturer at the University of Bath has researched the social science behind the sites.
His study centres on computer-mediated communication (CMC) – how we talk and relate to people through computers and the Internet. “A lot of theories of CMC begin with the premise that online communication – especially when it’s text-based, like email or chat – is missing important social cues,” Gavin explains.
“But theorists have recently highlighted the fact that people have developed lots of different ways to overcome the limitations of CMC, using other cues to gain information; for example, thinking about people’s email addresses, spelling, and how quickly, and when, they respond to messages. We also tend to ask more questions online, and give more intimate answers, than when communicating face-to-face. So we make up for the ‘missing’ information like facial expressions.”
Gavin wanted to find out more about how people develop relationships online, so he decided to compare the experiences of members of UK and Japanese online dating sites. The two cultures presented interesting contrasts because in Japan, he says, social context plays a much bigger role in communication. “Japanese people tend to express themselves more with implicit things like body language, and silence, and social cues. Being too explicit or upfront can actually lead to negative impressions. By contrast, communication in the west is more dependent on content – we express ourselves explicitly through what we say. Around the world, online dating is based on the western model of communicating, so I wanted to explore how Japanese daters overcome that,” he explains.
You can read the full article here if you can read/understand the Queen’s English and/or have your CMC hat on.