When Online Dating Partners Meet Offline: The Effect of Modality Switching on Relational Communication between Online Daters

When Online Dating Partners Meet Offline: The Effect of Modality Switching on Relational Communication between Online Daters

Artemio Ramirez, Erin M. (Bryant) Sumner, Christina Fleuriet, Megan Cole, When Online Dating Partners Meet Offline: The Effect of Modality Switching on Relational Communication between Online Daters, Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, Volume 20, Issue 1, , Pages 99–114,

Abstract

Despite the popularity of online dating sites, little is known about what occurs when online dating partners choose to communicate offline. Drawing upon the modality switching perspective, the present study assessed a national sample of online daters to determine whether face-to-face (FtF) relational outcomes could be predicted by the amount of online communication prior to the initial FtF meeting. Results were consistent with the hypothesized curvilinear relationship between the amount of online communication and perceptions of relational messages (intimacy, composure, informality, social orientation), forecasts of the future of the relationship, and information seeking http://besthookupwebsites.org/local-hookup/norwich/ behavior when meeting their partner FtF. The results provide support for the modality switching perspective, and offer important insight for online daters.

Once stigmatized as rife with deception and desperation, online dating services such as have become popular venues for adults to meet potential romantic partners. Data from the PEW Internet and Daily Live project reveals that 11% of online adults, and 74% of single adults seeking romantic relationships have used an online dating service ( Madden & Lenhart, 2006). As of , Match reports that one in five new relationships, and one in six new marriages occur between partners who met using an online dating service. Given its prevalence, researchers are attempting to understand how online dating differs from traditional processes of romantic relationship formation (for a review, see Finkel, Eastwick, Karney, Reis, & Sprecher, 2012). Most research has conceptualized online dating using the frameworks of self-presentation ( Ellison, Heino, & Gibbs, 2006; Ellison, Hancock, & Toma, 2011; Whitty, 2008), or self-disclosure/uncertainty reduction ( Gibbs, Ellison, & Lai, 2011). This literature provides excellent understanding of the various factors related to impression management and deception/honesty in online dating, yet it is limited to the scope of profile construction and interpretation. Little is known regarding what occurs once partners choose to meet each other in person.

Online dating sites foster initial communication between potential romantic partners. Once initial contact has been established, partners must determine whether to pursue other forms of communication outside of the dating site. Although some online daters engage in a drawn out process of mediated courtship, most prefer to meet potential partners face-to-face (FtF) relatively quickly after the initial communication. Indeed, 65% of online daters in Whitty and Carr’s ( 2006) study reported arranging FtF meetings within one week of their initial online encounter. This meeting is important because it provides additional cues that could either enhance or diminish online daters’ perceptions of each other ( Finkel et al., 2012), and therefore helps daters assess their offline romantic relationship potential ( Whitty, 2008). It remains unknown, however, whether various factors pertinent to the online relationship (e.g., amount of online interaction) influence the relational communication that occurs once partners meet FtF.

The process of transitioning from online communication to offline interaction has been examined under the label of modality switching (MS) ( Ramirez & Zhang, 2007; Ramirez & Wang, 2008). The modality switching perspective suggests that online partners who meet offline might experience different outcomes depending upon the amount of time and online communication preceding the initial FtF meeting. Research reveals that MS leads to reduced uncertainty and more positive outcomes within short-term online partnerships, yet often provokes uncertainty and more negative outcomes by violating the expectations of long-term online partners ( Ramirez & Zhang, 2007; Ramirez & Wang, 2008). This perspective has been tested almost exclusively in the context of experimental partnerships, yet it should provide a useful lens for examining the context of online daters who switch modalities by meeting offline.

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