Global Shift in the Social Relationships of Networked Individuals: Meeting and Dating Online Comes of Age
While online social contact can be traced back to the 1980s, online dating began to gain more prominence — and participants — around 1997, according to a 2011 study by the Oxford Internet Institute. The incorporation of Web 2.0 interactive technologies and database support helped online dating to steadily expand: Before 1997, only 6% of singles searched for potential companions online; after 1997, 30% of singles did.
The 2011 study, “A Global Shift in the Social Relationships of Networked Individuals: Meeting and Dating Online Comes of Age,” analyzes online survey data from cohabitating couples who use the Internet living across Europe, Asia and South America. The survey focused on how the couples met, how they communicate with each other, and the role of the Internet in their daily lives.
Key study findings include:
- Overall, online dating is more prevalent among people 40 and over (36% found their current partner online) than it is among people below 40 (23% percent started a relationship through the Internet).
- Individuals seek out relationships through a combination of offline and online networks, which suggests that online tools are a complement, rather than a substitute, to traditional dating methods and practices. Despite the increased use of online dating sites, the most popular strategies for pursuing a partner since the onset of online dating in 1997 continue to be clubs and bars (69%), referrals from friends (67%), public spaces (49%), family (32%) and extracurricular activities (27%).
- Online dating behaviors vary according to gender preferences: 28% of straight women, 36% of lesbians, 30% of straight men and 39% percent of gay men in the survey searched for partners online.
- Germany (29.0%), Sweden (28.3%) and Denmark (26.1%) have the highest percentages of relationships that started online; Greece (15.5%), Ireland (15.7%) and Italy (16.1%) have the lowest. 83% of Brazilians claimed to have met someone offline that they initially befriended online; only 31.85% of Japanese have made the same relational transition.
- “There are discernible differences cross-nationally, and across regions, in terms of dating practices, online behaviors, and Internet use. Respondents in Japan, which is known for high technology adoption, are more reluctant to embrace online dating, whereas in Brazil, which is often seen as a site of gregarious public spaces, people tend to be more comfortable with meeting people online.”
The authors conclude that “it is clear that meeting others online either for friendship or romantic purposes is now a common, and in some contexts dominant, practice…. This means it is worth changing the topic from ‘why or how’ are people meeting online to how sites are structured and designed to encourage or discourage certain kinds of meeting and matching.”
Tags: technology, Facebook, Europe, Asia, telecommunications
Note to instructor: The suggested assignments are designed for flexibility. They can be used in whole or part and can be adapted to a particular task -- for example, the newswriting assignments could be applied to the writing of the headline, the lead, the nut graph or the full story. Material from the assignments could also be combined with other material, for example, in the writing of a background, feature or local-angle story.
Read the University of Oxford study titled "Global Shift in the Social Relationships of Networked Individuals: Meeting and Dating Online Comes of Age" (PDF).
- Summarize the study in fewer than 40 words.
- Express the study's key term(s) in language a lay audience can understand.
- Evaluate the study's limitations. (For example: Do the results conflict with those of other reliable studies? Are there weaknesses in the study's data or research design?)
Read the study-related Reuters article titled "Middle-aged most likely to seek love on the Web."
- Reporter's use of the study: Evaluate what the reporter chose to include and exclude from the study. Would the audience have acquired a clear understanding of the study's findings and limits from this article?
- Reporter's use of other material: Assess the material in the article that is not derived from the study. For example, does the reporter place the study in the context of other research and to what effect? Does the reporter include reactions to the study from other researchers or interested parties (e.g., political groups business leaders, or community members) and are their credentials or possible biases made clear?
- Write a lead (or headline or nut graph) based on the study.
- Spend 60 minutes exploring the issue by accessing sources of information other than the study. Write a lead (or headline or nut graph) based on the study but informed by the new information. Does the new information significantly change what one would write based on the study alone?
- Interview two sources with a stake in or knowledge of the issue. Be prepared to provide them with a short summary of the study in order to get their response to it. Write a 400-word article about the study incorporating material from the interviews.
- Spend additional time exploring the issue and then write a 1,200-word background article, focusing on major aspects of the issue.