In these days you get more and more overwhelmed with commercials for online dating on German television, from “neu.de” to “parship.de” to “elitepartner.de”. And although I would never try and find a partner through such a service, three quarters of my own relationships developed – at least partially – via the Internet. But by what criteria do you choose a potential partner when all you get to see of him is only a name and maybe a few details and a photo? Can you make an informed decision at all as to whether a person is suitable for you or not?
A little anecdote: More than a decade ago, I went into the “Internet room” of our school with a classmate, where we logged into a major German chat site using our normal pre‑/nicknames. After fifteen minutes of unsuccessful attempts to make contact and get into the conversation, I said to my friend: “Okay, this apparently doesn’t work. Let’s log in again, but this time I call myself ‘Hashgirl’, and you go by ‘Vodkagirl’.”
No sooner said than done – and suddenly we were swamped by a wave of greetings, age and private room requests. By simply changing our names to something that sounded a little vicious and suggested femaleness, we had grown from two boring girls to exciting and much sought-after online hussies – although in reality there were still the same two sixteen year old teenagers sitting there as before.
When you meet somebody in a “conventional” manner, the subconscious decides in a split second whether the other person is physically, socially and intellectually compatible. Online, however, you can’t really evaluate two of these three criteria: Your opposite might only show photographs of his “best side” or even edit them with Photoshop, and you can also lie or wrap yourself in silence about your social status.
Only the intellectual level can’t be hidden so easily when chatting. A man who manages to place ten spelling and grammatical errors in three sentences may look as good as can be – to me it’s clear that I would never be able to be with this person over a longer period of time. Other people, however, would probably have very different priorities. To them it is perhaps more important that the prospective partner is handsome and financially independent, while they are rather less interested in his/her intelligence.
The “Oxford Internet Institute” of the University of Oxford has published a study about online dating, which is devoted to precisely these questions: What role does the Internet play in becoming acquainted, and what criteria are really important to us when we choose a (potential) partner online? And what is it like once you are together: Is chatting with strangers looked upon as a kind of “cheating” then? And do couples still communicate with each other online, for example to settle a quarrel?
I particularly like the slideshow in PDF format which is linked further down the page and contains some very interesting statistics.
What about you? Have you ever found a partner online? Tell me about your experiences!