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To browse Academia. Skip to main content. You're using an out-of-date version of Internet Explorer. Log In Sign Up. Relationshopping: Investigating the market metaphor in online dating Journal of Social and Personal …, Jennifer Gibbs. Relationshopping: Investigating the market metaphor in online dating.
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But instead of becoming happy customers, down the romantic-relationship-road, two people become happily committed to one another. Before you can make any changes to your relationship status on Facebook, you need to do some searching to find that special lady friend or man friend. In this stage, maybe you scope out some candidates on OKCupid or maybe you agree to go on a friend-recommended blind date.
Candidates typically emerge using an online- and offline-research combo. Creating blog posts, guides, videos, ebooks, and other content related to what prospects are searching for makes it easy for potential candidates to cyber-stalk, i. Brands and people show their true colors eventually, so you might as well be transparent up front. Once research helps narrow down your options, you might find yourself in the next stage of the dating cycle Dates are gone on.
We explore the implications of this metaphor for romantic rela- tionship development, such as the objectification of potential partners. Reprints and permissions: sagepub. DOI: An earlier version of this paper was presented at the International Communication Association, All correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Rebecca D.
Larry Erbert was the Action Editor on this article. What conceptual frameworks do individuals draw upon in order to make sense of this communication environment? It becomes much more clinical and youre already looking at quantitative aspects age, occupation and everything else.
Youre constantly evaluating as opposed to meeting someone and not knowing anything about them but knowing theres already a spark.
Max, Los Angeles. The consequences of this type of filtering, enabled by the search functionality of the website, included the tendency to shop for people with the perfect qualifications.
As Max continued to explain, the online dating environment fostered a sort of shopping cart mentality in terms of this one yes, this one no. You know, Ill take her, her, her like out of a catalog. Many participants appreciated being able to screen potential partners by specifying the qualities they wanted in a partner: To me, [online dating is] like picking out the perfect parts for my machine where I can get exactly what I want and nothing I dont want, and I can read all about it before I buy.
I think, What do I want? Well, Im looking for this, and I want this but not this. And you can weed through a lot of stuff right away.
Frank, Bay Area. This metaphorical language, comparing dating to picking out the perfect parts for a machine, illustrated the market mentality: the ability to shop and choose exactly what the participants wanted and did not want.
Relationshopping- Investigating the Market Metaphor in Online Dating
Many participants also saw this type of partner shopping as a good way to increase the odds of a long-term relationship because it allowed them to target individuals with certain characteristics and to avoid those with Downloaded from spr. For instance, a man who hated smoking could easily filter out smokers, or a woman who did not want children could search for men who felt the same way. For one participant, the fact that chemistry or physical attraction did not enter into the equation until other types of information were revealed was positive, because it allowed her to focus on meeting someone with shared interests as opposed to just physical compatibility: This way helped me get to know somebody first.
Thats why I got divorced in the first place, for no reason other than we were mismatched. We had no similar interests. Thats why I really want to get to know somebody and who they really are first, before I meet them.
Courtney, Bay Area.
Her use of online dating was a strategic choice to reprioritize the factors that she used to select potential romantic partners. In her case, removing the magic, or physical connection, from the equation allowed her to prescreen the pool for those individuals with a better chance of a successful long-term relationship.
Maximizing inventory: Playing the numbers game The availability of a large pool of people, which one participant referred to as greater inventory, as well as the ability to search for specific characteristics, made online dating feel like an effective and efficient option for many because it seemed to increase their chances of meeting a potential partner simply because they were exposed to so many individuals.
As one male participant rhetorically asked, Where else can you go in a matter of 20 minutes, look at women who are single and want to go on dates? Marcia, another participant, emphasized efficiency: You can do it any time, night or day. It helps you filter people without spending a lot of time, which we dont have.Metaphor Social House - Nigerian Restaurant in Lagos (vlog) -- LAGOS, NIGERIA
This increased inventory may have encouraged the perception that online dating was a numbers game in which one just had to meet enough people in order to find the perfect romantic partner. Because her search was so specific, she appreciated that online dating allowed her to quickly identify those particular users. So, this increased supply of available prospects may have encouraged the belief that success was purely a result of applying sufficient effort and meeting enough people adopting a type of sales approach.
One woman recounted advice a computer salesperson gave to another online dater: The example he used was, out of phone calls there might be 20 potential prospects, and meeting with them there might be three or four sales out of that Its a trial and error thing, its a numbers game.
He said to her, Youve got to meet guys! Out of guys, theres bound to be a few. And she met them and went on a lot of first dates and finally met somebody. So maybe it is a numbers game. Jennifer, Los Angeles. Jennifers quote exemplifies this strategy of viewing online dating as a numbers game and attempting to go out on as many dates as possible in order to maximize ones inventory and thus ones chances of finding the right dating partner.
This strategy also invokes the language of financial markets, in that dating a number of people was perceived as a way of hedging ones bets to avert risk and secure a good future, in case one date or investment did not work out. Calibrating selectivity We explored whether the characteristics of online dating that highlight the marketplace metaphor namely, the increased supply of potential partners and the heightened sense of ones own desirability changed the way in which online daters made decisions compared to the decision-making process employed in traditional dating.
In other words, were participants more or less selective online? A few individuals described the ways in which increased exposure to a variety of people some of whom they would not have considered initially led them to be more open-minded. However, for the majority, the increased supply encouraged them to try to process many profiles in as short a time as possible, causing them to discard those who did not match their criteria after only a cursory assessment of a few factors; in other words, to look for reasons to filter people out, rather than in.
According to participants, there did seem to be a relationship between the assessment of ones desirability and the degree to which they could be discerning in their assessment of others. One of the two participants who said that online dating experiences had lowered their self-esteem said she became less picky over time. She said I dont pick the models because I know that they wont pick me.
So I pick the Joe averages. Another man mentioned that as he aged and his online response rate suffered, he broadened his age and weight criteria for potential dates. Similarly, in the online dating setting, participants made assessments of their own level of desirability and that of others, and then performed mental calculations as to whether the match was equitable or not: I like a guy who can express himself in writing, but at the same time it kind of intimidates me.
So if its really good and Im blown away by how they write, I probably get intimidated and dont respond. If its kind of good, but doesnt necessarily blow me away, Im more likely to be interested and contact them. Just like if I were at a bar and I saw a really handsome guy, it would probably be the same. Marisa, Los Angeles. While Marisas quote reveals a focus on finding someone of equitable desirability, others often women who were inundated with e-mails could afford to be discerning and only respond to those they were interested in.
The systems rapid feedback gave users the opportunity to precisely calibrate their level of selectivity, based on the supply of potential partners and their own perceived desirability. In this market, participants came to understand their own desirability in regards to various considerations made more explicit by the number and types of responses received. Resisting the market metaphor A final set of strategies focused on resisting the market metaphor.
While many viewed the metaphor of the marketplace as a benefit, others evoked the metaphor in a way that resisted its implications or focused on its negative consequences. These included eliminating potentially good matches, losing the magic of meeting someone face-to-face, creating an expectation of more results with less effort, and encouraging quick decision making on surface-level characteristics. First, filtering on demographics meant that some individuals would be eliminated based on arbitrary criteria.
When potential dating partners first meet one another in a traditional setting such as a bar, specific attributes such as exact age are not readily apparent. However, in the online dating environment, individuals chose somewhat arbitrary cut-offs as their search criteria and acknowledged that this might preclude opportunities to meet potential good matches.
Another perceived disadvantage of the exchange nature of online dating was the loss of excitement or magic of the face-to-face meeting.
Dating market metaphor
Filtering through thousands of profiles seemed more calculated and clinical: You go through. And hey, we all want to meet somebody extraordinary but you know youve got to discover whats extraordinary about people and its usually not on a list. And then you try to figure out how do I possibly bring some magic back into this? Jose, Los Angeles. Joses metaphor invokes the notion that relationship compatibility involves magic rather than quantifiable lists of attributes.
This suggests that something critical may be missing from the market metaphor, which emphasizes the transactional nature of relationship formation while obscuring the more ineffable elements of romance and shared chemistry.
In this manuscript we explore the ways in which the marketplace metaphor resonates with online dating participants and how this conceptual. inbound-marketing-is-like-dating-four-stages-of- To make this analogy more concrete, let's explore how a budding romantic relationship.
Third, the market perspective might also breed the expectation of getting more with less effort: I think, again, with the exposure to a greater number of people its very effective. But the downside of it is, I think, that the expectations are very much of a consumer that sort of instant karma expectation, expecting a connection with less effort.
David, Los Angeles. David acknowledged this consumer aspect of online dating may have encouraged the belief that a great relationship could be had just by discovering the right profile, rather than cultivated through hard work and effort.
A fourth perceived disadvantage of the shopping mentality was that it encouraged participants to make judgments more quickly when reviewing profiles than in traditional settings.
Quantitative elements of the profile e. A female participant said she refused to practice what she called meat market shopping, a term that highlighted the crassness of the marketplace approach to online dating. This process of quickly assessing others based on these. Given the increased supply or pool of people available to date, participants found quick ways to eliminate people, or as one member said, it encouraged a find my flaw mentality.
Relationshopping: Investigating the market metaphor in online dating
Another participant explained: [Online dating and traditional dating are] very similar in a lot of ways, but where its different, I think, is the supermarket mentality from what Ive seen that people make instant decisions based on that one thing. They click through profiles very quickly, I think. Theres probably too much choice. They dont take the time to consider the sort of detailed profiles, perhaps. These were all ways in which participants resisted the market metaphor by critiquing it or mentioning its potential negative consequences.
Discussion This manuscript explores the ways in which the marketplace metaphor resonated with online dating participants in initial relationship formation. Taking a metaphor approach contributes to the online dating research by highlighting the ways in which the language used by participants shapes their experiences and interactions with potential partners as well as their own self-worth.
The marketplace metaphor influenced their communication strategies and behavior: they described accounting for others exaggerated rsum-like profiles, assessing their own value based on explicit feedback, adopting a shopping mentality and choosing features as if out of a catalog, and referred to the process of finding a partner as a numbers game.
In addition, participants adjusted their level of selectivity based on their own perceived desirability and the increased supply of available others. Although there was a tendency to view dating through this market lens, some actively resisted the metaphor and its implications. These strategies, whether conscious or unconscious, aimed to attract the best possible match. Exploring the marketplace metaphor in the online dating context offers insight into relationship formation and assessment because it highlights acceptance of, or resistance to, the social exchange nature of relationship decision making.
Considerable research has investigated the exchange nature of relationships described in theories of interpersonal behavior and decision making Becker, ; Roloff, ; Sprecher, For example, interpersonal theories, such as the Social Exchange approach, rely on an economic framework e.
These theories presume that individuals will choose to enter a relationship with others who can, and are willing to, provide resources they need in exchange for their own resources. Yet, these theories have been heavily critiqued because of their focus on rational choice Heath,their tendency to reduce relationships to economic exchange Zafirovski,and the weaker than expected connection between equity and longterm relationship satisfaction Sprecher, While the above approaches have been critiqued as too reductionistic, our analysis suggests that adopting a metaphorical marketplace orientation towards online dating activities serves to highlight how participants view the exchange nature of relationship initiation and development.
This perspective influenced both their overall orientation towards the online dating process and the strategies they claim to use within it. Participants orientation towards online dating as a metaphorical marketplace may reflect the structure of the online dating site, which includes long lists of demographic and other characteristics and sophisticated search functionality.
PDF | In this manuscript we explore the ways in which the marketplace metaphor resonates with online dating participants and how this. View Notes - Online dating from BIG COURSE SII at University of Toronto. Online dating Market metaphor- one of the best market model Market changes the. In this manuscript we explore the ways in which the marketplace metaphor resonates with online dating participants and how this conceptual framework.
The filtering process emphasizes discrete aspects of individuals, rather than as typically occurs in a face-to-face setting a more holistic assessment. This affects decision making, because individuals are focusing on self-reported demographics and descriptions such as age, height, or income rather than social interaction or chemistry.
Because these sites make personal characteristics more explicit, they may facilitate reductionist and one-dimensional decision making. Some of our participants felt that the online dating setting encouraged a more calculated and consumerist perspective towards mate selection by enabling individuals to systematically select and deselect checkboxes regarding their preferences. In online dating, these preferences are more explicit, privileging those characteristics that are discrete and quantifiable.
Online dating researchers point out that the design of online dating services may influence the beliefs of their users as to what is important; as Fiore and Donath argue, the features of a person that Match.
Finally, the process of marketing themselves through the online dating site affected how individuals viewed their own desirability. The functionality of these sites typically provides individuals with a quantifiable assessment of the demand for their product via the number of hits on their profile and e-mails received. Interestingly, when participants assessed their own desirability, most felt their positive self-concept was either reinforced or. This highlights the role of communication in constructing self-image and worth.
Participants reported feeling better about themselves as a result of their ongoing efforts to market and sell themselves to potential dating partners and the level of response to such efforts. A powerful market metaphor pervades both the design of online dating sites and the conceptual metaphorical framework that participants adopt when they consider these sites and their role in them.
The analysis reveals the explanatory power of the market metaphor and suggests several implications for theory and practice.
First, it may encourage an attitude in which both oneself, and others, are commodified as products to be sold, assessed, purchased, or discarded. This cavalier attitude towards discarding others once a flaw is discovered may carry over to relationship behaviors even after the initial phases. For instance, other research has noted that online dating participants may not see themselves as accountable to others because there is not an integrated social environment e.
Such a view regards relationships as transactions based on matching discrete pre-existing traits and characteristics, while downplaying the less-tangible emotional and chemistry-based aspects that go into making a romantic connection and the subsequent interaction required to build a relationship. Second, an important implication of the notion that online dating is a numbers game, with its emphasis on locating the perfect product as opposed to the relationship-building process, is that it encourages relationshopping looking for a perfect materather than Ducks notion of relationshipping building a successful relationship through communicative interaction.
Online dating sites present a portal or market for people to meet, but for the most part leave the rest of the relationship development to be worked out in subsequent face-to-face communication. This can privilege certain qualities over others and perhaps encourage a nave sense that finding the right match will result in a successful relationship with little effort. The market metaphor, as well as the structure of the online dating site itself, may focus attention on determining the best formula i.
Perhaps in light of this, some online dating sites now offer personality tests, academic research, and expert advice to help match people Gottlieb, Online dating participants tread a fine line between embracing the marketplace metaphor and denying it.
They seek to benefit from the positive aspects of this mode of meeting others, such as the choice it entails and the ability to proactively specify a combination of traits while shopping. However, our participants also mentioned negative connotations to the. These negative aspects include the commodification of relationships and people, which devalues the uniqueness of individual actors and encourages a more clinical approach to finding a mate.
In addition, participants spoke about the lack of magic in getting to know one another and experiencing a kind of buyers remorse when they discovered people who were not what they appeared to be.
In one study of mediated dating, the prevalence of market metaphors was met with resistance. Ahuvia and Adelman found that the perceived sacredness or uniqueness of a love relationship was challenged by the idea of people as exchangeable, and therefore less unique, commodities.
As they write, This commoditization of love and dehumanization of people accounts for much of the discomfort that many people feel with this consumerist imagery p. Although some resistance to the metaphor was voiced, the salience and predominant acceptance of this market metaphor in our study has implications for interpersonal relationship initiation as it calls into question what types of relationships are being privileged by online dating.
The market model depends on a certain faith in rational actors, ones who can assess their worth, their offerings, and their partners desirable qualities. Yet, it is difficult to see how such a view is sustainable in the context of desire and dating, in which compatibility may be less a rational equation and more an unpredictable elixir of non-rational factors, such as chemistry and emotion.
Given this, it is possible that the market values are an attempt to rationally control desire in ways that are likely to set users up for frustration when these expectations do not lead to success as easily as expected.
Although we did not examine success rates in this study, this would be an interesting topic for future research. Our findings have practical implications as well. Given the negative implications of the market metaphor for relationship formation, designers of online dating sites may want to reconsider site designs that privilege demographic criteria in favor of more holistic descriptions. Sites may also expand on their services to help users succeed in online dating by counseling them not just about how to write profiles and initiate relationships, but how to develop relationships as well.
Online dating users may also want to consider the implications of various online dating models Match. Future research on metaphors in online dating should explore potential gender differences between the use of language, and therefore conception, of relationship formation. For example, do males feel more comfortable with this market metaphor language and evoke it more often?
Another area of research to explore is differences in language use between those who are window shopping, or just browsing, versus those that are actually looking for offline relationships. Also, further research could explore the difference between traits or qualities participants feel they can judge through CMC and those that they need to assess face-to-face.
This could help individuals understand the benefits of online dating without underestimating the effort of building a successful relationship once they meet a. Finally, research should explore if metaphors change as a relationship moves from initiation to development in online dating.
Alternate metaphors could affect behavior in the later stages of relationship development. This study has several limitations. Our findings are confined to the initial relationship formation stage; we do not know whether market metaphors will continue to be salient or whether, as suggested by Ahuvia and Adelmanthey will be replaced by new metaphors as participants form relationships. A second limitation is that qualitative data are not generalizable to other populations or contexts; our goal is not statistical generalizing but analytic generalizing, in which theoretical propositions and insights can then be applied to other research settings and situations Yin, A final limitation is that these findings are restricted to online dating models in which individuals create their own profiles and make their own decisions about whom to pursue such as Jdate.
Other online dating models such as eHarmony. Overall, the marketplace metaphor provides insight into the ways in which participants make assessments and decisions about relationship initiation within a specific CMC environment. The technical affordances of the online dating context filtering functionality, access to an increased supply of potential mates, and detailed demographic information about others influence how individuals use language, specifically market metaphors, to describe the process.
This use of a market metaphor may influence how individuals perceive relationship initiation online, resulting in specific strategies for assessing and interacting with others and assessing ones own desirability in this relationship marketplace. The marketplace metaphor resonated strongly with our participants, offering hope for more opportunities to find a relationship match, yet posing potentially problematic implications for relationship development through a focus on the numbers game of efficiency rather than communication skills for relationship development.
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