The Social Discourse of Online Dating, Essay Example

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Essay

The advances in so-called “social networking” have shown themselves to demarcate a radical revolution in terms of how social groups communicate. Namely, various social discourses, confined to spaces such as that of the political, the family, the workplace, etc. have now been further transfigured by the shift of such discursive space to the realm of cyberspace. As a corollary of this movement, previously existing forms of communication have also undergone a transformation, as in the case of “matchmaking” and “dating services.” In the pre-Internet era, such forms of communication existed in a different form: perhaps such explicit aims would be realized, according to the framework of cultural reference, to the paradigm of the “singles bar”, or in non-occidental cultures, according to the framework of the arranged marriage. The Internet, and sites such as www.okcupid.com and www.matchmaker.com , has made the possibility of finding a partner complicit with technological advancements. Such sites allow the individual to specifically state their biographical information, and thus find a partner that, in some way, corresponds such data. Nevertheless, the question remains as to whether such a manifestation of “partnering” in the sphere of the Internet demarcates a radical shift, or is rather merely indicative of a basic human need that is then adapted to a particular technological context, i.e., the Internet and the facility with which it allows communication. When personally researching such Internet matchmaking sites, it is immediately apparent that the aim is to facilitate the process of finding a “partner”; the particular technological paradigm of the Internet and the particular sites that function in this area seem to be adept to the task, insofar as such matchmaking occurs through a process of elimination. Instead of being subject to the contingent situations of finding a partner, the Internet and particular matchmaking services demarcate a means with which such contingency is minimized, in order to meet the desired match. However, perhaps such an elimination of contingency is merely a product of contemporary social discourses such as capitalism, such that they destroy what is most fundamental about love and partnership: the contingency of meeting someone, irrespective of one’s own history.

Such a hypothesis becomes apparent when one begins to investigate the various Internet matchmaking services. For example, aforementioned sites such as www.okcupid.com and www.matchmakter.com provide a framework in which the participant discloses, in an acute fashion, their biography, with the intent of finding possible partners that best fit the entered profile. These delineations are based upon the personal preferences of the subscriber, such as education, particular interests, linguistic capabilities, sexual preference, and geographic location. At the same time, in the case of these particular sites, such profiles remain fundamentally open. This allows one to potentially contact an individual who does not fit one’s specified profile through the sheer contingency of searching through the site’s archived databases.

Sites such as www.okcupid.com and www.matchmaker.com seem to be geared towards using contemporary social-networking technology in order to minimize the difficulty in finding a partner, and thus answering a fundamental human need. Accordingly, a new form of social discourse is introduced, as finding a partner now becomes a task that is modified according to the contemporary technological paradigm, whereas such an activity has arguably always been a part of any social structure. However, such a transposition of “matchmaking” to the Internet may be viewed as a result of changes induced by capitalist discourse, whereby marriage is re-construed as a “marriage market.” According to Lamanna and Liedman, the “marriage market” is a paradigm in which “people choose marriage partners in…the same way: They enter the marriage market armed with resources – their…personal and social characteristics – and then they bargain for the best “buy” they can get.” (211) Internet matchmaking sites such as the aforementioned seem to follow the conceptual logic of the marriage market: the individual enters his or her social “capital” into the website, and then seeks to find an equivalent match. In this regard, such sites appear to be not only an extension of technological capability, but also an extension of capitalist discourse, whereby one presents one’s “positive qualities” in order to find a suitable match.

For this reason, I personally would not enter such a website, not because it fails to answer the fundamental human need of finding a partner, but rather because these websites follow the logic of capitalist discourse. The social discourse of Internet matchmaking appears to be one – according to sites such as www.okcupid.com and www.matchmaker.com, – in which the individual basically joins the “market”, attempting to sell one’s own perceived positive qualities. This eliminates precisely the contingent quality of the romantic encounter and the romantic life, whereby the context of a world may be changed in an instant, irrespective of the individual’s accumulated “capital.” It is precisely such a contingency which these dating sites attempt to destroy, whereas perhaps this very quality is fundamental to love: the possibility that one’s world may undergo a radical shift with the encounter of another, regardless of either’s history.

Works Cited

Lamanna, Mary Ann and Riedmann, Agnes, Marriages & Families: Making Choices in a Diverse Society. Belmont, CA: Thomson Higher Education, 2009.

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