The Digital Self

Exploring the complications, conveniences, and conflicts that technology presents in personal and professional relationships.

A History of the Digital Self: The Evolution of Online Dating

Can GPS help you find your soul mate?

SEX. Salt-N-Pepa encouraged us to talk about it and George Michael simply wanted it. In the early 90's AOL introduced chat rooms where people could manage to do both. People flocked to explore the newest way to flirt, fantasize, and play, cyber style. Quite expectedly, an entirely new format for socializing emerged. The possibilities for how it would impact our intimate lives and change the landscape of dating was soon to be seen. A social and sexual revolution was born.

In these early days before digital cameras were the rage and you could share photos online, "chat" was just that. People had to rely on words to paint the picture of who they were and what they wanted. With the internet, the dating pool was infinite and not bound by geography. You could talk about anything, with anyone, anywhere. Anonymity allowed people to be themselves or a creative version thereof. Chat rooms allowed people to take risks and be bold in the expression of their intimate selves. For some, online chatting never left the rooms, but others found the modality to be the conduit to meet people for offline encounters. No longer did people have to trek to a bar to meet someone, they were able to pick up people online, anytime!

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Once digital photography became accessible to the masses, we now could attach photos to our online profiles putting a face to a name. You could now offer people a visual of just about anything you wanted to share. People could now look first and (maybe) talk later.  A pixel was worth a thousand words! For those exploiting the fantasy and anonymity the internet provided, the visuals just added more disguises, creativity and deception to their play. I recall a friend who carried on a 3-month chat with a sexy, accomplished, neurosurgeon living abroad. With growing excitement, he thought she might "be the one."  If only he had recognized sooner that the picture of his soul mate was actually a sexy, accomplished telenovela star from Mexico.  Needless to say, his relationship with the "doctor" was short lived. Even though pictures may be used deceptively, this technological advancement could not be ignored and were critical in the development of "internet dating" websites.

Websites such as Match.com, eharmony, and Manhunt began to find their homes on the World Wide Web. Now, people could subscribe to dating websites, that match members based on everything from personality characteristics to sexual preferences. Partners and playmates were just a click away. Could it get any easier?

Of course it did.  Today, smart phones equipped with GPS and user friendly applications bring the power of online dating to you on the go. You see where this is going---

Chat + Pictures + Profiles + GPS = Grindr 

Created initially for gay and bisexual men, this application allows men who are logged in to meet other men by their exact location for an instant connection. Whether you are at the gym, in a restaurant, at a meeting or in church, you can get a visual on the man with real time information about his wants and desires. Their availability is obvious (and so is yours). Grindr practically eliminates the need to even introduce yourself because so much is already known.  For heterosexuals who want their love life tracked by GPS, Grindr for straight men and women is in development.

Technology allows us to let it all hang out and has made it undoubtedly very easy to use the internet to meet others, but what are some of the dilemmas Digital Daters face in this single bar called the internet?  Stay tuned....

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brett P. Kennedy, Psy.D., has a private practice in New York where he provides psychotherapy to adults and couples.

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