Imagine sitting by an open fire, walking in the snow, or going on a romantic sleigh ride with someone special. If you dream of a scene like this, and you have put off using online dating in your pursuit of a relationship, here are 5 good psychological reasons why the Christmas season may be just the right time to start:
1. The Disinhibition of the Season
During the holiday season, we may be a little less inhibited than we are at other times of the year. For example, at the office party, we have an excuse to try to "steal a kiss under the mistletoe," and can usually do so with minimal embarrassment in the event that we get rebuffed. When communicating online or by text (at any time) we may be less inhibited about what we say to others, an effect John Suler calls the "online disinhibition effect." It occurs when people say things online that perhaps they would not say in a face-to-face context (Suler, 2004). Coupling the general Christmas disinhibition described above with the online disinhibition effect may work in our favor when pursuing online dating at this time of year, giving us or others that little extra courage we might need.
2. A Decrease in Self-Handicapping
We have all, at one time or another, decided in advance not to devote too much effort to something, just in case we fail—or made a task so difficult for ourselves that we were bound to fail. This is referred to as self-handicapping, and it serves to protect our self-esteem in the event of failure, because we can always attribute it to lack of effort or to task difficulty (Jones & Berglas, 1978). The strategy can be applied in a dating context as well, such as when we use cute or flippant pickup lines in a potentially self-sabotaging attempt to attract others (Kleinke, Meeker & Staneski, 1986). Kleinke et al. suggest that one reason people do this is for protection from embarrassment in the event that our line is rejected: We then blame our rejection on the line and not ourselves. When we are away from our workplace or usual everyday environment, as we often find ourselves over the holidays, we are likely to feel that we are not being monitored by others to the same extent. Accordingly, we are less likely to experience lowered self-esteem in the event of rejection—and therefore less likely to self-handicap. The result: If we feel better about ourselves and don’t self-handicap, we may be more successful at online dating during the season.
3. We Have More Time
Online dating isn't necessarily a quick fix—it does take time and effort to be successful. For example, Mitchell (2009) has found that online daters spend an average of 22 minutes each time they visit an online dating site. Further, Frost, Chance, Norton & Ariely (2008) observed that online daters spend 12 hours per week engaged in computer-based dating activity. During the holiday season, when we are at work less, we potentially have more time on our hands, allowing us to devote more time and effort to dating endeavors.
Also, online interaction is often asynchronous, meaning that we don't have to reply to messages immediately, unlike face-to-face communication where we get continuous feedback and therefore need to respond immediately to what has been said. The holiday season, then, should allow us more time to craft our messages, enabling us to consider our responses and carefully impression-manage what we say.
4. More People Take Up Online Dating at Christmas
Most dating sites report an increase in members, and a surge in messages, over the holiday period. All in all, dating sites are at their busiest between Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day in February. The fact that more people sign up over this period means you may be presented with a wider choice of potential dates. This abundance of choice may be confusing or even daunting, potentially resulting in imprudent choices being made, if you can manage your dating decisions carefully, this means that, mathematically at least, you may have a greater chance of finding a successful match.
5. This Is a Time for Reflection
Close to the end of the year, the holiday season is very much a time when we reflect on the previous year and what we might do differently in the year ahead. We may start to ruminate on why we don’t have a partner in our lives, or we even be interrogated by family members, intent on pairing us off, about why we are single. The fact that we don’t have a partner or date to kiss on New Year’s Eve may be just the motivation we need in order to log on and to start online dating.
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