Academic journal article Polish Sociological Review

Aging Adults about Online Dating: "I Am Back on the Relationship Market!"

Academic journal article Polish Sociological Review

Aging Adults about Online Dating: "I Am Back on the Relationship Market!"

Article excerpt

Introduction

In the last twenty years, the Internet has created new spaces for developing relationships. Among them are various online dating sites that emphasize self-directed partner searches or rely on scientific algorithms for partner selection. They target a wide audience or aim at particular subgroups (e.g., religiously affiliated sites), and they may charge users to participate or can be free of charge (Finkel et al. 2012; Kreager et al. 2014). Internet dating is defined as a purposeful form of meeting new people through specifically designed internet sites (Barraket, Henry-Waring 2008). This definition distinguishes online dating from other online communication forms, such as e-mail, chat room, multi-user domains, etc., where friendships or relationships emerge mainly as by-products (Wang 2015). Online dating is also distinguished from earlier forms of mediated match-making, such as personal advertisements in newspapers and magazines, in providing larger user-based and more sophisticated self-presentation options (Ellison et al. 2006).

Online dating has today become a common and in some contexts even dominant, practice for seeking romantic partners (Sautter et al. 2010; Hogan et al. 2011; Rosenfeld, Thomas 2012; Manning 2014; Zakelj 2012). Data on the number of people who have created profiles on Slovenian online dating sites also shows the great popularity of online dating in Slovenia. In March 2016, the dating site Ona-on.com recorded the largest num- ber of online daters in Slovenia, with 160,500 profiles, which is a substantial number for a post-socialist country with little more than two million inhabitants.

The majority of studies on online dating have focused on young and middle-aged adults (e.g., Valkenburg , Peter 2007; Barraket, Henry-Waring 2008; Whitty 2008), and only a few studies on older adults (Malta, Farquharson 2014; McWilliams, Barrett 2014), although the dynamics of romance in later life differ from romance among young and middle-aged adults (e.g., Bulcroft, Bulcroft 1991; Malta, Farquharson 2014). The phenomenon of aging populations and the increasing popularity of online dating thus point to the importance of examining aging adults' involvement in online dating (McWilliams, Barrett 2014). It is particularly important to analyze how people who lived the majority of their lives under socialism internalized the principles of the market economy and new technology. Since existing studies have neglected to examine how older adults who lived the majority of their lives under socialism perceived online dating, the present study tries to fill this research gap by using semi-structured interviews with 38 persons of heterosexual orientation between the ages 63 and 77 who are seeking casual or committed sexual and romantic relationships.

First, we create a theoretical background for understanding online dating. Next, we explain our methodologies. In the last part, we analyze our data and offer discussion and conclusions.

Theoretical Background

Older adults constitute the group recording the greatest increase in Internet usage in the past decade; however, usage varies greatly within this population. The presence of a computer at home, a job requiring computer use, age and education are important factors in predicting Internet use among older adults (Chang et al. 2015). Internet use has been most prevalent among young old adults (aged between 60 and 69), and Internet use rates drop significantly with increasing age (e.g., Erjavec 2014; Chang et al. 2015). This might be due to age-related changes in cognition, physical, and perceptual abilities, including changes in cognitive processing speed, reducing ability to allocate attention efficiently, decreasing visual acuity, and decreasing motor skills, which have not been taken into account in most hardware and software design (e.g., Charness, Boot 2009; Chang et al. 2015). This disadvantage may also affect the underrepresentation of older groups among online daters. …

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