App culture has erupted in recent times particularly in the landscape of finding love and relationships. Due to the development of Web 2.0, millennials have moved out of their excluded and private space of the bedroom and onto Apps (Hodkinson, 2015, p. 1).
This conference paper explores the many research papers written by academics about social media networks and how they assist in finding love for young people in the new millennium which I will use to support my argument.
Keywords: social media, networks, relationships, apps, Millennials, youth, Tinder, love, identity
The development of the online dating app culture allows people, more specifically for this paper, Millennials, to present or enhance their identity differently compared to how they would offline. Millennials are also known as generation Y and are most commonly referred to being born from early 1980’s to early 2000’s. Thanks to Participatory culture, app developments and functions, the urge we have to be perceived in a positive and more attractive light has resulted in us wanting to display ourselves however we like. Because of the Web 2.0 developments, we have numerous ways to participate in new cultural practices and keep up with the new digital evolution. Issues of identity theft, authenticity and privacy issues will be the main discussion points for this conference paper. Many studies have been carried out to help support my argument that Social Networking dating apps, such as Tinder, have changed the way Millennials present their online identity.
Throughout this conference paper I will firstly attempt to discuss issues that arise from Millennials participating in the online dating app communities as they are the dominate users and consumers in online dating apps communities(Boyd, 2007 p.3).Secondly, I will investigate the risks Millennials take when presenting their true self online and participating in this activity and engaging in this behaviour.
This conference paper will be part of the Social Networks Conference Stream.
Dating Apps and Online Identity
Social media networks have no doubt changed the way we communicate and interact with people professionally and socially. Sharing content and interacting within the social media environment landscape has almost become like second nature to Millennials and youths within society (Hodkinson, 2015, p.3).
The My Space and Facebook social networking siteshere displaying relationships status amongst users all began. In 2005, Boyd (2007, p. 1) explains that these portals became shared destinations for young people to meet online to share relationship information and comments with other people in their online community.
These sites have the ability to connect people to form special relationships and the development of these sites became the significant shift in participatory culture. From here, it becomes apparent that the evolution of digital dating develops with the introduction of dating apps with ease of accessibility, such as apps available on your smartphone. Ease of accessibility is a key element for any digital online community to succeed. Although online dating has been around for years, the concept of dating apps such as Tinder and Bumble offers a different way to interact with potential love interests.
In regards to online desktop dating, for example, E Harmony or Match.com, users have access to further profile information about a potential date, compared to more current dating apps such as Tinder that allows users to judge from one photo and a name, then “swipe right”.
Social networks exist primarily around user profiles as this is the information accessed first and along with accessibility and ease of use these apps create Millennials have the ability to express themselves online in any way they like because they have the opportunity to create elaborate profiles to present their identity (Boyd, p. 6). However, as a result of this easy access and desire to feel a part of a community or wanting to feel loved or liked, we run the risk displaying false information and misrepresenting ourselves online.
Hodkinson (2015, p. 4) notes that social media technologies allow, very easily, participants to display a false character of the ‘always on’ self. This can run the risk of potential love interests bonding with someone who is not authentic or has an exaggerated profile, as this can lead to being perceived differently online with the information displayed in our profiles and might not be our true identity.
Boyd (2007, p. 10) supports this by noting social media sites offer a fixed display of identity in the online community world. In the case of dating apps, such as Tinder or Bumble, both differ slightly in offering, however they have the same general goal outcome, that is, to find love or a relationship. Millennials are instantly connected with people in the online dating community only by seeing limited pictures with a brief caption about themselves or their potential love interest and after matching with one another, they are free to indulge in a chat to then potentially meet offline, which can result in the shallow perception of the potential date that has consequences.
I argue here that because of the access to display our information on profiles in any way we choose, through text and picture selection, with no monitoring for authenticity or accuracy, Millennials have altered how they display their online identify and present themselves differently to what they would do so offline to be perceived as a more desirable match.
Previous research found by myself conducted on this topic was from Couch et al., (2012). In 2008 a study of approximately 29 participants, the majority falling within the Millennials’ bracket of age, all believed online dating was a risk in one way or another. Although 10 years since this study was created and dating apps such as Tinder and Bumble where yet to be created, their study summarised how young people felt and explained that there is always the possibility of emotions being tampered with when people choose to online date. Most participants from the study indicate that lies, dishonesty and false identity were shared concerns and were occurring with communication between different profiles trying to find love online. Situations such as people stating they were looking for love however only interested in sex, where actually married and in fact not single, deceitful about age or displaying pictures on their profiles that were not at all current or accurate which can all result in engaging in off line communication and present risks of violence and non-consensual behaviour (Couch et al., p. 699).
Within online communities, Millennials have the ability to create a desired individual in their mind after communication briefly online and only seeing pictures shared through profiles, however until they actually meet them in real life, there is always a risk they may be misrepresented.
The results of this activity can mean that people who are genuine seeking love or relationships can experience emotional damage and trust issues because of online identities being unauthentic. This is where the act of offline and online dating really suffers and without experiencing verbal communication and body language in person, it remains problematic to gauge a true person’s personality and motives effectively in the online dating app community (Couch et al., 2012).
Earlier research on this topic found by myself also confirmed that these situations are occurring more frequently in the online community and participants hope for more improvements in the future to be able to have more trustworthiness exchanged (Couch et al., 2012). There are still many limitations people are facing today such as dating sites not being able to effectively monitor or eliminate the deception and misinterpretation of individuals online. (Finkel et al., 2013)
Other academic research comes from Finkle et al. (2012), which confirms further that young people experience more of a negative attitude about dating online because of the potential chance people would lie about themselves as well as the risks of it being unsafe (2013 p. 12). Trust helps build the connection within communities, online friends and networks assist in building one’s authentic identity online through trusted connections.
Although dating apps have made it much easier to investigate potential love interests, the risk of false information and identity being consumed may begin to affect the online dating community. Situations like these can affect and add to Millennials’ emotional vulnerability experiencing false identities and forcing them to depart from the dating app communities (Couch et al., 2012).
Dating Apps & The Risk of Privacy Violation
Social dating apps such as Tinder make you feel like you’re a part of a community from first swipe and have the ability to create a sense of belonging to all people who participate with other users. Dating apps are similar to social networks as they offer the connection between users and participants in communities and research has found that users do say it does matter how one’s self presentation and identity is perceived online (Ranzini & Lutz, 2016, p. 83). While Tinder is not a typical mainstream social network compared to other platforms in the Web 2.0 development such as Facebook or Twitter, it can however have other significant features such as dating capabilities which is not the main purpose of other social networking sites. The sole purpose of Tinder and Bumble is to find a match with one person and explore that both on and offline to then hopefully form a relationship.
Tinder and Bumble features help users with their preferences that can include a radius setting known as ‘Location based real time dating’ and allows young people to find potential matches in a proximity of their choice, locally or on a trip (Hamedy, 2013). The apps also offer an age and gender setting so users can indicate their preference to also assist further and filter out potential matches resulting in convenience and time saving for Millennials (Sumter, Vandenbosch, & Ligtenberg, 2016, p. 67).
With the rapid growth of online dating communities, in particular the app culture, Millennials have the ability to research potential partners before engaging in a match howeverthe rising concern for young people when meeting people on online is security and privacy risks (Gibbs et al., 2011). This occurs very easily with little hesitance or resistance as participants on their profiles desire to display their authentic personal information allowing others to see and may not be educated or using privacy settings on their mobile devices. The risks that can occur include threats of sexual predators, cyber stalking, cyber abuse and identity theft and as result Millennials identity may be taken advantage of (Gibbs et al., 2011).
Previous study conducted from myself on this topic confirms that the issue of self-vulnerability and exposure occurs when authentic online daters want and also prefer to share their own personal information about themselves being hopeful they receive the same authentic information in return. In reality, these studies prove that online dating app communities which develop rapidly need to protect their users’ own privacy violation and educate them on risks that can occur when using these online dating methods and tools as this can tarnish or sabotage any community. Gibbs et al., (2011) notes that online dating participants have little choice but to help reduce these risks by seeking further and accurate information about potential matches before engaging in an offline meeting. These changes will clearly create a less vulnerable community and make them feel more confident with participating in communication which will result in more Millennials feeling “OK” with exposing their identity.
Conclusion, Discussion & Further Study
Further discussion on the topic of privacy violation amongst young dating app users was supported in the study from Hasinoff and Shepard (2014). This study indicates that sharing of private images of themselves online was ‘never’ or ‘rarely’ ok amongst most participants and they also expressed that privacy violation was the main concern about using online dating portals to find love.
Extended measures to avoid or limit these issues could include the development of technical design strategies and more education within the apps, once you first sign up and within online dating communities about privacy settings and the risks involved. These additions would significantly assist the protection of online daters’ identities and educate them on how to be more cautious when participating. Further recommendations from this research was to introduce systems that monitor and assist in avoiding or reducing privacy concerns that could help protect more Millennials from becoming victims of privacy violation in the future as the increase of this industry will only continue to rise (Hasinoff & Shepherd, 2014).
Further understanding and education of the apps such as Tinder allows them to collaborate effectively with each other to find the perfect match. This can assist to eliminate unsuitable candidates because of the actions we initially make for ourselves when actively looking. Dating app, Tinder supports Millennials to use its offering and allows people to be more authentic in their self-presentation because it will only be to their advantage with future matches. However, as online dating in general gives people more control throughout the online communities as we can choose the exact personal information or pictures we want people to see (Boyd, 2007, p. 12). Millennials will continue to have the opportunity to display information to present themselves in a way that would attract more potential love interests, which on another point, can have a negative result if dating apps continue to be designed this way. The tools given to online daters who participate within and amongst online dating communities will continue to develop and Millennials must continue to be aware and protect themselves when displaying their online identity as there are no limits with how they can present themselves with the help of app functions and capabilities.
My conference paper is written and displayed under the fair dealing copy right act as it has the ability to be used and referenced as an educational piece.
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