Motivation and emotion/Book/2014/Internet relationships and motivation
Why do people use the internet for relationships?
Reeve (2009) defines motivation as the energy, intensity and direction behind the behaviour of a individual. The motivation to use the internet has become increasingly popular to find all types of relationships. One in ten singles are using the internet or mobile applications to find partners (Madden & Lenhart, 2006). Specific websites have been designed to target certain relationships including heterosexual, homosexual, transgender, casual sex, and fetish/fantasy relationships. As a Western society, we have accepted relationships initiated from the internet. Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project Spring Tracking Survey found 29% of Americans know someone who met a spouse or other long-term partner through online dating, up from just 15% in 2005. Internet dating is a faster, easier, and more effective way to meet people with similar wants, needs, and specific interests. This book chapter will also look at the negative aspects that deter individuals from using online dating websites. This book chapter with explore several psychological theories, such as Maslow's hierarchy of needs, Uncertainty reduction theory and Interpersonal deception theory to help explain the motivation to initiate, develop, and maintain relationships in the cyberspace.
Theories to be online, to stay online and to be offline
Why be online?
Using Maslow's theory of motivation - 'Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs',an individual seeks to fulfill specific needs, such as biological and physiological, safety, love and belonging, esteem and self-actualization needs. Once the need is satisfied then an individual will pursue a new need. For example, once a basic physiological need, such as sex, is satisfied the individual moves his/her focus to safety and so on. Figure 2, illustrates Maslow's hierarchy of needs pyramid. Table 1 explains the five motivational stages of Maslow's hierarchy of needs including and explanation of when a need is not met.
Tay & Diener (2011) studied the importance of human needs using Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory. Over a five year period from 2005, 60,865 participants in 123 countries were surveyed about the importance of their needs. The results support universally human needs appear to exist regardless if basic needs are fulfilled. Diener explains human needs work independently as they are all important.
Martin Seligman explains happiness is key to one's well-being and life satisfaction through strong dependent networks of relationships; family, friends, coworkers, and partners. Seligman explains, when we are alone, we lose perspective on the world and must depend on relationships to remain grounded.
Table 1. Maslow's hierarchy of needs - "five stages"
|Stage||Need||If not met|
|1||Biological and physiological need||Physiological needs are thought to be the most important for human survival and should be met first. If not met, the human body cannot function properly and will ultimately fail.|
|2||Safety needs||The need for safety; personal and financial, is not met disorders and trauma may develop consequently inhibiting physiological needs.|
|3||Love and belonging needs||Human need for interpersonal relationships can impact the individual's ability to form and maintain all emotionally significant relationships. Peer pressure may overcome the physiological and safety needs.|
|4||Esteem needs||Humans desire to be accepted and valued by others however must accept the 'self'. Low self-esteem or self-worth will obstruct with physiological need|
|5||Self-Actualization needs||An individual has met their ultimate potential. All other stages have been met beyond a satisfactory level and have accomplish everything that individual can.|
Research has shown that individuals under the age of 40 years are more inclined to satisfy needs (Bartoli & Clark, 2006) in Stages 1 and 2 - physiological and safety. Individual are seeking partners to develop love and belonging. At the other end of the scale, individuals over the age of 40 years (Coupland, 2000) are more focused on Stages 4 and 5 – esteem and self-actualisation. As the needs at earlier stages have already been met (Coupland, 2000), individuals are seeking to satisfy nurturing relationship and activities to greater their self-actualisation - final "stage" of Maslow's hierarchy. William Glasser (1998) has emphasised the most important need is love and belonging, as closeness and connectedness with the people we care about is a prerequisite for satisfying all of the needs.
Many websites are tailored for different needs, such as eHarmony and Tinder, for different audience with the similar needs. Figure 5, demonstrates bondage. Fetlife.com targets the more extreme fetishes and dominate and submissive relationships. Figure 3 illustrates some of the many website used around the world for different purposes. Websites allows an individual to seek like-minded partners more accurately (Epstein, 2007), easily, and time efficiently (Henry-Waring & Barraket, 2008).
Why stay online?
In 2008, 20 million people accessed online dating website and mobile applications per month, generating over $650 million (Online dating magazine media center,2008). Whitty & Carr (2006) has predicted that online dating population will only increase. Research shows greater number of people becoming single parents, higher emphasises on careers at a younger age, including regular relocations, and technology becoming so advanced (Whitty & Carr, 2006), alternatives methods to meeting people has become easier. However, there is still a significant degree of ambiguity when joining dating websites.
Gibbs et al. (2011) found that individuals who proactively revealed private information, thoughts and feelings were likely to receive a great number of positive responses, potentially leading to future relationships. Kramer (1999) explains that individuals have different tolerance levels when it comes to uncertainty; the greater the tolerance, the less information an individual will seek. Berger and Calabrese's (1975) Uncertainty reduction theory refers to knowing information about another individual decreases uncertainty of that individual (Berger & Calabrese,1975). This increases communication in an online relationship. This is supported by Carr and Walther’s (2014) non-verbal cues. Individual's online are encourages to interact with non-verbal cues such as self-disclosure and checklists, to have a more positive outcome with online dating. Disclosure of personal information plays an important part in relationship development, especially romantically (Greene et al., 2006). Gaining personal information of others helps individuals collect information about prospective partners and make forecasts about potential relationships (Derlega et al., 2008). Online dating participants who engage in greater uncertainty reduction behavior will have less uncertainty about potential dating partners and will thus open up more in their interactions with them (Gibbs et al., 2011).
Dating websites allow members to personalise their profiles and allow members to browse other profiles before making contact. As this is an anonymous environment, there is little to no judgement involved when turning down an individual, as there would if being done it person. However, the main focus is for members to interact and continue communication from an online environment to offline, face-to-face setting. Many online members have reported to have met partners, made friendships, and create support networks for hobbies such as sports.
Why stay offline?
Buller and Burgoon’s (1999) Interpersonal deception theory (IDT) refers to deliberate deception to the receiver. For example misleading information about oneself ie marital status, age, height, weight, sexuality, and/or pictures . Those online daters who did use deception were motivated to attract members of the opposite sex and project a positive self-image. Caplan (2003) found insecure, lonely and depressed individuals are more likely to take part in online interactions. Resulting in a negative association with their online use.
Unfortunately, many online users have reported being deceived while using online dating website. Meeting with members who had clearly created a profile deliberately to mislead readers ie not disclosing marital status, gender or uploading old or false pictures. A reality-based television series, ‘Catfish’ reveals truths and lies of online dating from thousands of stories from all over the US.
A person intentionally befriending victims, by charm, sympathy or playing a victim themselves (Martellozzo, 2012)is known as a grommer. Online dating sites have facilitated opportunities for groomers to conduct cyber-criminal activities anonymously (Martellozzo, 2012). Online grooming may involve emotional methodology such as emotional manipulation in order to gain the trust. The Australian Federal Police warn, the objective is focused on sexual exploitation, financial gains and technological hacking to personal information. Sexual exploitation may involve direct or indirect contact with the victim. There have been two recent cases in Australia of online initiated meetings; one female victim was murdered, another gang raped however no official charges have been placed.
The book chapter has covered three theories: Maslow's hierarchy of needs, Uncertainty reduction theory and Interpersonal deception theory to help explain the motivation to initiate, develop, and maintain relationships in the cyberspace.
There is limited research to support any one theory behind the motivation to online relationships. Right at our fingertips, the world wide web opens the opportunity to meet people with similar needs and wants. Despite the deception that does occur frequently online, participants still believe that the online dating environment is capable of developing successful romantic relationships (Wagner, 2008). However, to improve one’s life, take precaution when online.
|“||"No matter what site you choose, when you create your profile, remember to be honest."
Who is most likely...
- How I hacked online dating ] (TED)
- How the internet enables intimacy ] (TED)
- Online Dating Statistics and Facts (datingsitesreviews)
- Internet relationship (Wikipedia)
- Romance scam (Wikipedia)
- Woman-Gangraped-by-Tinder-Date-and-His-Friends-2014 (The Sydney Morning Herald)
- Catfish: The TV Show (Wikipedia)
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- The science of dating: Why we should stop dating online (The Telegraph, 07 Oct 2014)
- Be Honest With Yourself! (YouTube, 09 Oct 2014)