Webster Essay 2

A New Era of Dating

Dating and marriage is a long-standing institution in our culture. For men and women, romance and dating rituals have changed greatly throughout history. Within the past decade or two, dating rituals have taken a new turn with Web 2.0 sites that encourage online dating and match-making.

History of Dating

In colonial times, dating wasn’t a matter of choice. Couples were usually joined in marriage based on political alliances, property gain or monetary reasons. Up until 1830, men faced social criticism if they did not find a mate. Male singleness was considered laziness, and these men faced ridicule, harassment, and fines.

Around the late 1800s to the early 1900s, a brief shift in dating rituals occurs when women and men begin to socialize in separate spheres. Women expected to be wooed by male callers, which caused a romantic element in dating and marriage. Thus, romance became the leading factor in marriage, and courtship became a huge aspect of dating.

At this time, courtship was very ritualistic. Men and women were to be formally introduced before they could begin courtship. Additionally, courtship took place in the home of the woman, usually under the watchful eyes of her parents. According to “Romance through the Ages,” serious couples “might advance to the front porch. [Despite this,] smitten couples rarely saw each other without the presence of a chaperone, and marriage proposals were frequently written.”

More so, in the article “Dating vs. Courtship,” Reverend Tortoriello says that “the principles of courtship [were] God-centered and biblically based. Courtship [was] a biblical process of finding and choosing a mate while glorifying God and honoring and respecting each other.” When a couple begins a courting relationship, they both know the purpose of the relationship is to consider marriage. Courting has a long-term end in view. The couple would spend very little time in private, and the family would be fully involved in the entire courting process. The man and the woman in this courting process were to have no physical contact with each other until the day of their marriage.

The Beginning of Change

With the coming of the industrial revolution and the invention of the automobile, courting was completely revolutionized. By the early 1920s, courting took on a whole new meaning, which became known as “dating.” Women were allowed to leave their home (in an automobile) and go out for ice cream or movies with a man. In this time, dating was still very different from how it is today. Though women were allowed to leave the house, they usually had one man pursue them, and they usually ended up marrying the man they dated.

As more and more women began to date young men, they began to realize the fun of casually dating. As a result, a new term developed to better label couples. If a couple was serious, they would decide to only date each other to the exclusion of everyone else. These couples were said to be “going steady” compared to a couple who just started dating and were not serious yet. Formerly, in courtship, a courting pair might be “keeping steady company,” which usually meant that they planned to marry each other (something that was not unusual in courting). Though, the new term of “going steady” does not imply marriage. It only implies current commitment to one’s partner with no promise of future commitment. (Duvall 214)

During the 20th century, as the times kept changing, so did the dating system. Courtship became more and more a private act conducted in the public world: “To most observers, the gradual change from “calling” to “dating” looked like a natural accommodation to the new realities of the twentieth century” (Bailey 25).

With the invention of birth control and contraceptives, dating was no longer about marriage and families. Women and men began having multiple dating partners before marriage, much to the dismay of elder generations. In a book about the changing ways of dating, an elder woman reflects on her days of dating compared to present day dating: “…the waiting and the telephone calls, nervous boys clutching corsages, the excitement of risky privacy, the rush to sign in [my dorm] on time. In memory, the dating system became pure mystery and romance. It’s all too easy today, you have so much freedom, so few rules, but it doesn’t sound like much fun” (Bailey 2).

Online Dating

Bailey was right about one thing in particular: dating is much easier today. Web 2.0 sites that promote match-making and dating allow users to meet their mates on the internet. According to Wikipedia, online dating is “a dating system which allows individuals, couples and groups to make contact and communicate with each other over the Internet, usually with the objective of developing a personal romantic or sexual relationship.”

Wikipedia also highlights the extreme willingness for society to accept these changes in dating by examining the revenue incurred from online dating websites:

“United States residents spent $469.5 million on online dating and personals in 2004, and over $500 million in 2005, the largest segment of “paid content” on the web other than pornography, according to a study conducted by the Online Publishers Association (OPA) and comScore Networks. The U.S. online dating market is expected to increase spending to $932 million in 2011.”

Essentially, with several clicks of a button, you could fall in love with your soul mate. Sites such as eHarmony, OkCupid, Match.com, and Zoosk allow users to create a profile, upload pictures, and begin their search for a mate.

Forever Changed

Web 2.0 sites have changed dating rituals. In the movie "He's Just Not That Into You," Drew Barrymore’s character, Mary, acknowledges how technology and social networks have changed how we represent ourselves and our identities:

“I had this guy leave me a voicemail at work, so I called him at home, and then he emailed me to my BlackBerry, and so I texted to his cell, and now you just have to go around checking all these different portals just to get rejected by seven different technologies. It's exhausting.” –Mary (Drew Barrymore)

Online dating focuses more on thoughts, ideas, and personality rather than looks. This allows couples to evaluate each other on more than mere physical characteristics. This is an obvious benefit to online dating. Additionally, online dating websites require a low monthly payment or they are completely free for anyone to use.

At the same time, there are a few disadvantages to online dating. An important disadvantage is the inability to convey emotions adequately. Since most communication takes place through the keyboard, users are unable to convey information vocally, which creates the possibility for miscommunication and a loss of tone. This is also the same for communication via e-mail and text messages. To help alleviate this problem, some online dating services are including voice chat (like talking on the phone) and web chatting via a web camera.

As online dating increases, internet gurus are already developing advances to online dating technologies. In the future, users of online dating websites will be able to use avatars. An article on NetworkWorld estimates about 80% of users will have online avatars (identities) by next year. More so, developers are creating a new technology called iovation, which will prevent fraud on online dating websites. Thus, in the coming years, and as the result of technology, those pursuing a partner will look to the internet.


How Technology Changed Online Dating http://www.isnare.com/?aid=103494&ca=Dating

The Hottest Trends in Online Dating http://www.networkworld.com/news/2008/020708-valentines-online-dating.html

“Online Dating” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Online_dating

Romance Through the Ages: Customs of Love, Marriage & Dating http://genealogy.about.com/cs/timelines/a/romance_history.htm

Bailey, Beth L. “From Front Porch to Back Seat: Courtship in Twentieth-Century
America.” Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1988.

Duvall, Evelyn Millis. “The Art of Dating.” New York: Association Press, 1967.
Dyer, Everett D. “Courtship, Marriage, and Family: American Style.” Homewood,
Illinois: The Dorsey Press, 1983.

“Dating vs. Courtship.” http://www.footprintsofhope.com/footprints/ about/indexcontact.htm

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