Tell Us Your Singles & Online Dating Experiences, Strategies and Insights
Post date: 2008-12-04
With the growing popularity of online dating as a valid, fun and useful way to meet people, La Trobe University’s School of Public Health and the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society are conducting a project to find out about the experiences of young adults who use online dating. In particular they’re looking to interview people between the ages of 18 and 30.
This project grew out of a smaller study conducted by one of the researchers, Danielle Couch, when she was studying and using online dating herself:
‘I’d used various online dating sites to meet people and had my own little processes for making my way through the online dating world. I’d send a wink or a kiss, maybe we’d correspond via a few emails or chat online for a while. Then if we decided to meet face to face I’d want to think about when and where that would be. I started wondering if other people followed the same kind of routine or did they do things differently. So I started developing a research idea.
The outcome of Danielle’s ponderings was a small research project as part of her post-graduate studies. She interviewed 15 people online, using chat. In the interviews the participants chatted online about their own online dating experiences, what they did and didn’t do to manage risk, how many people they’d met, how many people they’d had sex with through online dating, did they take safety precautions, were they into safe sex and how did it all compare to meeting people in other ways.
Working in public health, I knew there’d been some research in the US looking at the relationship between online dating and the spread of sexually transmitted infections - how the internet can let you meet people quickly and how it could be an efficient way to access casual sex partners and potentially spread infection. I wondered was this relevant in Australia? Did other online daters think about this stuff? Was it any different to going out and picking someone up in a bar on the weekend?
The interviews ranged from 30 minutes to 3 hours in duration, depending on what each person wanted to share and what else they were doing at the time.
One of the things about interviewing people online is that you have to recognise they’re probably multi-tasking. We all do it when we’re online. So I knew when I was chatting with people I was one of several things they might be doing - that’s just the reality of being online. I had one memorable interview where a participant was in four other dating related chats and also watching some sexually explicit webcam action. I remember her apologising to me at one stage as she was a bit slow in responding to one of my questions as she was getting distracted by the web-cam show.
The general consensus was the people interviewed enjoyed the process; in fact several interviewees would often update Danielle via chat on their most recent experiences as they wanted these included in the project.
The findings from this earlier study have led to the current project. Over the next few months the researchers are looking to interview between 30 and 40 people via chat about their online dating experiences.