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Could online dating services increase social capital?

My roommates and I got into a discussion the other day about online dating services. Considering what we have talked about and read about in this class on technology and the internet, I thought it would make for an interesting blog.

Basically, the main question that came from this discussion was whether or not services like these could in fact be helpful in increasing social capital. One statement from our readings came to mind immediately:
“Face-to-face encounters provide a depth and speed of feedback that is impossible in computer-mediated communication� (Putnam, p. 175).
While I couldn’t agree with this statement more, I can’t help but think about online-dating services and other similar types of computer-mediated communication and if they could actually play a role in breeding face-to-face communication. To be completely honest, I am incredibly skeptical of online dating services and other sites that are made for meeting people through the internet. Personally, I think that they can be dangerous and I would probably never consider using them as a way to increase my social ties. But, there are people who swear by them, stating that even if an intimate relationship doesn’t come of the encounter, they are still meeting people and therefore expanding their social circle. I feel that it is safe to assume that more often than not, relationships formed through the internet are weak ties versus intimate, ever-lasting relationships. But, that brings me back to the very beginning of the semester and the importance of weak ties in social capital. Weak ties are important too because they can breed unexpected opportunities.

I must say I am still skeptical, but it makes for an interesting debate.


Comments

"I feel that it is safe to assume that more often than not, relationships formed through the internet are weak ties versus intimate, ever-lasting relationships."

Hmm...I don't have any personal experience meeting people online really, but I do have several friends who I know from high school or college that I talk to online way more than I ever do (or even did) in person. Through email or IM we keep in touch, but we rarely make the effort to actually meet in person - and we seem to get along better this way too. That sounds a bit cold, but it's kinda true. Of course, the relationships weren't initiated online, but I can sort of see how you can have close relationships with people exclusively through online interactions. Of course, dating is a different matter than just friendship so this is kind of a tangent, isn't it...