Sunday, September 13, 2009

Matchmaker, Matchmaker, Find Me a Mate

Marni Hershbain

In the article Matchmaker, Matchmaker, Find Me a Mate: A Cultural Examination of a Virtual Community of Single Mormons David W. Scott examines the dating profiles of 18-29 year old Mormons on the website In his research Scott is looks to answer the questions of how single Mormons use the internet to meet others, if the profiles reveal anything about what the Mormon community expects of single members and if gender plays a role. Scott also limited the profiles he was looking at by excluding anyone that didn’t live within ten miles of Provo Utah or hadn’t logged on within a week.

One of the areas in which Scott noticed a difference between men and women is in the type of profile picture that they used for their page. He found that 17% of men submitted pictures of themselves interacting with others and another 17% had pictures that displayed them doing strenuous outdoor activities. Scott theorized that these pictures were meant to emphasize their social and physical skills, which might be called into question as a member of an internet dating site. A smaller percentage of men had religious pictures or pictures that displayed them doing missionary work, which Scott wrote could serve as a signal of their being ready for marriage. Alternatively, approximately 24% of women submitted professional photographs of themselves and the majority of women submitted photos that were cropped to only include themselves. Scott used this trend amongst the women as evidence that despite the lack of emphasis on physical appearance in the Church, women still thought their appearance was the most important characteristic when trying to meet someone. However, similar trends in profile pictures, with the exception of the religiously themed pictures, would probably be observed on any social networking site, even one such as Facebook that is not usually joined with the intention of finding a partner.

Scott also found that the profiles of both men and women tended to express negative sentiments about internet dating. Many members insisted that they were only members of the site in order to check it out or out of curiosity. Members also cited pressure from others to join as reasons for being on the site, although women were more likely to say they joined because of pressure from relatives or member of the clergy, reflecting the pressure on women in Mormon society to marry. Other members of the site tried to dispel the stigma of online dating through humor, by either joking about the site or about their status as a single Mormon. Despite the apparent aversion to traditional Morman ideas about marriage, as Scott points out, the LDS Singles Online website is still a religious community that is sustained on the internet. Although Scott does not bring this point up again in his conclusion, the profiles he selected for the study were all members that had been on within the last week. Whether they really did only join the site out of curiosity, or were just trying to mask their expectations, by returning to the site on a regular basis these members were choosing to be a part of an online community. As the success story currently on the webpage demonstrates, after making the choice to join the community, even those that only joined because a friend “suggested [they] create a profile” and that “didn’t think that meeting girls on the internet was much of an idea” can end up surprising themselves.

Scott DW, 2002, ‘Matchmaker, Matchmaker, Find Me a Mate: A Cultural Examination of a Virtual Community of Single Mormons’, Journal of Media and Religion, 1, 4, 201 – 216

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