Online Dating and Racial Discrimination
Over the recent years, technology has become a central point of everyday life. Within the last fifteen years, internet usage has gone from 400 million people to 3 billion (ICT Facts & Figures). With this mass integration of technology in the human experience, the human connection has also been affected. Online dating arose as a way for humans to connect romantically over the internet. Research from the Pew Research Center found that 15% of American adults have utilized an online dating application (Smith 1). An even larger amount, 41%, has reported knowing someone who utilizes online dating (Smith 3). The increasing popularity of online dating has come with both skepticism and credence. The ethicality of the methods to gain long-term relationships over online dating is questionable. The components that arise from online dating are racial discrimination, privacy, and deception.
Racism is a prejudice against a race due to the belief that another (or one’s own) is superior. While research from Philipp Hergovich, with his Ph.D in Economics, and Josué Ortega, a researcher at the Center for European Economic Research, finds that interracial marriages can be increased through online dating (29), racism is still prominent. Data provided by the co-founder of OKCupid, Christian Rudder, shows that Asian men are the most discriminated against (Rudder,“Race and Attraction, 2009–2014.”). When being rated by women, Asian men received the lowest rating, -15% (Rudder,“Race and Attraction, 2009–2014.”). Evidence also shows that Black women are the least preferred. When being rated by men, Black women recieved the lowest rating, -54%. Professors at the Institute for Social Research, Elizabeth Bruch, with her Ph.D in Sociology, and Mark Newman also found that Asian women and White men are the most preferred on online dating applications.
This racial discrimination gives an advantage to White men and Asian women in finding love and the entire process of online dating. Asian men and Black women are at a disadvantage and therefore may have unfair outcomes in relation to White men and Asian women. Online dating applications can also facilitate this. A research team at Cornell University, Javon Hutson, Jessie Taft, Solon Barocas, with his Ph.d in media, culture, and communication, and Karen Levy, a professor of Sociology reports that dating sites utilize “race-based filters and search tools or race-based matching algorithms” (2). These components of online dating allow users to filter out or search for specific races, which completely excludes entire races from potential partners. The excluded races therefore face an inequality that other people such as White men and Asian women do not have to encounter. This inequality may deter users from utilizing online dating for long-term relationships.
Although this racial discrimination is prominent, dating websites have begun to combat this issue. Grindr, an online dating app geared towards gay and bisexual men, has begun a campaign called “Kindr Grindr” (Kindr Grindr). “Kindr Grindr” is a campaign promoting inclusivity and fights racism on their app. For this campaign, Grindr updated their Community Guidelines, including a “Zero Tolerance Policy” for “discrimination, harassment, and abusive behavior.” (Kindr Grindr) Stricter moderation policies on user profiles have been put into place as well, to protect other users from discrimination. (Kindr Grindr) Taking measures like this may reduce racism and make users feel more comfortable, but research has not yet shown the effects of this campaign.
With online dating, there is a risk of privacy invasion. As technology develops, it becomes easier for one to find out virtually anything about someone. This is no different in online dating. Researchers in the Security & Privacy Research Lab at the University of Washington, Camille Cobb and Tadayoshi Kohno reported an online dating user who described a time when she was discovered through something as simple as her last name. The man “used this to find her on Twitter, and followed links in her distant Twitter past to personal blog posts.” (5) The easiness in finding someone because of the internet became a dangerous thing. The user, once being rejected, began shaming the participant for her personal information (Cobb and Kohno 5). This type of harassment is the result of searchability becoming easier.
Many people choose to not disclose certain information that would make them easy to find on the internet (Cobb and Kohno 6). While this can prevent the privacy risks, there are still users who disclose personal information. In Kohno and Cobb’s study, half of the participants included revealing information like their job, and 42 revealed their school (6). As seen from previous evidence, disclosing evidence like this can bring dangers to the user.
Appearance and Deception
The process of online dating relies heavily on appearance. In research performed by Shao-Kang Lo, an expert in behavioral science, Ai-Yun Hsieh, a faculty member at the National Taiwan University of Science and Technology, and Yu-Ping Chiu, an expert in the interaction between technology and humans, it is reported that appearance is the biggest factor that changes the demeanor of online daters (2). They report that users first look at potential partner’s photographs, and then their biographies. Furthermore, they report that 40.7% percent of the participants in their study create negative deceptions, making themselves seem less attractive, when faced with an unattractive potential partner, in order to deter these daters from matching with them (Lo, Shao-Kang, et al. 6). The bias against unattractive people can give these users a negative experience and disadvantage in online dating.
This emphasis on appearance can pressure users into conveying themselves as more attractive. Researchers of the psychology of communication technologies Catalina Toma, with her Ph.D in communication and Jeffrey Hancock, with his Ph.D in psychology, report that online daters who are considered unattractive are more likely to enhance themselves, using positive descriptions and retouched or flattering pictures (9). Lo, Hsieh, and Chiu’s report adds to this, conveying that users are more likely to deceive when faced with what they believe is an attractive profile (6). The emphasis of appeareance therefore pressures users to manipulate their online presence to seem more attractive. However, Toma and Hancock found that users looking for long-term relationships are less likely to lie about their appearance (9). If users have the intention of meeting in the future, and therefore be seen by the other partner, they are unlikely to lie about or enhance their appearance. Because of this, deception is not a major threat for people searching for long-term relationships in online dating.
As online dating increases in popularity, more people begin utilize it. In a study performed by the Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience at the University of Chicago, it was found that ? of modern marriages have arisen from online dating (Cacioppo, John T., et al. 4). As the pool of online daters increases and diversifies, the ethics of online dating comes into question. Dating apps are not made equal for all races. Racial filters, searches, and user preferences give certain demographics an advantage over others. While online dating sites have implemented ways to combat racial prejudice, it still occurs in modern online dating. There is a major emphasis on appearance in online dating that gives people that are considered unattractive a disadvantage. This preference for attractive people pressures “unattractive” people to enhance their appearance to appeal to potential partners. However, deception is less likely for people searching for long-term relationships. Privacy invasion such as cyberstalking is also a widely reported issue. It is now up to the companies behind these online dating sites to implement stronger rules to ensure the safety of all users. These rules must be inclusive for people of all races, genders, and incomes, so users have equal opportunities to find love.