CONCLUSION AND MANAGERIAL IMPLICATIONS
The Internet serves as a new and massive laboratory for sociological and psychological research. Leon et al. (2003) observe that the Internet can be utilized to conduct research efficiently due to the ease of implementation and the relatively few resources that are required. They further contend that the methodologies inherent in administering studies on the Internet or using samples from the Web appear as valid as those produced in lab settings. We consider this post hoc quantitative analysis of e-dating narratives a successful means of revealing cross-cultural differences.
Meeting others or dating through personals is very similar to Internet dating because in both cases the advertisers describe themselves in writing before any face-to-face encounter occurs. In order to get what they desire, advertisers typically project an image that would be deemed as attractive by the target audience. Underlying cultural values as well as gender differences are therefore expected to influence the self-presentation of lonely hearts advertisers. This study embraced Hofstede’s (2001) widely used framework for classifying countries. Based on differences in each country’s scores on Hofstede’s five dimensions, we posited and subsequently confirmed differences in how potential mates present themselves, in particular in the number of references they made about love, physical status, entertainment services, personality traits, educational status and intellectual status. However, and importantly, support was lacking for several other characteristics, most notably references to ‘money’ and ‘ethnicity’, which were rare and non-significantly different across both genders and countries. The lack of money – related references seems particularly odd, given the myriad of studies suggesting that women seek men who can provide financial security (e. g., Bars- cheid & Walster, 1974; Harrison & Saeed, 1977; Davis 1990; Townsend & Wasserman, 1997). Apparently, commenting about one’s money is not an opening gambit for men, a finding that is reflected in a casual perusal of women’s sites, many of which do not include a photo or photos, a means of reflecting one’s physical attractiveness, a characteristic widely acknowledged as sought after by men. We can only speculate, but protecting one’s privacy is a plausible explanation for both gender’s behaviors.
Despite instances of non-significant differences due to gender or country, the general trend is that there are differences across countries; thus, we should anticipate a proliferation of country specific Web sites as well as sub-culture-specific
Web sites within a country. Consider the latter. In reference to targeting niche audiences, in the USA there is Jdate. com that caters to Jewish singles, largeandlovely. com, a site wherein those overweight can feel at ease, and for those with advanced degrees—a proxy for income—there are BrainDates. com and DocDates. com. In these cases, e-dating sites are “qualifying” participants on one attribute, presumably one that is noncompensatory to those seeking partners. Like any number of. com growth areas, we should first witness a proliferation in e-dating Web sites—a trend well underway—followed by a consolidation in Web sites. A rule of thumb is that the value of a social network—whether a mobile phone service provider, an auction site, a multiplayer online role playing game (MORG) or a dating service—is proportional to the square of the number of participants. In the e-dating realm, it will therefore behoove the less popular sites to consolidate: if you are an individual wanting to advertise, ceteris paribus, advertise in the medium that appeals to the largest, appropriate audience.
This study is not a definitive treatise that confirms or disproves cultural differences. Further studies should consider using more culturally diverse populations and perhaps a tighter taxonomy of the (ten) attributes comprising the advertisers’ self-descriptions advanced by Hirschman (1987). What we can say is that this study does qualify as one of the many successful applications of ‘netol- ogy’—using the Internetto study social behaviors.