Overcoming Relationship-Initiation Barriers: The Impact of a Computer-Dating System on Sex Role, Shyness, and Appearance Inhibitions

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Publication Date

Summer 1995


A survey of the users of an online computer-mediated matchmaking service showed that their communication patterns and objectives varied by their sex, shyness level, and appearance. Men generally contacted women more than vice versa, but a substantial minority of the women contacted a great number of men, suggesting that the safety and anonymity the system offered helped them break free from traditional sex role norms. More than half of the women reported starting a romantic or sexual relationship through the system, as compared to less than a third of the men, reflecting, in part, that men outnumber women on the system nearly three to one. Users who scored higher on a shyness scale were much more likely than less shy users to say they were using the system to find romance or sex, suggesting shier users employ the system as a way to overcome their inhibitions. Women who rated their own appearance as average were less likely to be contacted by men than those who rated their appearance as above average, but there was no significant difference between appearance groups concerning the likelihood of starting a romantic or sexual relationship. Intrinsic aspects of this computer-mediated matchmaking system helped some users overcome relationship-initiation barriers rooted in sex role, shyness, and appearance inhibitions.

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