Dehumanization and online dating

In this modern era, most of our interaction with other people is over the internet by using social media or emails. We also receive many services completely automated over the internet. It makes the study of the virtual interactions of people more important. Even the way people define themselves is closely related to their interactions and self-representations over the internet (Marom, 2016). Discussions around the dehumanizing effect of online technologies are rising. Dehumanization defined as the process of undermining the individuality of others and their human features and rights (Haslam, 2006). Dehumanization eases and justifies harming other people by reducing the moral inhibitions (Smith, 2016). Most of the time, dehumanization reminds genocides, Holocaust, slavery, violence or war. However, it is not necessarily limited to these extreme cases. It is also evident in subtler phenomenon like deception, commoditization of people, cyber bullying, violence in video games, and internet trolling (Bastian, Jetten, & Radke, 2012; Runions & Bak,, 2015; Finkel, Eastwick, Karney, Reis, & Sprecher, 2012)

Online dating is one of the surprising places that subtle dehumanization takes place. Marom (2016) introduces three factors as the signs of dehumanization in online dating includes Disassociation, shopping culture and self-objectification. Considering that dissociation is related to detachment from reality, one can realize that online environment is a fertile ground for dissociation. When this factor combines with self-presentation, it justifies deception of other people (Geynor, 2013). Self-presentation refers to presenting a favorable image of the self in order to impress other people (Marom, 2016). It is the process for that many of the photo editing apps provides a means even encourage the users. Online dating profiles are also another vessel of representing the ideal self in the virtual world. The bigger disparity between the represented self and the real self leads to stronger detachment of the human qualities like empathy, compassion and civility from the person (Geynor, 2013). Accordingly, deceiving another person or lying do not evoke psychological discomfort (Brown, 2012).

One of the opportunities that online dating provides for people is the unlimited number of options that help individuals to choose their best match among more diverse and larger number of potential partners. On the other hand, people start to develop filtering mechanisms for choosing among all the available options. Unsuitable persons who do not meet the standard criteria as a perfect match would be filtered immediately. Therefore, accommodation of people seems inevitable during this process. Marom (2016) calls it shopping culture mindset; where people become more selective and judgmental about the worth of other persons for dating and the human qualities of individuals are simply reduced to their checklist of features on their profiles. The options are abundant, always available and easily disposable with the least effort or emotions. This mindset escalates deception and manipulation of other people by presenting the ideal, interesting profile in order to attract more followers that actually leads to omitting the real compatible potential partners (Marom, 2016).

Self-objectification as the last sign of dehumanization means viewing the self as an object and evaluating the self by physical features like appearance, health and physical abilities (Fredrickson, 1997). While online profiles let people to describe their features and attitudes, their pictures are the most significant factor in attracting other people (Marom, 2016). Even those who share photos on Facebook or Instagram are presenting themselves based on the reactions that they expect from their viewers. The mindset that you are what you commute through the limited nature of the internet makes the disassociation of people from their self an inherent quality of online interactions (Whitbourne, 2013).

Anonymity is another important factor that intensifies the dehumanizing effect of the internet as the mediator of interaction between people. Anonymity leads to strong detachment from our identity and human features. Thus, it acts like a lubricate of deception and lying in the context of online dating. It also has the same effect in internet trolling and cyberbullying, where people can hide behind the technology and become separated from their moral values (D’Costa, 2014).

Altogether, online interactions have its merits and at the same time some potential dangers. The different nature of communications over the internet and the prevalence of its use specially among the young generation makes it important to identify its downsides. Although some of the consequences of this new interaction systems seems inevitable, being aware of their effects on our perceptions prevents some of their negative impacts on our mindset about ourselves and other people.

The following video is a futuristic short film related to the virtualized interactions of people and decline of physical contacts.


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Whitbourne,  S. K. (2013). Your Body on Display: Social Media and Your Self-Image. Retrieved from y-display-social-media-and-your-self-image

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