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We may have gone out purposely to find the love of our lives on an online dating or chat website, or maybe we have developed a social network of friends quite by chance through our online interactions. But why? Unlike the offline world where we use all 5 senses to gain information, when online we can only primarily use one sense to gain information with - sight. We are also very limited in our use of our sense of sight, because we can't benefit from the normal cues we pick up through non-verbal communication. We can see words that are typed, we can see someones avatar if they choose to post one and we can watch video or see someone through a webcam. If using a webcam or video we can also use our sense of hearing, but the majority of online communication is through words on a screen. We can't pick up each others pheromones, we can't communicate via our eyes, we can't communicate via gestures, intonation or tone of voice, we don't know how it feels to hug that person or give them a squeeze of the hand. Consequently, we miss out on huge chunks of information about other people that we would normally have.

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Various studies have been carried out to explore how much of our communication is verbal as opposed to non verbal. One study shows that 98% of communication is through non verbal means (including body language) and only 7% down to verbal communication. So online, we're stuck with having to try to do all of our communicating (both listening and speaking) with 7% of the tools we would normally use. This is a bit like trying to fix a car with only a hammer and one socket wrench! Just look at the static image on the right. It looks like it's moving, but it's not - the way the image has been designed tricks our eyes into seeing movement when there's none. Who's in front of the screen and who's behind it? Who are you on the internet? Are you you? Do you show all aspects of your character and personality or just parts of yourself? Even if you feel you show all of yourself, do others interpret what you present in the way you'd like them to or are there many misunderstandings about what you mean and who you are? Who are the people that we talk to online? What can we really glean about someone from what they type? Who is looking back at you from your computer screen? Is it the person you are talking to or simply an aspect of yourself that's being reflected back at you? How can we tell the difference? In particular, I want to look at psychological defense mechanisms.

We all have our favorite defense mechanisms that we use both on and offline, but from my experience the following ones are the defenses that we are most likely to use online. Notice that I include myself in this! Even after studying psychology, sociology and counseling for many years I'm certainly not immune to using defense mechanisms - I may just be slightly more aware when I have used one. Simply put, projection is placing our unacceptable emotions onto someone else. The emotions, thoughts, or beliefs we project onto others tend to be ones that we deny we possess. We see others carrying out the behavior instead of ourselves. The faceless world of the web enables us to project our stuff onto others far more easily than in the real world and to get away with it more often, since there's rarely any challenge or consequence. In simple terms idealization and devaluation means having a strong tendency to see things (and people) in black and white terms - as either all good or all bad. When idealizing someone, we are unable to see them as a whole person with both positive and negative qualities. We only see the good parts. The opposite is true for devaluation - we only see the bad qualities that someone possesses even though in reality we all possess a mixture of both good and bad qualities. In splitting, we might feel that we are intrinsically bad and others are intrinsically good or the other way round. This will express itself as someone putting you on a pedestal while constantly depreciating themselves. In the reverse it will be expressed as having someone constantly give the impression of looking down on you and criticizing your every word - they feel that they are good and you are bad. In the world of the internet it can be hard to challenge these kinds of interactions, since people often present themselves to us as all good. Offline we'll soon find out if someone is as good as they present - we can see if their body language and actions match their words over time. Displacement is easy to explain and I'm sure you'll be able to recognize this defense mechanism quickly.

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Ever have a bad day at work and then find yourself shouting at the kids when you get home? This is displacement. Instead of being angry with whoever or whatever upset us at work, we displace it onto something or someone else, allowing us to discharge some of the emotion. This happens a great deal in the online world. Just look into any forum to see how people let their emotions out on other forum members for the smallest things! Displacement can also occur with positive emotions. There are many types of cognitive distortions which are all basically exaggerated thoughts or thinking styles. Here are a few distortions and some common online examples to go with them: Such and such person ignored my comment on their article, therefore they don't like me. Google has rejected my adsense application because they don't like my writing style. A positive defence mechanism that being on the web often enhances, is sublimation. Sublimation is when we take our angst and difficult emotions and do something positive with them, such as write poetry, blog our worries away, create art or video or helping others through writing articles about difficulties we have overcome. Maybe we don't challenge as much as we might do offline, because there often is such confusion about which feelings, thoughts and beliefs belong to whom? If we look honestly at what we're getting back from the screen, we can see that a great deal of it is a reflection of ourselves. What this means is that the problems that arise in our online communications are an extremely good pointer to our own difficulties, anxieties and distorted thinking patterns. The following are some examples I came up with - you may have more. Reading back over this article I can see it may be coming across as quite negative, (that's my perception - I may be wrong!

) but that wasn't my aim at all. How is our online perception different to, or the same as, real world perception? The same as the real world, but our behavior may be more concentrated online and there are far fewer consequences for it. There seems to be a lot more room for confusion in the online world and because we can only show parts of ourselves and others can only see a part of the part that we show, the internet has the potential to turn us into caricatures of ourselves. No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites. Online dating was a useless waste of time for me. Sending out messages to never get a reply. Reading profiles, writing profiles, scammers, fakes and old accounts left to make it look like there were more available women. Thanks for sharing, really informative. There's a cartoon that appeared in 'The New Yorker' magazine in 6998. It had a picture of a dog sitting at a computer with this caption: This is a good read Susana S. I will have to come back and read a bit slower for absorbation. Although I accept it can be quantified as a generality from the big picture perspective, once the wide angle lens is set aside nuances of personality can be recognized within the written word. I may comment further after reading again once home. It is a real and interesting hub, which all internet users must have a read.

The dark side is more strong than the advantages. Best wishes. Very interesting Hub, when talking to someone on the internet you never truly know their telling the truth or their making up a whole other person because they have no consequences unless it (selling people, trafficking or children)I like that people can connect to one another on the internet because you meet people all around the world stay connected to family far away. Anyways you have made certain worries clear (not in a bad way but in a good and positive way too). I now feel i fully know what I'm letting my self into but to also stay alert, reading your article, was sort of like getting advice so am happy about that. . I love psychology, I'm a bit happy now, my doubts have been cleared. This was helpful n fun. People act different in person that online, like they're afraid of being them self in the real worl. Hi pmccray - online dating is a great way to find a mate, but having been stung badly in the past it got me thinking about the mechanics of what went wrong from a psychological perspective and a lot of it is expressed here. I think it gives people a more convenient way of thinning the herd so to speak. But there is a dark side. It amazes me how many people use the internet to disguise themselves, but many are unhappy with there lives. Excellent piece, well researched, marked useful, awesome and shared. And respective owners. Other product and company names shown may be trademarks of their respective owners. HubPages is a registered Service Mark of HubPages, Inc.

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