VIRTUAL DATING + MENTAL HEALTH RESEARCH
DR. NIZAMI, WHAT ARE THE OBSTACLES OF VIRTUAL DATING IN TODAY’S WORLD?
Something that we’re facing in the dating world right now is just that extra layer of virtual community and meeting a partner online or through texting or an app, which is really new. It’s modern dating, it’s not traditional. And it adds a layer of almost self-presentation as a focus of how you’re presenting yourself and understanding and caring about what people think, to then understand my desirability. So I think what happens is, especially for young adult women, we’re often subjected to these discourses of beauty and expectations for how we’re supposed to look or how our image or body size is supposed to fit. And when we’re in these virtual spaces, we often then subject ourselves to those standards. So then it becomes this really difficult question of, “Am I being congruent with myself?” And maybe also leaving some space for anxiety, depression, body dysmorphia, you know, all the things that are really difficult cognitively to think about yourself.
CAN YOU TALK MORE ABOUT THE STRUGGLES YOUNG ADULTS ARE FACING WHEN VIRTUAL DATING?
When I did the research with these young women, it was really apparent that the goal was authenticity, the goal was vulnerability, and the goal was to be congruent, but they were often, again, subjected in this way that they felt powerless to have to give in to the desirability construct in order to just meet someone. Which was hard because the goal of that value is I wanna be true to who I am, I wanna be authentic, but I have to maintain this outward external representation. We’re just not, it’s not gonna align, right? So we either fake it to make it, and we put on this image that’s not representative of who we are, that then gets us a partner, but leads to maybe relational issues. Or we suffer internally and never have the opportunity of meeting a partner because we didn’t meet that desirability standard. So it’s a really unique experience at the current moment.
DO YOU THINK THERE ARE ANY BENEFITS TO VIRTUAL DATING?
I think, again, there’s opportunity for social building of community through the virtual world, you have access to more people. But then, you know, I’d say the harder part is then are you able to access them the way you want to, representing yourself the way you want to.