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Online dating and mating: Perceptions of risk and health among online users

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In this paper, we examine the behaviours and experiences of people who use online dating and how they may or may not address risk in their use of online dating. Fifteen people who used online dating took part in in-depth, online chat interviews. We found that online daters use a variety of methods for managing and understanding the risks they perceived to be associated with online dating. Online daters compared the risks of online dating with other activities in their lives to justify their use of the medium. Many felt self-confident in their personal ability to manage and limit any risks they might encounter and, for some, the ability to be able to scapegoat risk (that is to blame others) was a method by which they could contextualize their own experiences and support their own risk strategies. For many, the control offered by the online environment was central to risk management. Additionally, the social context in which an individual encountered a potential risk would shape how they perceived the risk and responded to it. People who use online dating do consider the risks involved and they demonstrate personal autonomy in their risk management. From a public health perspective, it is important to understand how risk is experienced from an individual perspective, but it is imperative that any interventions are implemented at a population level.

Keywords: Online dating; STD; risk; risk management; risk perception

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: School of Public Health, La Trobe University, Australia

Publication date: 2007-09-01

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