The Internet continues to grow in its popularity. Along with this growth has been an increase in romantic relationships that begin online. While research has been conducted that examines Internet interactions, the demographics of Internet users, and the effects of Internet usage, little has been done in terms of romantic relationships that started over the Internet. The purpose of this dissertation was to answer the question: For those who have developed a romantic relationship online, what meaning do they give to the online aspect of their romantic relationship? This study employed a qualitative methodology using a phenomenological approach to a case study of twelve individuals who met their partners on the Internet. Participants were recruited through referrals from colleagues and via a flyer that was posted in businesses in the Upstate New York area. An unstructured 1-2 hour telephone interview was conducted and audio-taped with each of the participants. All data was then examined using a phenomenological approach to data analysis. Meaning units were identified and then examined for common themes. Ten themes were identified, seven essential themes and three unique themes. A description of what this experience was like for the participants emerged from those themes. The findings indicated that an early lack of any expectation that the online interactions would develop into a relationship, along with other factors, led to earlier self-disclosures of more personal information. Two apparently paradoxical phenomena were discovered to emerge from this. First, the decision to interact without any intention of becoming involved in a relationship led to the emergence of the romantic relationship. Second, partners became so familiar with each other online that their first experience of meeting face-to-face was described as meeting an old friend for the first time. It was found that current theories on relationship development fall short when applied to this phenomenon.
|Adviser||Lynn K. Jones|
|Subjects||Social psychology; Social work; Information technology|
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