Predicted outcome value was assessed using Sunnafrank’s ( 1986) 10-item measure that utilizes a 6-point scale (1 = much less than I expected, 6 = much more than I expected). Participants were asked to evaluate the extent to which their partner’s communication behavior, attitudes, and overall impression met or exceeded their expectations based on their initial FtF meeting. Items included, “Considering your general expectations about how your partner responded to what you did and said, how positive did you expect this relationship to be for you?” and “Considering your general expectations about how he/she felt about you, how positive did you expect this relationship to be for you?” The scale produced a coefficient alpha of .90.
Information seeking was assessed through items from Ramirez and Zhang’s ( 2007) measure of information seeking. The 4 items asked participants to rate on a 7-point Likert-type scale (7 = strongly agree) the extent to which they asked questions, encouraged the sharing of personal information, followed up on partner comments, and actively attempted to get the partner to self-disclose during the initial FtF meeting. The scale yielded an alpha coefficient of .86.
The present study seeks to remedy this issue by extending the modality switching perspective to the applied and naturalistic setting of online dating partners who elect to establish fastflirting FtF contact during their relationship initiation process
Based on the results of a small-scale pilot study of 42 online dating site users, the priount of time prior to meeting FtF (AMT) was operationalized via an index of two self-reported items: the number of e-mails exchanged as well as the length of time communicating with their partner on the dating site prior to their initial FtF meeting. Previous research investigating MS reports a strong, positive association between the two variables (Ramirez & Zhang, 207; Ramirez & Wang, 2008). The results of the pilot study confirmed the presence of the same strong, significant positive correlation between the items (r = .82, p Table 1. All of the variables measured at the interval level were standardized prior to conducting the analyses.
Indeed, meeting FtF might provide daters with impression-enhancing information that develops the relationship in a positive manner
On a practical level, online daters might be unsure regarding whether it is better to meet potential partners FtF soon after establishing online contact, or postpone offline encounters until important relational markers such as trust and intimacy have been established. The present study will speak toward this issue, and might therefore provide daters with important advice regarding the ideal timing of FtF meetings. On a theoretical level, the present study seeks to enhance scholarly understanding of the MS process. Prior research has utilized experimental designs in which participants were randomly paired with a partner and assigned a task to complete ( e.g., Ramirez & Zhang, 2007; Ramirez & Wang, 2008). These experiments were designed to mimic the pattern of workgroups formed online and eventually migrate offline, yet ecological validity may have suffered due to the artificial nature of the partnerships and tasks.
Online dating profiles provide users with a relatively blank slate to craft their desired image, yet daters must be cautious of the fine line between slightly enhanced self-presentation and dishonest misrepresentation ( Hancock & Toma, 2009). Daters in Gibb et al.’s (2006) study acknowledged skepticism that others correctly represent, for instance, their appearance, age, and relationship goals. In fact, the authors concluded that honesty is negatively correlated with online dating self-presentation such that disclosing honest yet negative information can hinder daters’ ability to attract potential partners. According to Heino et al. ( 2010), dating profiles are designed to promote positive attributes, so most users account for dishonesty by assuming that potential partners have exaggerated or omitted pieces of information. For example, daters might share a common understanding that someone who lists their body type as being “curvy” is likely attempting to portray their large body size in an honest yet flattering way ( Ellison et al., 2011).
Existing literature advocates that the concept of MS is quite applicable and “especially relevant to the communication service offered by online dating sites” ( Finkel et al., 2012, p. 36). Online dating sites can encourage relationship development and intimacy, but users must carefully navigate the online to offline transition. Consistent with the modality switching perspective, Finkel and colleagues ( 2012) suggest that the “time frame between the initial CMC interaction and the initial face-to-face interaction is likely to be important” (p. 38).The authors speculated that daters would experience the most positive outcomes when they move toward FtF relatively quickly. However, a tipping point likely exists to the extent that daters who wait too long before meeting FtF may risk developing idealized impressions that will be violated upon meeting FtF. The potential for this is particularly likely in the online dating context, given that daters are prone toward making small and strategic self-enhancements on their profiles ( e.g., Ellison et al., 2006; Toma & Hancock, 2011; Whitty, 2008). Such claims are consistent with the experimental MS research discussed above. In sum) identify the online-to-offline time gap as an important turning point, as we note below previous MS research provides a potential explanation for its importance ( Ramirez & Zhang, 2007; Ramirez & Wang, 2008) by implying a curvilinear relationship between the amount of time that online daters spend communicating and relational communication outcomes upon meeting FtF.
When attempting to determine a POV forecast during initial FtF interactions, online daters will likely compare social and visual information gained about each other online to that experienced in person ( Gibbs et al, 2006). Information about perceived inconsistencies between attributes claimed online and those inferred in person would be sought. Partners who meet FtF with very little online interaction likely lack the basic background information that would provide fodder for developing the relationship. Due to this limited amount of message exchange, such partners likely possess underdeveloped partner expectations, engaged in little idealization, and should be able to incorporate the new social and visual information into their perceptions thus maintaining a positive POV. However, partners who develop idealized perceptions due to a prolonged online communication process may have their expectations violated in a manner that hinders their POV ( Ramirez & Wang, 2008). Moreover, Sunnafrank ( 1986) argues that POV is a product and reflection of the communication that occurs between partners and thus, should mimic the pattern predicted of the relational dimensions in the present study.