Online dating websites help some gay men accept their sexual orientation, according to research published June 7 in New Media & Society.
Nuno Nodin of the Instituto Superior De Psicologia Aplicada in Portugal and his colleagues investigated how the use of the Internet by gay men changed them in relevant ways.
Gay men have similar experiences with online dating as other groups, but “also experience specificities associated with their sexual interests and with the stigma that still affects homosexuality,” the researchers said in the study.
Though some gay men told the researchers their experiences with online dating had not impacted them in any significant way, they were in the minority. Most indicated the online experiences had change their view of themselves and others.
In their study of 36 gay men, the researchers found several individuals reported that online dating had increased their acceptance of their own sexual orientation. The availability of like-minded sexual partners also increased their self-confidence regarding sex in general.
One participant said “his online experience lessened his internalized homophobia” by providing a space to freely explore his sexuality, Nodin and his colleagues wrote. Other participants made similar comments.
“This suggests that the internalized homophobia that many of these men possibly acquired while growing up may to a certain extent be minimized or undone by the social and sexual experiences facilitated by the Internet,” the researchers explained.
However, some gay men also reported that their experiences with online dating had impacted them negatively. Some of the participants told the researchers they had become hooked on online dating websites and that this obsession had become problematic. One gay man said he felt like a fool for staring at his computer screen all day rather than enjoying the nice weather outside.
Additionally, some gay men also reported that their experiences with online dating had left them jaded. In particular, the use of false images or profiles had lead these men to become more suspicious of others in general.
“In contrast with other more optimistic assessments of Internet use, for some participants it provided a less fulfilling experience, unveiling what seems to be a world of half-truths, deceits and lack of honesty,” Nodin and his colleagues wrote.
The study was co-authored by Alex Carballo-Diéguez of the HIV Center for Clinical and Behavioral Studies, and Isabel MP Leal of the Instituto Superior de Psicologia Aplicada.