Perceptions of Stigma in Online Dating Narratives: Implications for Marriage and Family Therapists
Despite increased usage of online dating platforms, perceptions of meeting partners online remain generally stigmatized. When people internalize stigmatized online dating narratives as self-stigma, there are implications for psychological wellbeing and relational health. In the current study, through an open-ended online survey, I explored online dating narratives and perceptions of stigma in the experiences of 110 participants who met their partners online. I used thematic analysis (Braun and Clark, 2006) to identify and illustrate resulting themes, which revealed that (a) a general stigma about meeting partners online persists; (b) individuals are more likely to share that they met their partner online if they perceive their audience to be trustworthy; (c) intersections of race, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation influence how people share their online dating narratives; (d) a hierarchy of legitimacy exists amongst online dating platforms; and (e) the benefits of meeting online often outweigh the stigma. I used both symbolic interactionist and narrative therapy frameworks to explore the implications of these findings and make suggestions for marriage and family therapists (MFT) working with clients who met their partners online. As well, I proposed competencies in online relationships for MFT education.