How Online Dating Changed the Psychology of Sexual Intimacy
When dating online, people disclose personal details more readily than in real life. This leads to a false sense of intimacy that can result in serious misunderstandings over sexual desire.
Mary Aiken specializes in the impact of technology on human behaviour, and has written extensively on issues relating to the intersection between humankind and technology — or as she describes it "where humans and technology collide." She appears regularly on radio and television and frequently gives talks to the public and private sector on an international basis. Dr. Mary Aiken is an Adjunct Associate Professor at University College Dublin, Geary Institute for Public Policy, and Academic Advisor (Psychology) to the European Cyber Crime Centre (EC3) at Europol. She is a lecturer in Criminology and Research Fellow at the School of Law, Middlesex University, a Fellow of the Society for Chartered IT Professionals, a Sensemaking Fellow at the IBM Network Science Research Centre, and Distinguished Professor of the Practice of Cyber Analytics at AIRS Hawaii Pacific University. She is a member of the Hague Justice Portal advisory board and Director of the Cyberpsychology Research Network. Her groundbreaking work inspired the CBS television series "CSI: Cyber."
Mary Aiken: Lots of people have a positive experience of online dating. One of the criticisms of my book is that I showcase a lot of negative content in terms of all things cyber. But there’s a good reason for that. We have an army of marketers over here telling us it’s all good. I want to position myself over here saying well it’s not so good. And hopefully then we can meet in the center and have a balanced debate. So online dating. What could go wrong? Well like all things in life it comes with risk. So the NCA which is the National Crime Agency in the UK, police force, recently issued a report to say that there has been a six-fold increase in sexual assaults associated with online dating. And what was really disturbing about that report is that 71 percent of these assaults took place on the first date and either in the home of the victim or the offender. So the question is well why is that happening? So if you look more closely at the research as a forensic cyberpsychologist the thing that really disturbed me is that the offenders reported didn’t have the typical profile of a sex offender in that they didn’t have previous convictions and they didn’t have a criminal record.
A large number of them did not have a typical profile. So what does this mean? Does it mean that sex offenders are now moving online to online dating forums to find victims more easily? Or does it mean that something else is happening in the dating world and it’s ending up with this catastrophic outcome. So let’s think about it from a cyberpsychology perspective. When you date online you create this avatar, this profile, this representation of self. But is it really you or is it an idealized version of self? And let’s not forget the person that you’re trying to date is also creating this profile. Princess Diana – we all remember Princess Diana. She said that her marriage was a little crowded because there were three people in it. Well online dating you’ve got four people in the relationship. You’ve got two cyber selves and you’ve got two real world selves. So the question is do you really know the person you’re dating. We talk to kids about stranger danger. I want to talk to you guys about stranger danger in terms of online dating. As the police say, get to know the person and not the profile. So what is the science behind why you think this stranger is suddenly an intimate friend?
In cyberpsychology we talk about hyper personal interaction which basically means that people move towards extreme amounts of self-disclosure online very quickly. Self-disclosure in the real world operates at around 40 percent according to one study but increases to 80 percent once you go online. This is a lean medium. Very few visual cues. And what happens is that as you get pieces of information you can tend to fill in the blanks and turn this person into something much more aspirational, your ideal partner. But it’s not a reality and you don’t know the person. It’s a little like what we call stranger on the train syndrome. It’s easy to sit down with a total stranger and totally disclose. But there are consequences and real world consequences. And in the report, the police report their researchers felt that the root of the problem was what they classified as misdirected expectations which means that the chat online, whatever platform whether it was text based or chat based platforms had quickly escalated into very intimate and sexualized content in some of the cases which in turn meant that when there was real world meeting that there were misdirected expectations.
To be clear sex without consent is a crime. So if anybody has been a victim of a sexual assault associated with online dating you must report it immediately. One of the big problems we face from a policing perspective is the underreporting of crime associated with online dating. It is estimated that less than one in five of these assaults are reported. And possibly because a victim may feel that the digital trace they have left online somehow may have compromised their position. That is not the case. A crime is a crime is a crime irrespective of the way that the victim engaged with the offender.
The UK's National Crime Agency recently reported that sexual assault associated with online dating had increased by six-hundred percent. That's a shocking statistic at odds with what has become an accepted way to meet people romantically. And while many individuals have had pleasant, or at least neutral experiences with online dating, those promoting the activity are often simultaneously selling it.
Mary Aiken sees herself as a bulwark against the commercialism of romantic encounters. Her aim is not to tear down technology that has widened our social circles marvelously, but merely to balance what she calls "the army of marketers" telling us that cyberspace is good. What is not good, says Aiken, or at least very different from normal behavioral, is how quickly we disclose personal details online.
Called "hyper personal interaction," it is well documented that people disclose personal details at double the rate the normally would when they are online. What results is a false sense of intimacy between two people, and while this feeling may aid the romantic connection promised by dating services, it can equally result in misunderstandings. And sometimes those misunderstandings occur over serious matters such as one person's desire to become physically intimate.
Of the sexual assaults documented by Britain's crime agency, "71 percent of these assaults took place on the first date and either in the home of the victim or the offender," says Aiken. It is not the case that sex offenders have migrated en masse to online dating platforms. Instead, navigating new social rules introduced by the Internet is complicated. Though to be clear, sex without consent is a crime.
When a cyber encounter moves offline into the real world, there are four identities parties must navigate: two real identities and two cyber identities, i.e. avatars that present an idealized version of an individual often for the purpose of attracting a mate. Unfortunately, sex crimes that result from online dating are likely to unreported, partly because victims fear their online exchanges will compromise their case. If anybody has been a victim of a sexual assault associated with online dating, however, it is essential to report it immediately.
Mary Aiken's most recent book is The Cyber Effect: A Pioneering Cyberpsychologist Explains How Human Behavior Changes Online.
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The images and our best computer models don't agree.
A trio of intriguing galaxy clusters<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDQzNDA0OS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxNTkzNzUyOH0.0IRzkzvKsmPEHV-v1dqM1JIPhgE2W-UHx0COuB0qQnA/img.jpg?width=980" id="d69be" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2d2664d9174369e0a06540cb3a3a9079" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
The three galaxy clusters imaged for the study
Mapping dark matter<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="d904b585c806752f261e1215014691a6"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/fO0jO_a9uLA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>The assumption has been that the greater the lensing effect, the higher the concentration of dark matter.</p><p>As scientists analyzed the clusters' large-scale lensing — the massive arc and elongation visual effects produced by dark matter — they noticed areas of smaller-scale lensing within that larger distortion. The scientists interpret these as concentrations of dark matter within individual galaxies inside the clusters.</p><p>The researchers used spectrographic data from the VLT to determine the mass of these smaller lenses. <a href="https://www.oas.inaf.it/en/user/pietro.bergamini/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Pietro Bergamini</a> of the INAF-Observatory of Astrophysics and Space Science in Bologna, Italy explains, "The speed of the stars gave us an estimate of each individual galaxy's mass, including the amount of dark matter." The leader of the spectrographic aspect of the study was <a href="http://docente.unife.it/docenti-en/piero.rosati1/curriculum?set_language=en" target="_blank">Piero Rosati</a> of the Università degli Studi di Ferrara, Italy who recalls, "the data from Hubble and the VLT provided excellent synergy. We were able to associate the galaxies with each cluster and estimate their distances." </p><p>This work allowed the team to develop a thoroughly calibrated, high-resolution map of dark matter concentrations throughout the three clusters.</p>
But the models say...<p>However, when the researchers compared their map to the concentrations of dark matter computer models predicted for galaxies bearing the same general characteristics, something was <em>way</em> off. Some small-scale areas of the map had 10 times the amount of lensing — and presumably 10 times the amount of dark matter — than the model predicted.</p><p>"The results of these analyses further demonstrate how observations and numerical simulations go hand in hand," notes one team member, <a href="https://nena12276.wixsite.com/elenarasia" target="_blank">Elena Rasia</a> of the INAF-Astronomical Observatory of Trieste, Italy. Another, <a href="http://adlibitum.oats.inaf.it/borgani/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Stefano Borgani</a> of the Università degli Studi di Trieste, Italy, adds that "with advanced cosmological simulations, we can match the quality of observations analyzed in our paper, permitting detailed comparisons like never before."</p><p>"We have done a lot of testing of the data in this study," Meneghetti says, "and we are sure that this mismatch indicates that some physical ingredient is missing either from the simulations or from our understanding of the nature of dark matter." <a href="https://physics.yale.edu/people/priyamvada-natarajan" target="_blank">Priyamvada Natarajan</a> of Yale University in Connecticut agrees: "There's a feature of the real Universe that we are simply not capturing in our current theoretical models."</p><p>Given that any theory in science lasts only until a better one comes along, Natarajan views the discrepancy as an opportunity, saying, "this could signal a gap in our current understanding of the nature of dark matter and its properties, as these exquisite data have permitted us to probe the detailed distribution of dark matter on the smallest scales."</p><p>At this point, it's unclear exactly what the conflict signifies. Do these smaller areas have unexpectedly high concentrations of dark matter? Or can dark matter, under certain currently unknown conditions, produce a tenfold increase in lensing beyond what we've been expecting, breaking the assumption that more lensing means more dark matter?</p><p>Obviously, the scientific community has barely begun to understand this mystery.</p>
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Astronomers spot an object heading into Earth orbit.
Minimoons<p>Scientists have confirmed just two prior minimoons. One was <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2006_RH120" target="_blank">2006 RH120</a>, which orbited us from September 2006 to June 2007. The other was <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2020_CD3" target="_blank">2020 CD3</a>, which got stuck in the 2015–2016 timeframe, and is believed to gotten away in May 2020.</p><p>2020 SO, the new kid on the block, is expected to arrive in October 2020 and pop out of orbit in May 2021.</p><div id="37962" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="f4c0fc8a2cba6536ea4cd960ebed3e6e"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1307729521869611008" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Asteroid 2020 SO may get captured by Earth from Oct 2020 - May 2021. Current nominal trajectory shows shows capture… https://t.co/F5utxRvN6Z</div> — Tony Dunn (@Tony Dunn)<a href="https://twitter.com/tony873004/statuses/1307729521869611008">1600621989.0</a></blockquote></div>
Identifying 2020 SO<p>The first clue 2020 SO isn't your ordinary asteroid is its exceptionally low velocity. It's traveling much more slowly that a typical asteroid — their <a href="https://www.lpi.usra.edu/exploration/training/illustrations/craterMechanics/" target="_blank">average rate of travel</a> <a href="https://www.lpi.usra.edu/exploration/training/illustrations/craterMechanics/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"></a>is 18 kilometers (58,000 feet) per second. Even <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moon_rock" target="_blank">moon rocks</a> sent careening into Earth orbit by impacts on the lunar surface outpace pokey 2020 SO.</p><p>For another thing, 2020 SO has an orbital path very similar to Earth's, lasting about one Earth year. It's also just slightly less circular than our own orbit, from which it's barely tilted off-axis.</p><p>So, what is it? <a href="https://cneos.jpl.nasa.gov/ca/" target="_blank">NASA estimates</a> that the object has dimensions very reminiscent of a discarded Centaur rocket stage from the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Surveyor_2" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Surveyor 2 mission</a> that landed an unmanned craft on the moon. Back in the day, rocket stages were jettisoned as craft were aimed toward their desired position. This stuff, if released high enough, remains in space. It appears that this Centaur rocket, launched in September 1966, is now making its way back homeward, at least for a little bit.</p><p>When 2020 SO arrives at its closest point in December, the rocket is expected to be about 50,000 kilometers from Earth. Its next closest approach is much further: 220,000 kilometers, in February 2010.</p><img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDQzMDk3NC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyODg1MTQ1MX0.HGknDwqp0GmeuczKY_AS7vrPG7KMFUc_XO95tNoI2xo/img.jpg?width=980" id="e5cda" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="85eb1f790d8c3ee5b261f7ba13eaa5e1" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Centaur rocket stage" />
Centaur rocket stage
What we may be able to learn<p>Earthly space programs being as young as they are, scientists would love to know what's happened to our rocket during a half century in space.</p><p>While 2020 SO won't get close enough to drop into our atmosphere, its slow progress has scientists hopeful that they'll still get some kind of a decent look at it.</p><p>Spectroscopy may be able to reveal what the rocket's surface is like now — has any of its paint survived, for example? Of course, being out in space, it's likely to have been hit by lots of dust and micrometeorites, so the current state of its surfaces is also of interest. Experts are curious to know how reflective the rocket is at this point, valuable information that can help planners of future long-term missions anticipate how well a craft out in space for extended periods will remain able to reflect sunlight.</p>
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