Factors Related to Initiating Interpersonal Contacts on Internet Dating Sites: A View From the Social Exchange Theory


  • Rivka Shtatfeld
  • Azy Barak


The purpose of this study was to identify factors that influence dating-site users to initiate contact with potential romantic partners. The study was carried out by observing online behaviors and analyzing the profiles and authentic messages of these users (N = 106) over seven months. Contacts made by and with the research participants were analyzed in terms of the relationships between initiators‘ and receivers‘ demographic variables (marital status, age, level of education, income), writing skills, and stated physical appearance. In addition, the relationship between contacting partners and site accessibility was examined. The findings revealed that dating-site users initiated contact primarily with those having a similar marital status or slightly better characteristics (income, education, writing skills). In regard to writing skills, it was found that skilled writers attracted more contacts than did less skilled writers. However, the factor that was found to be most significantly related to initiating contact was the length of time that elapsed from last connection to the site, which implies the perceived accessibility of potential romantic partners. The findings were explained in terms of the Social Exchange Theory: people are attracted to those who grant them rewards.