A topic that is referenced several times throughout Baym’s Personal Connections in the Digital Age is online dating, which is mentioned in the context of dating sites (which are not specifically identified, except one user on America Online). The landscape of online dating has changed dramatically from the early 2000’s to the present. Dating apps are becoming more commonplace than dating websites, and these apps are increasingly popular among young, college-aged adults. Additionally, the nature of online dating has changed in many dating apps. Several apps (like Tinder and Bumble) are based in the concept of seeing a few pictures and short biography for someone (rather than viewing a detailed profile), and choosing to “like” them or not; people are only able to message each other if they both “like” or “match” with each other. Different apps have varying defining features. For example, Bumble is unique in that only women can send the first message and initiate conversation with their matches.
A research topic that I think would be interesting is analyzing the messages send on new dating apps, looking at the response rates, and seeing how often conversations turn into dates and subsequently, relationships and marriages. Additionally, I think it would be worthwhile to analyze and compare success between different dating apps, and if using paid versions rather than free versions actually impacts success. Another similar area this is measuring how society’s views on using dating apps have changed in recent years; people may view dating apps as being geared more towards people looking for casual relationships rather than long-term commitment. Some believe that dating apps changed the dating world—mostly for the worst, by encouraging shallowness (because people must judge each other quickly from a few pictures and sentences) and a culture where people are hesitant to commit to a serious relationship because there are seemingly endless options on dating apps, causing people to believe the grass is always greener in another relationship.
Another topic touched on in Baym’s book is memes. Though the book discusses playful memes such as “LOLcats” and “Socially Awkward Penguin,” in the past few years, memes have become increasingly absurd, dark, and surreal. They can also be very political as well as self-depreciating, openly referencing topics such as mental health issues, sexuality, and suicide. They can act as a way for friends with a shared sense of humor to bond, or for someone to express their thoughts or views on a topic in a humorous way. Baym’s book mentions how memes begin in the site 4Chan, and then move to Reddit, and then sites like Facebook and Instagram. Recently, image memes have begun cropping up on Facebook and Instagram that either stay there, or migrate to Reddit and other sites. The most popular, prevalent ones are short-lived, only staying relevant for a few weeks. Several brands have tried to include references to these memes in their marketing strategy; one research idea could be to research the effectiveness of memes as a marketing tool.