A Study of Online Impression Formation, Mate Preferences and Courtship Scripts among Saudi Users of Matrimonial Websites
thesisposted on 06.04.2016, 14:50 by Ayman Naji Bajnaid
While traditional Saudi Arabian courtship is rigidly structured according to a set of Islamic codes of conduct, over the past decade, Saudis have increasingly turned to unconventional means of finding and courting a potential spouse: matrimonial websites. Given that little research has been done on this emerging form of courtship, which differs substantially from Western-style online dating, this research examines the impressions Saudi users intended to form when constructing their profiles on matrimonial websites, the characteristics these users seek in their potential spouses, and the acceptable Saudi script for courtships initiated on matrimonial websites. It unites hyperpersonal theory, sexual strategies theory, and script theory into a theoretical framework. The research consisted of three sequential phases, starting with a quantitative questionnaire (N = 302), followed by quantitative content analysis of the website profiles (N = 111), and ending with a qualitative semi-structured interview phase (N = 36). The results of the research contribute to the debate in the literature on Computer Meditated Communication regarding whether online settings provide rich information about other users, as they show that online interactions can provide more information about the opposite sex for users who belong to gender-segregated societies than they can get through their offline lives. The results also reveal that there are similarities and differences between Buss and Schmitt’s (1993) proposed strategic mate preferences and Saudis’ preferences. Such findings contribute to the theories on mate preferences in general and sexual strategies theory in particular by advancing the understanding of mate preferences in an Islamic context. The results also provided an in-depth description of the script Saudi users follow in trying to find a potential spouse through matrimonial websites. The findings also contribute to the online dating literature by showing the similarities and differences between conservative, Islamic Saudi users and Western users in using websites to search for a potential mate. Although these Saudi users deviate from traditional methods of finding a potential spouse, the findings of this research reveal that they do not completely challenge their traditions. The research shows the power of both social and religious norms in affecting these users’ behaviours and decisions when using matrimonial websites.