The Digital Quest for Love – The Role of Relationship Status in Self-Presentation on Social Networking Sites


Social networking sites (SNS) offer various opportunities for communicating personal information, thus providing an ideal setting for getting in contact with other users. This study investigated whether a person’s relationship status presented on his/her online profile is related to virtual self-presentation on the German Web 2.0 site StudiVZ. Considering the social psychological concept of the “need to belong” (Baumeister & Leary, 1995), we assumed that users who are searching for a relationship make use of certain self-presentational strategies, for example by creating a more detailed profile and placing high priority on the display of a large network of social bonds. An analysis of 100 online profiles showed that singles disclosed more photographs of themselves on their profiles than people in relationships. The highest numbers of friends and wall postings were shown by people who did not reveal their relationship status. Singles displayed more groups on their profile and were more likely to join user groups dealing with parties, sexual statements as well as fun and nonsense. Results therefore indicate that – although SNS are not especially dedicated to dating behavior – self-presentation is nevertheless affected by the potential to form romantic relationships. Therefore, relationship status is suggested as a further factor which affects online impression management, besides, for example, socio-demographic aspects, personality traits and culture.

social networking sites; self-presentation; impression management; need to belong
Author biographies

Stephan Winter

Author photoStephan Winter is a researcher in the department of social psychology – media and communication at the University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany. In 2007, he received his Masters degree in Applied Communication and Media Science. Currently, he writes his PhD thesis which focuses on processes of information selection and reception on online news sites. Besides this, he has worked as a journalist for German newspapers and radio stations. His research interests include computer-mediated communication, Web 2.0 and online journalism.

Nina Haferkamp

Author photoNina Haferkamp holds an endowed junior professorship for Emerging Communications & Media at Dresden University of Technology, Germany. She received her Diplom (eqv. to M.Sc.) in Media Science (specialization: media psychology) in 2006 from the University of Cologne, Germany, and finished her Ph.D in Psychology in 2009 at the University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany. From 2008 to 2011, she worked as Research Assistant at the University of Duisburg-Essen and Münster and completed a post-doc project at the Department of Media & Communications at the LSE London. Her research work explores social psychological aspects of Social Media. She has published several papers on the usage and effects of social networking sites, blogs as well as social games.

Yvonne Stock

Author photoYvonne Stock received her Bachelor degree in Applied Communication and Media Science at the University of Duisburg-Essen and is currently studying Media Management (M.A.) at the Institute of Journalism and Communication Research (IJK) in Hannover, Germany. Her research interests are Social Media and Nonprofit Organizations.

Nicole C. Krämer

Author photoNicole Krämer is Professor for "Social Psychology - Media and Communication" at the University Duisburg-Essen since 2007. She finished her PhD in Psychology at the University of Cologne in 2001. In the academic year 2003/2004 she was visiting scholar and visiting lecturer at the University of Cambridge, Faculty of Social and Political Sciences. In 2006 she received the venia legendi for psychology with a habilitation thesis on "Social effects of embodied conversational agents" at the University of Cologne. Her research interests include human-computer-interaction, social psychological aspects of Web 2.0, nonverbal behaviour and computer supported instructional communication.

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