An Overview of the Online Dating Field by Zosia Bielski and Tonia Cowan
An Overview of the Online Dating Field by Zosia Bielski and Tonia Cowan

What Works

Imagine this data as a bar graph that illustrates how many users each site has. Maybe there is even some sort of inception date from the site included, too. That would be a typical way to represent this sort of data because all the reporters had in terms of numbers, were user totals. But they weren’t interested in simply showing how big one site was with respect to another. They were interested in discussing hook-up culture. Now, so far as I know, there is no agreed upon quantitative measure of ‘hooking up’. These folks didn’t claim to invent one (which is nice). They just used a couple different qualitative axes to illustrate the distinctions they saw within the field of online dating when it comes to marriage vs. hooking up and raunchiness vs. wholesomeness.

I think Bourdieu would have recognized some of his own influence here. He had similar Cartesian field maps in Distinction. Granted, he may not have been thrilled to have his concept used to describe online dating – ‘raunchy’ is a word that may not have been part of his vocabulary. On the other hand, his axis of choice probably would have been class (high and low) and as far as I can tell, the desire for lasting vs. fleeting sex does not show a clear relationship to class. Feel free to debate that assertion in the comments.

What Needs Work

Not a fan of the colors. I also wonder how certain smaller sites made the list – seems a bit arbitrary considering how many sites were left off the list.


Bielski, Zosia. (2009, April 9) “One Click Stands” in The Globe and Mail. [Tonia Cowan also contributed to the production of the graphic.]

Bourdieu, Pierre. [tras. Richard Nice] (1987) Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.