Deviating from the traditional Turkish marriage styles, when families used to find a daughter-in-law for their sons or son-in-law for their daughters from among their neighbors, acquaintances and relatives or when couples met each other at work or school, many Turks are now trying to find their spouse in cyberspace, enjoying the freedom to select their future wives or husbands from among thousands of people but risking seeing their marriage dreams end in disappointment at the same time.
“Are you alone? Are you looking for new friendships? Do you want to meet the love of your life? Do you want to marry? Are you ready to open your doors to a new world?” asks the home page of a leading Turkish matrimonial Web site, www.varmigoren.com.
People's decision to search for a spouse online is the final result of the changing structure of Turkish society, according to Associate Professor Ali Murat Yel, a sociologist at İstanbul's Fatih University who thinks that Turkish society is more individualistic now than it used to be.
“In the past, a marriage was a contract among families. Now, it is a more individual thing, as everyone tries to find his or her spouse themselves. Families have given up their former roles of finding a prospective spouse for their sons and daughters. They want their children to find their spouses themselves,” he said.
Yel noted that looking for an emotional partner in cyberspace appears to be good opportunity for those who do not have the opportunity to enter into different social settings and meet new people; however, he warned that the area was open to abuse from ill-intentioned people.
“When I first registered at this Web site, I thought finding my soul mate here was hopeless, I thought it inappropriate for someone to marry through a matchmaking Web site. But my ideas turned out to be wrong. I would like thank everyone who works for this Web site. I found the person I was looking for here, I found the owner of my heart. I am marrying Survival [nickname of another user of the Web site]. I hope other users of this Web site will be as lucky as me,” wrote a male user of the www.evliliksitesi .com in a note posted on the Web site expressing his happiness about finding his soul mate.
Sociologist Nilüfer Narlı, a professor at Bahçehir University in İstanbul, thinks there are several reasons individuals try to find their marriage partners through a Web site. “There are more options in cyberspace; hence the likelihood of marriage increases. For people coming from a conservative background, it is more appropriate to communicate by writing instead of flirting. Cyberspace also allows individuals who would like to hide some personal information about them to communicate with others,” explained Narlı.
She also said long working hours and the burdens of city life prevent individuals from expanding their social network; thus, they find it easier to meet new people while sitting in their homes or offices.
According to Narlı, short-lived relationships that spark quickly but are just as quickly extinguished also lead more and more people to resort to such Web sites.
The www.evlilik.name Web site, which announces that some 75,000 couples have tied the knot after meeting through the Web site, refuses to accept any applications from people aiming to flirt or date, saying that only individuals aiming to marry can register on the Web site.
One of the most important reasons for the rising interest in matchmaking Web sites, according to clinical psychologist Yeşim Türköz from the Turkish Psychological Association (TPD), is cyberspace's ability to keep people away from the responsibilities and fears of a social setting.
“In real life, one needs to get out of the house and establish dialogue with others to find a mate. To achieve this, one has to dress well, get permission from their family for certain things, spend money, express their views using communication skills and still runs the risk of being rejected. All these cause consternation among individuals and bring responsibilities. In cyberspace, though, looking for a mate is like looking at shop windows or trying on clothes. There is joy in it without any responsibility. A person starts communicating with someone who she/he finds appropriate for them. If there is mutual admiration, the relationship may end in marriage,” Türköz explained.