Comm 309 Letter

June 18, 2009 at 5:49 pm (Uncategorized)

Final Paper
Comm 309
6/15/09

My Dear Ms. Heather,

            I am writing to you today to help you with your current romantic situation, or, rather, lack thereof. Relationships are complicated, as you and I both know quite well. Men are complicated, period. But finding the right person to compliment you in today’s society is probably the most complicated, not easily simplified of all situations that we as human beings deal with. Arguably, twenty years ago was either a much simpler time to be able to find the right person to form a relationship or a much more difficult one. The difference, you ask? The invention and subsequent explosion of the internet, with all it’s faults and glories into our society. Online love. Or the possibility of such, anyway. Is it possible? This is a question that is not easily answered and is thoroughly researched, discussed and debated. Is it easier to fall in love online or off line?
            I think it is best to first examine your current situation and how it evolved into the mess that it is today. Matt entered your life by way of MySpace, did he not? You were in a place in your life that was a little hairy; our exploration of a new life had just failed miserably, we had both just gotten out of ridiculously dysfunctional relationships, and, probably most of all, you were lonely. I had left you to pursue my own opportunities that presented themselves at the perfect time for me, and I left you to fight it out on your own. For that I am sorry. But you had to do what you had to do. And you did what you always do. You settled. Matt seemed, at first, like your knight in shining armor. His profile depicted him to be this fun loving, exciting musician. He was a rockstar! Sort of. Of course that’s attractive. He gave you everything that he had in the material sense, even though it wasn’t much. He pulled you out of a really nasty situation in which you had invested everything you had and lost it all. What a great guy! Right? Well, as it turns out, your initial impression and attraction to him that you had formed online and in the first few months of your new relationship was not the guy he turned out to be. How funny would it be to visit someone’s MySpace page and see “I’m really a selfish, lazy asshole who has no real motivations in life except to chase my pipe dream of being a famous rocker.” Because that’s what he turned out to be, right? But, again, at that point in time that you came to realize the reality of this MySpacer, you already had developed some sort of feelings for him, even if they did stem from gratitude only. On top of that, you again had invested too much of your life in him and the relationship to just bail.
            But, being that you are considering moving here to the West Coast, which will be a new town and a new set of social contacts that is relatively small and close knit, you may be thinking about trying again with the online dating option. Some experts will say that it is a good option, some disagree. But we know that you are happiest when you are in love, so we will examine this topic in depth a little bit, here.
            Abigail Bassett wrote an article that was published on CNN.com just this past February. In it, she briefs two women and their experiences on various social networking sites and what happened. A woman had found a former crush on Facebook and they began an online only relationship that lasted about 6 months and then ended abruptly and for no apparent reason. She goes on to comment about this pseudo-relationship by saying that “…online, they can be anything they want… you really feel a connection. But it’s not real.”
            B.J. Fogg, director of the Persuasive Tech Lab at Stanford University went o to comment on these Facebook encounters. He says, “I think you get out of Facebook what you want to get out of Facebook. It’s like a Rorschach Test. If you want to go onto Facebook to look for someone else to be with or look for a support system to leave your current relationship, then you will find that.”
            So, if we apply this to your situation, I would say that we get at least an answer to why you are where you are right now. I also think that it is an excellent point to keep in mind when you consider the pros and cons of trying to meet someone on one of these social networking sites.
            Now, I know you are probably saying something like, “It was never my intention to meet someone like that on MySpace,” or “it only didn’t work out because I rushed into it.” So, we can talk about those arguments as well.
            Aaron Ben-Ze’ev wrote a book called “Love Online” in which he says “In many online relationships, you can imagine your cybermate in whatever way you wish to and you can describe yourself as you wish to be seen.” Erving Goffman calls this impression management. Ben Ze’ev goes on to describe these online relationships in a way that may be the key reason why they are valuable: “The presence of interactive characteristics in the imaginary realm of online relationship is a tremendous revolution in personal relationships, as it enables people to reap most of the benefits associated with offline relationships without investing significant resources.” This statement, in my opinion, is the basis of how online dating got started, why it caught on so rapidly and with such intensity and why it could be an appropriate way to get involved with someone whom you could possibly one day be in an actual physical relationship with. This could be the basis of the answer to your argument of ‘rushing’ into a relationship that turned out to be less than desirable. Getting to know someone online could provide a good starting point for a future partnership, especially with someone who is shy when they first meet people, as you are. Online dating sites such as Eharmony.com and Chemistry.com, to sample just a few, are popular because they do much of the weeding out of people who surely are just too different for any real possibility to exist.
            There are various sites that offer in-depth analyses of the many facets of online dating and love that should be explored before you decide that you do or do not want to take a chance. One of these resources is a thesis done on Online Impression Management by Nicole Ellison, Rebecca Heino and Jennifer Gibbs. They examine “The Self Presentation Processes in the Online Dating Environment.” In their research they include some more insight on the presence or lack of cues, which are the little things that I have mentioned before that give you an idea of what kind of person you are talking to, their temperament, their truthfulness, etc that are often missing from text only conversations. These are other important things to consider when venturing onto a matchmaker site to find your next prince charming, and hopefully this time he has a job and a will to get off the couch!
            However, there is always a risk that is taken when you meet a person online, because, ultimately, they have all the control in their own impression management. They can make themselves seem to be the nicest person when they are truly not, depend on the shadows of text only conversation to belie their true emotions, and the fact that you are getting to know someone without actually meeting the person virtually eliminates any powers of intuition you may have. An article in the Baltimore Sun in March 2006 by Dan Thanh Dang discusses these factors that are, to our dismay, present in the world of online communicating. In a survey done on online dating, “…57% believe a lot of people who use online dating sites lie about their marital status…” That is a pretty disheartening statistic, but probably the truth nonetheless. So the question exists, is it really that different from meeting someone in person? I mean, you still have to wonder if they are telling you the truth about being divorced, or being a wall street stockbroker, or whether or not they are a mass murderer!!! Okay, that last one is a bit extreme, but the fact remains that you never really can tell!
            To tie it all together, John Suler’s “The Psychology of Cyberspace” contains an article titled “The Final Showdown Between In-person and Cyberspace Relationships.” In it, he discusses all the details that are important and not important, present and not present when it comes to valuable and genuine human interaction. Things like intuition, as I mentioned before, and things we don’t think about, like smell (he may be everything else, but if he doesn’t shower or use deodorant… I don’t know…) that you just can’t experience online. Suler sums it up by saying “As complex and meaningful as text communication can be, it lacks the amount of robust and rich information that can be conveyed via the integration of talking, facial expressions, voice intonation, body language, and physical contact.” I would actually have to agree.
            But the ultimate question that we are really trying to answer is ‘is it easier to fall in love online?’ Based on my research and past indirect experience, I would say yes. But is it the kind of ‘knock you on your rear, gonna last forever’ love that I would think we all are ultimately hoping for? Probably not… at least not yet.

All my love,

Brandy

P.S. If you want to know more, check out the sources I have listed for you below. Good Luck!

 

 

Bibliography

Bassett, Abigail (2/18/2009). Easier to mess up love life on social networks. CNN.com/living, Retrieved 6/15/2009, from http://edition.cnn.com/2009/LIVING/personal/02/18/social.networks/index.html

Ben Ze’ev, Aaron (2004). Love online: emotions on the internet. Cambridge University Press.

Dang, Dan Thanh (3/6/2006). Online daters hopeful in search for love. Pew Internet & American Life Project, Retrieved 6/15/2009, from http://www.pewinternet.org/Media-Mentions/2006/Online-daters-hopeful-in-search-for-love.aspx

Ellison, N., Heino, R., & Gibbs, J. (2006). Managing impressions online: Self-presentation processes in the online dating environment. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 11(2), article 2. http://jcmc.indiana.edu/vol11/issue2/ellison.html

Suler, John (9/2004). The Final Showdown Between In-Person and Cyberspace Relationships. Retrieved June 15, 2009, from Psychology of Cyberspace Web site: http://www-usr.rider.edu/~suler/psycyber/showdown.html#touching

 

 

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