Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Making Friends?

Dear Parks and Floyd,

I think your article "Making Friends" made some very valid points about the identity issue that has been presented by researchers when dealing with computer mediated communication vs. face-to-face. For most of your arguments, you validate the emotional and personal bridge between person to person even through the internet. One example you gave was the research done through a newsgroup analysis. Your final assumption was that "personal relationships seemed equally likely to develop in all sectors examined" (86). With this research, I do have to agree with you that people who are active participants, posting comments and contributing to the site, formulate relationships through these newsgroups more so than those who utilize them for solely information gathering. The ability to engage in this conversational style makes relationships much easier to build because the engagement is so similar to actual face-to-face communication, adding emoticons in place of physical cues. I completely agree with your argument that online relationships are genuine personal relationships in the eyes of the actual participants. During our class, we watched a movie spotlighting avid Second Life users. Those who took part in the game really created personal relationships, one couple even beginning a romance through the virtual world. The issue with identification however still stands. During one of the interviews, a grown man explained his reasoning for displaying his identity as a young female child in the game. It was later revealed that, because of an abusive childhood, he created this character in retaliation of this suppressed and festered memory. With this result, I do somewhat agree in the optimism that cyberspace creates a workshop in which people learn and test social skills that they are not able to do in face-to-face conversations. The interviewee was able to express his past grievances through the identification of the young girl. However, this deception in other virtual tools, like Facebook where people utilize the hub as a conversational gateway for friends difficult to reach, can be viewed negatively. The older man's use of this young girl may be used to alleviate a part of his identity that is under stress and trauma, but cannot be taken to account as his "true" identity.

The other example of the couple who met on Second Life, also poses a problem with CMC relationships because of their romantic end in real-life. After meeting one another and forming, what they believed as a deep and personal relationship, they decided to take their virtual romantic life and transfer it into reality, thus meeting one another and moving in together. The end result, however, was not as hopeful. The couple split, unable to live with one another and realizing the almost fairy tale difference between their virtual romance and their real-life romance. The cyberspace relationship they created seemed much more hopeful and perfect, not factoring real life problems like bills and family issues. Their relationship became very different once they crossed the boundary into reality.

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