Dear Nicole Ellison,
I love how you described the online dating arena as this place of opportunity for people to practice impression formation and adapt self-presentation strategies. I feel like the negative stigma that was once attached to online dating has definitely decreased in this generation because it has become “normal” for people to have relationships online. People used to think that others tried to seek for companionship online because they were desperate and unable to find relationships in the real world, but the “ubiquitous access to the Internet, the diminished social stigma associated with online dating, and the affordable cost of Internet matchmaking services” contribute to the increasingly common perception that online dating is a viable, efficient way to meet dating or long-term relationship partners. “The use of online dating or online personals services has evolved from a marginal to a mainstream social practice.” When considering relationships online, I think a person has to consider the Utopian potential that the Internet holds for our relationships, that we can meet new people and form rewarding new relationships; however, one must be concerned that the people we meet online cannot be trusted and may even be dangerous. Like you, Nancy Baym believes that the Internet has brought to all of its users the possibility of forming relationships that transcend space. So without doubt, the issues that shake people the most about forming relationships online center on identity. Baym asks, “When people's bodies aren't visible, will people lie about who they are? Can they be known? Can they be trusted? Can the relationships they form be valid?” And I think the answer to that would be, you really don't know. People online can manipulate language through self-disclosure. Self-disclosure is indispensable in turning strangers into relational partners and to maintaining ongoing relationships. You and Baym both touch upon the notion that strategic management is essential to shaping the impressions others form of us, “to convey an impression to others which it is in his interests to convey.” Especially when interacting with strangers, people tend to engage in self-enhancement because they are starting with a blank slate.