Sunday, March 4, 2012

Online Identities

Dear Mr. Parks and Mr. Floyd,

In the opening statements in your work, "Making Friends in Cyberspace," you mention how new technologies raise "new opportunities and risks for the way individuals relate to one another" (p. 1) I appreciate that your work investigates both the risks and benefits of new internet technologies. Before reading this article, I had come to make my own assumptions about online relationships. I feel that relationships that form and are continued only online prolong the honeymoon stage, therefore making them illegitimate. I feel this way because when a couple is not forced to test their relationship in the real world, they never experience real world problems. Without surviving adversity as a couple, there is no substance to the relationship. In your work you also mention how the lack of social cues affects relationships. Although certain online medias are incorporating more social cues into their technologies, I still feel that the absence of certain physical elements like touch decrease the legitimacy of online relationships.

I was baffled by the fact that one person in this study concluded that their relationships online were deeper then their real life relationships. I understand that the anonymity of computers might give people the courage to share things they wouldn't normally share. However, because sharing online is easy, it doesn't feel as personal. This work also explores the benefits of changing one's online identity to overcome shyness. I don't feel that this is a benefit. It is unfortunate that in the real world people are judged by the way that they look however, identity is something you are born with and need to own, not change to conform. If someone doesn't accept your identity, they are not worthy of you. This may be a very idealistic way of thinking, but I feel that allowing people to change their identities in order to fit in to societies mold is enabling society to uphold impossible standards of beauty. Changing one's identity online may have short term benefits, but in the long run the things we are trying to fight about our culture and just being perpetuated in online worlds.

You mention that online, uncertainty reduction may be more prolonged (p. 5). However, I would argue that there is no way to reduce uncertainty about someone you do not physically meet. Messages one sends online can be conjured and therefore they do not express the intimate details of one's identity. Online identities are contrived, not natural.

Before reading the section of your work about what types of people form online relationships, I was curious about what your findings would be. I was disappointed that your evidence was not more conclusive. Of course this was only a small part of your research, and this subject alone could conjure up a entire study of it's own. I think it would be extremely interesting to understand the psychology of those who use virtual worlds to form relationships.

I found it interesting that in this work you both came to the conclusion that online relationships don't usually stay online. This disproved my theory about the prolonged honeymoon stage. I think there is an important distinction between those who fear moving relationships past the online forum, and those who are willing to move their relationships to the real world. I appreciate that you focused your work on this point and I found your perspective very enlightening. In examining the difference between those who want maintain relationships only online and those who move their relationships to different forums, the question of surveillance and privacy comes into play.

In Danah Boyd's "Surveillance and Society." Boyd says, "People’s understandings of privacy and surveillance are very much driven by position in the various networks, and their interactions with others are shaped by these relationships" (p. 2). I think it is important to examine what Boyd points out, the limitations that technologies put on realtionships due to the looming lack of privacy that exists online. I think the idea of being watched on the internet is one of the few regulations that shapes the ways that people interact. It is possible that it even forces people to be more honest in their online portrayls on themselves, however it is also possible that people become more private.

Thank you for your time.


image borrowed from

No comments:

Post a Comment