Dear Nancy Baym,
You discussed the discrepancy often found between real life and online identities. You describe many reasons for why there is a misrepresentation. To begin, a lot of people use online dating sites for their anonymity function. The ability to hide behind a computer screen allows online dating participants to feel more comfortable, especially in terms of self-disclosure. The reduced “social risk” described by Baym is what allows members to be more willing to reveal personal information about themselves to potential partners. Likewise, Ellison describes the element of self-disclosure in relation to misrepresentation of self. According to Higgins, there are multiple aspects of self: the actual self, the ideal self, and the ought self. In online contexts, one often projects an ideal self or ought self; what they wish to be or what they think others wish them to be.
Such deception is what sometimes wards people away from online dating sites, as discussed by Ellison. This fear makes them weary of the potential consequences of “putting yourself out there”. Namely, physical appearance can be misrepresented; leading members to feel lied to. However, as both authors say, one is less likely to fall into misrepresentation if they see the relationship reaching an intimate level. With the potential for face-to-face interaction to be a possibility, online participants will be less inclined to lie on their profile so as to not disappoint upon in-person meetings.
A lot of the analyzing gets done through self-assessment. By looking at the attributes and profile descriptions of others, one may often compare it to their own sites. In doing so, they are able to determine the potential compatability for a future relationship. Baym explains this with an interesting approach:
“Ideologies of romanticism… are pitted against ideologies of social exchange in which finding love through media seems more of a business transaction than destiny and people are reduced to dehumanizing lists of attributes”
Ellison reiterates this statement, by describing the assessment of online dating as the process of reading signals and deconstructing cues. By analyzing these cues, you are able to narrow down your choices of potential partners.