Monday, April 2, 2012

If You Are What You Say You Are..

Dear Ms. Baym:

At the current moment, I'm managing how I present myself (and my perspective of your work) in this letter to you, so that your views of me and my views will be positive. I'm choosing my words wisely and trying to clearly get my message across while carefully dissecting "New Relationships, New Selves" so that I can make connections from the chapter with my own life. Digitally, the presentation of self when "meeting" new people is a critical factor because your online identity is what people get to know when online. The online personality that you develop begins to shape how other users view you and, consequently, helps you form relationships and maintain these relationships on a personal level. However, it is very easy to mislead people online when constructing these online identities, mainly when users are participating in online dating, as discussed in Ellison et al.'s article "Managing Impressions Online". The presentation of self can be exaggerated, or in some cases, completely false, which can either make or break the relationships formed with other users online. Ellison et al. writes: "Research suggests that when individuals expect to meet a potential dating partner for the first time, they will alter their self-presentational behavior in accordance with the values desired by the prospective date," meaning that people present themselves in a manner that will gain positive feedback from others, and not necessarily in a manner that represents the "true" them. In addition, the pressures that people feel while presenting themselves online is also exemplified in Ellison et al.'s article. It is written that "pressures to highlight one's attributes are experienced in tandem with the need to present one's true (or authentic) self to others," showing that people participate in self-enhancement in order to make themselves appear better than what they actually are. Research also says "in comparison to face-to-face interactions, Internet interactions allowed individuals to better express aspects of their true selves-- aspects of themselves that they wanted to express but felt unable to." Hence, the digital presentation of self can be a liberating communication tool for people to release their inhibitions and be themselves; they also force people to use nonverbal cues (screen names, hobbies, pictures, lingo) to form these personal relationships, but the thought in the back of one's head may be: Are you truly who you say you are? Digital representations of the self can easily manipulate and fool people into believing that they are authentic representations, but you can never really know.

J. Howard

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