I think my experiences with forming and maintaining relationships through CMCs is both unique and relateable to the populations that make up our class. They’re relateable because I can imagine our classmates on Facebook (for those that use FB!) instant messaging and maybe even writing email-esque messages to one another. This serves as an example of technology assisting the development of relationships we’ve already acquired and is thus more socially deterministic.
However, in my experience, a site like Tumblr (which is like imgur, reddit, and blogspot combined into one giant waste of time) has been able to facilitate not just the sustaining of my current friendships, but allowed me to find and read the blogs of my friends’ friends who’ve eventually become my friends! I hope it isn’t too personal to say this now but I mention this detail in the context of “online dating” too because that’s where I found my current boyfriend.
In Managing Impressions Online, the article clearly expressed that tension between one wanting to express a “true” self and the desire to express an ideal self. I find that these two components aren’t so unique to online virtual environments, but as the article said, an online dating site affords one to present more Given cues than Given Off cues. Even before the acceptability of online dating today, haven’t people argued before in relationships past about how so-and-so wasn’t who they thought they were? And that after a period of time, people change? We all wish for people to change for the better, especially if those are the same kinds of people who take to the internet to find intimate relationships with one other person. But relationships are clearly all about dealing with what comes after two people acknowledge to each other that they want to commit to the mutual feelings that they both experience. This makes the idea of sustaining an idealized version of yourself sound downright EXHAUSTING. The article mentioned one example of a lady who used a really good picture of herself from 5 years ago because that was her past self, which also coincided with her ideal physical self, but in doing so, isn’t she denying that 5 years worth of experiences have happened to her? That’s like people getting into a relationship for the wedding and not for the marriage.
But it’s great that for the most part, people who anticipate meeting people offline tend to communicate more honestly and I think this was a fascinating article to see how people use the limits of an online convention to learn how to be honest to others as well as learn the skills to assess another accurately.
I think for many, when the ability to access the personal lives of individuals from around the world exist, the next step after establishing that online connection isn’t to meet each other in person (this is a costly decision for many reasons) but to meet each other on Facebook. Granted, this example is only relevant for folks who use Facebook regularly to check on their private circles and update the world about themselves. Using my life as an example, after coming across my boyfriend’s blog, I friended him on Facebook, but I only did this after knowing that we had at least 80 mutual friends; in my eyes, he was basically like a friend I just didn’t have the opportunity to meet yet. Everything about the two of us (our friends, hobbies, beliefs, interests, humor, and manner of presenting ourselves online) were already so in sync because that was the culture we shared among our mutual friends. Thus, because Facebook is so personal for many (that is, if you aren’t a celebrity), it takes a great deal of trust to be able to friend someone or accept their friend request because they’d have access to a greater wealth of information about you. And by becoming “Facebook official friends” with him first, that secured another dimension of trust and intimacy that I wouldn’t be able to grant to just anyone I encounter online. In general, when I meet anyone of interest online, it becomes a matter of when that person I get to the level of answering “yes” to the question: do I know so-and-so well enough to be friends with them on Facebook?
It wasn’t til after the Facebook-friending and the regular IMs and all the texting that my current boyfriend and I started seeing each other offline and eventually began going out. Maybe we’re traditional in that sense because prior to all those steps, a relationship between the both of us would’ve felt off because there’d still be too many variables to account for. I’m happy to say that he and I have the utmost trust for one another and that getting to first “know” him online has definitely helped me and him maintain our long distance relationship!