As I skip through my online life, I am reminded that so many of us see the world as being divided into online and offlinepersonae.
There are many folks who separate the two, and may even do so successfully. Online friends are online. Offline friends are off, although emails are exchanged, and there may be a Facebook friendship there or an exchange of tweets. But that’s it, right?
But then there’s the moment when a Facebook friend introduces you to another, and it’s for some purpose or another, such as playing Scrabble. Or a LinkedIn connection who you’ve never actually seen – just some networking friend of a friend – suggests coffee.
And suddenly the worlds begin to collide.
Who’s online? Who’s off? Does it matter? Should they be separate? Were they ever?
A Confrontation in a Dark Alley
And what about trolls? What are the differences between their online and offline personae? The person who is nasty to you online, do they really behave that way face to face? I’ve got my doubts, but hey, you never know. Maybe they really do have a misshapen nose, from all of the times its been broken by someone they’ve insulted.
A Hug in Person
But most of the time, there is little difference between the online and the offline world. At least, that’s been my observation, when I have met people and have had occasion to hug them in person. Sure, online we have some time to reflect on what we’re going to say. And we can ignore and unfriend and step away from the keyboard. Real life, offline, doesn’t really work that way. But a lot really is similar, and I can attest that it’s a blast to meet people who you’ve never seen before. I have honestly never had a bad experience.
Normal precautions, of course, should be taken. Don’t meet in some unknown, private place. Don’t leave without someone knowing where you’re going. Get information as you can before departing. Don’t be stupid.
But go out and meet ’em. Meetings, gatherings, conventions, whatever you want to call them, they bring online people even closer. It’s a lot harder to flame someone if you know them.
Oh, and I can practically guarantee – once you’ve heard someone speak, you’ll hear their posts in their voice from then on.
Quinnipiac Final Paper – ICM501 – Creative Obfuscation
Internet identity, reputation, and deception in the online dating world. Truth and little white lies on the Internet.
Several weeks ago, when participating in class, I used the term creative obfuscation. The idea behind it was (and still is) that people of course bend the truth or cover it up, or they lie by omission. Some of these lies are more egregious than others.
For my final paper, I decided to look at what it all means with reference to internet dating. And boy, was there a lot of fodder! Here are some excerpts.
For many people these days, social media is wrapped with identity, as identity is, in turn, intimately wrapped up with social media. It is often a daily presence in our lives. As Julia Knight and Alexis Weedon discovered, online life and self are increasingly just as important as offline life and self. “In 2008, Vincent Miller’s article in Convergence recognized in our ubiquitous and pervasive media the essential role of phatic communication which forms our connection to the here and now. Social media has become a native habitus for many and is a place to perform our various roles in our multimodal lives, as a professional, a parent, an acquaintance, and a colleague. The current generation has grown up with social media and like the 10-year-old Facebook, Twitter too has become part of some people’s everyday here and now.”
 About 39% of the world is online, according to Internet World Statistics. This includes just fewer than 85% of North America and over 2/3 of Europe and Oceania.
 According to Pew Research, in 2013, 63% of Facebook users visit the site daily. Just under half (46%) of Twitter users visit that site on a daily basis.
Unlike offline reputation, online reputation can be categorized and quantified. For sites attempting to preserve and promote civility, but which cannot or will not adopt a real-names policy like Facebook’s, reputation scores can sometimes alert other users to an individual’s tendency to be either helpful or abusive. As AS Crane noted in Promoting Civility in Online Discussions: A Study of the Intelligent Conversation Forum, “Moderation in combination with reputation scores have been used successfully on the large technology site Slashdot, according to Lampe and Resnick (2004). Slashdot moderation duties are shared among a group of users, who can assign positive or negative reputation points to posts and to other members. Users who have earned a sufficient reputation rating are allowed to participate in moderation if they wish. Meta-moderators observe the moderators for abuse and can remove bad moderators, or reward good moderators by assigning a higher point value to their votes.” In Slashdot’s case, it would seem that good behavior not only is rewarding in and of itself, but it also provides a reward in the form of being granted the ability to police others’ behavior.
For those who bend the truth on Facebook and other social media websites, some of the consequences are unexpected ones. For example, a ten-year-old child who claims to be thirteen will, in five years, be considered eighteen on the social networking site. This will alter her privacy settings automatically, allowing images to be seen by everyone, including pedophiles.
Although it is fairly easy to bend the truth when composing an online dating profile, an in-person meeting will expose the lie to all, and the liar will lose social capital and likely never make it to a second date. More problematic is when a person’s sincerely developed identity does not jibe with their appearance or their birth characteristics. Differences between online verbiage and offline appearance might not have an intentionally malicious origin, and it is entirely possible for online daters to, through ambiguity or poor word choice, appear deceptive and untrustworthy when they may be anything but.
But regardless of the reason for an untruth, online daters care about their reputations and their online and offline appearances. What others think matters to them. Much of that is directly related to the fact that the object behind the use of an online dating site is to meet; the mission is the date. Setting up the date for failure or the loss of face is not in online daters’ best interests and most of them act accordingly in order to assure success or at least prevent and minimize failure and the loss of social capital.
Personal identity matters in the online world, and it is a heady brew of inborn traits, learned and attained characteristics, and identification, desire, and preference. For the person presenting their identity and showing this admixture to all and sundry, what it means to be them, what they think of as the ‘self’, is what is cobbled together from potentially thousands of measurable and nonquantifiable data points in order to present a full picture of their personality. For the recipients of these messages, the potential dating partners and perhaps even more permanent mates, the choice is whether to read or listen to these many messages and accept all or some of them, even if they conflict with or downright contradict the evidence that the recipient can observe or otherwise gather independently.
You are who you were at birth, who you have become, and who you claim to be, and who you think you are. But that does not mean that anyone has to believe you, accept you, or love you.