What have you got? You’ve got a perfect match.

Last year, I worked on a breakfast radio show where we played a game called ‘Elimi-date’.  Four single people were placed in one room while another sat with us in the studio.  They could all hear each other but had no clue on the appearance of the person in studio.  Each took turns asking questions and if they didn’t approve of any comment or response they could push a button which took them out of the game immediately.  Whoever was left (if any) at the end were blindfolded and brought into the studio.  After the trusted countdown and revealing to each other, the contestants still had the opportunity to pull out if they didn’t like what they saw.  Cruel?  Maybe, but remember this is commercial radio and it was all about entertainment for the listener in the end.  Seriously though, we had some minor success stories.  A few went on a couple of dates, one continued well into the night after the lunch we had organised and others sadly left the studio without finding someone to at least share a free meal with.

All of our contestants had many and varied reasons for choosing to try our game.  Some were tired of the ‘modern’ dating scene, some had come out of long-term relationships (even marriages) and were struggling with the concept of finding a new partner, some were trying it for a bit of fun, some just wanted sex, however, the underlying tone was that everyone just wanted to share a bit of themselves with someone else.  There were people of many different ages and different persuasions.  Yes, we even played a gay version of Elimi-date one morning, why not.  A larger number of people are in search of dating experiences due to such cultural changes (DeMasi 2011, p.208).  It appears to be much more acceptable now for anyone and everyone to give the many methods of matchmaking on offer a chance.

Online dating
Online dating/Offline mating by TORLEY (CC BY-SA 2.0)

In today’s society, why is such a big deal being placed on where and how people meet and what their motivations are?  Looking for love, a relationship, even casual sex seems to be a human trait that needs to be given some formulaic explanation just to satisfy the needs of those who question it.  The online world is such a part of everyday life so why shouldn’t it be used to whet the appetite of a person looking for that someone special, or even not so special.  It has occurred in nightclubs for decades.  Almost all of our radio contestants also had online profiles and were using dating sites or apps to ‘hook up’.  As DeMasi (2011, p. 206) explains it is now ‘common for people to publicly reveal their experiences with online dating’.  It should be considered nothing more than another cog in the wheel in the search for human interaction.  DeMasi (2011) argues that many dating sites only push out images of love and romance and shun any mention of sex or sexual activity.  One only needs to consider the recent popularity of tinder (or grinder) to understand that any gap in the social market will be quickly seized upon and catered to.  And why not.  The space ‘in between categories’ on traditional dating sites have now been filled with the ever evolving offerings of the online world (DeMasi 2011, p. 213).

We have come a long way when considering media use and matchmaking in the past 30 years.  In the 1980s, one of the highest rating TV shows was Perfect Match; a ‘wacky’ nightly dating show.  Then came the rise of online dating companies and now the progression to apps specifically targeting certain audiences.  What is popular now will become insignificant once the next creation takes over.  While Perfect Match is now merely something you can cringe to (that fashion!), it’s public purpose was exactly the same; the never-ending quest to meet, interact and share one’s life with someone else.  In the end, it doesn’t matter where or how you find it.

REFERENCE:

DeMasi, S 2011, ‘Shopping for love: online dating and the making of a cyber culture of romance’, in Seidman, S, Fischer N and Meeks, C (eds.), Introducing the New Sexuality Studies, Routledge, Abingdon and New York, pp. 206-13.

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To tweet, or not to tweet. What was my problem?

I am quite surprised when I check to see how long I have been signed up to twitter for.  It must be a joke … July 2011, close to five years, seriously?  In that time, I have followed a few news sites, a handful of friends and a couple of work colleagues who have taken twitter much more seriously than me; does anyone really need 46,000 followers?  My biggest concern however, has been my lack of engagement with this platform outside of reading what other people or institutions are tweeting.  Why have I been so frightened to start a conversation or reveal anything of myself that others might find constructive, interesting, or even entertaining?

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I had joined twitter but I was still very isolated online, cagey even.
Blue Sky Twitter by mkhmarketing (CC by 2.0)

My hesitation to tweet has never been hidden behind a veil of anonymity or a disguise.  Being anonymous would require all my identifiable information to be non-existent, while pseudonymity would partly hide my identity, creating what would appear to be a character (Scott and Orlikowski 2014, p. 876).  I have never shied away from using my own name for my twitter handle; unconsciously I wasn’t trying to be someone or something else.  It has always been the ‘real’ me online – real name, real face.  However, while I wasn’t hiding, I still struggled with the concept of my own online identity and the approach I should take to engage.  My biggest concern was the type of personality I wanted to project and the proper manner in which I should communicate with others.

Joe iphone pics 146
Yes, the real me.

Taken by Joe Bovalino, 10 April 2016

Perhaps it’s the fact that online anonymity has the ability to cause considerable controversy in society.  In my mind, it still appeared to be a very untrustworthy environment.  News stories constantly portray bullying, inappropriate behavior, character assassination and downright cruelty to others.  Friends and family will like what I post, however what will the great unknown think and say when they discover my musings?  Are these people really who they say they are and appear to be and will they be trustworthy?  Without being able to identify the obvious characteristics when meeting a person face-to-face, such technologies offer the possibility of controlling more aspects of identity for public consideration than has been possible before (Wood and Smith 2005, p. 57).

It can’t all be that bad though.  Millions do it, millions enjoy it.  There has to be a much more positive experience than I have been willing to accept.  Rather than being a bystander, if I began to explore the concept of identity creation that fits this environment, then maybe I will engage and understand its benefits.  Being able to question who I am or who I should be online is a good thing.  Smith and Watson (2014, pp. 82-83) argue that in the ever expanding world of virtual environments, a person’s identity can become ‘increasingly manipulable’.  In other words, I could end up discovering a space that I am comfortable in, to create an identity that features qualities of my personality that would engage with others in this surrounding.  This easy manipulation of persona and the ability to manage it can change the way we see ourselves and each other (Arthur 2009, p. 76).  I am in control of the ‘parts’ of me I wish others to engage with.

Online identity engagement

View original piktochart here.

Being a part of a tertiary unit which expects us to become active is possibly the subtle push I have needed to get over the fear of pressing the tweet button.  So now that I’m prepared to dip my proverbial toe into the social media waters, what type of engaging online identity do I want to present?  I am obviously happy for people to know my name and what I look like, but who is prepared to engage with me?  Cunnington (2014) notes that a study of a news website that transitioned from anonymous to identified users significantly increased their comments being shared and liked by others.  Hello world, here I am, please like me.  Maybe I have missed that point until now.  Those who are identified online and willing to share, will discover others who are prepared to interact in the same way.  It’s just a different style of community that isn’t as nasty as it’s made out to be; as cruel as I thought it would be.

Twitter likes
But really, how many likes does one person need?

 Taken from @katyperry tweet on April 14 2106.

 

Another big advantage in developing online identity is that its structure is fluid.  A person can reflect or look forward; it is not bound by the here and now.  If I am to share something and later think it could be improved in some way, what is stopping me from changing it?  Active online participants have the ability to go back in time to amend or even delete content (Smith and Watson 2014, p. 90).  I am all for the continuing form of self-improvement.  There is no beginning, middle and end in online presentation.  My confidence levels rise the more I contemplate what I can do and say and the manner in which I can manage it.  Sure I will act responsibly with what I post in the first place, but if I later consider a better way to convey the message, even add a picture or heaven forbid a video, there is nothing that says you can’t go back and improve on it.  I am beginning to accept the concept of an active online identity which involves engaging participation.

My first tweet, discovering online interaction can be a positive social experience.

For the first time since 2011, I have taken the plunge and started actively using twitter.  What have I discovered since ridding my fear of pushing the tweet button?  The online community I find myself in is fun and surprise, happily engaging.  I love the warming glow I feel when others push the heart button to like my posts, just like a small reward, and I’m surprised when I discover my other friends who have never seen a tweet from me begin re-tweeting to other friends.

Yes, my confidence levels are high enough to start having some fun.

I am disappointed in myself for allowing the fear and concern of developing my online identity to take so long to overcome.  I will continue to question how posts and comments appear and engage and how they can be improved, but it’s a part of the process of continually redefining who I am online.  A prospect I am prepared to embrace now.

Yes, it really is an enjoyable, constructive community.  What was I so worried about?

 

WORD COUNT: 1032

 

REFERENCES:

Arthur, PL 2009, ‘Digital Biography: Capturing Lives Online’, a/b: Auto/Biography Studies, no. 1, pp. 74-92, EBSCOhost, viewed 31 March 2016.

Cunnington, T 2014, ‘Online anonymity’, Salem Press Encyclopedia, Research Starters, EBSCOhost, viewed 30 March 2016.

Scott, S, and Orlikowski, W 2014, ‘Entanglements in Practice: Performing Anonymity Through Social Media’, MIS Quarterly, 38, 3, pp. 873-893, EBSCOhost, viewed 30 March 2016.

Smith, S and Watson, J 2014, ‘Virtually Me: A Toolbox about Online Self Presentation’, in Poletti, A and Rak, J, Identity Technologies: Constructing the Self Online, The University of Wisconsin Press, Madison, pp. 70-95.

Wood, A, and Smith, M 2005, Online Communication : Linking Technology, Identity, And Culture, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, NJ, EBSCOhost, viewed 30 March 2016.

 

MY BROADER ONLINE ACTIVITY AND ENGAGEMENT:

Now that I have become more active on twitter, my biggest enjoyment is starting conversations and being inspired by others in the unit.

I love the process of creativity when working out what and how to tweet.

I have improved my linkedin profile and made sure it is up to date.

I have created an aboutme page with links to my other relevant online profiles.

I have also developed my own professional webpage which allows me to display more about my career, skills and short blogs/articles on industry issues.