Ellison et al 2006 Online Dating - Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication Managing Impressions Online Self-Presentation Processes in the Online

Ellison et al 2006 Online Dating - Journal of...

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Managing Impressions Online: Self-Presentation Processes in the Online Dating Environment Nicole Ellison Department of Telecommunication, Information Studies, and Media Michigan State University Rebecca Heino McDonough School of Business Georgetown University Jennifer Gibbs Communication Department Rutgers University This study investigates self-presentation strategies among online dating participants, exploring how participants manage their online presentation of self in order to accom- plish the goal of finding a romantic partner. Thirty-four individuals active on a large online dating site participated in telephone interviews about their online dating experi- ences and perceptions. Qualitative data analysis suggests that participants attended to small cues online, mediated the tension between impression management pressures and the desire to present an authentic sense of self through tactics such as creating a profile that reflected their ‘‘ideal self,’’ and attempted to establish the veracity of their identity claims. This study provides empirical support for Social Information Processing theory in a naturalistic context while offering insight into the complicated way in which ‘‘hon- esty’’ is enacted online. doi:10.1111/j.1083-6101.2006.00020.x Introduction The online dating arena represents an opportunity to document changing cultural norms surrounding technology-mediated relationship formation and to gain insight into important aspects of online behavior, such as impression formation and self-presentation strategies. Mixed-mode relationships, wherein people first meet online and then move offline, challenge established theories that focus on Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 11 (2006) 415–441 ª 2006 International Communication Association 415
exclusively online relationships and provide opportunities for new theory develop- ment (Walther & Parks, 2002). Although previous research has explored relation- ship development and self-presentation online (Bargh, McKenna, & Fitzsimons, 2002; McLaughlin, Osbourne, & Ellison, 1997; Parks & Floyd, 1996; Roberts & Parks, 1999; Utz, 2000), the online dating forum is qualitatively different from many other online settings due to the anticipation of face-to-face interaction inherent in this context (Gibbs, Ellison, & Heino, 2006) and the fact that social practices are still nascent. In recent years, the use of online dating or online personals services has evolved from a marginal to a mainstream social practice. In 2003, at least 29 million Americans (two out of five singles) used an online dating service (Gershberg, 2004); in 2004, on average, there were 40 million unique visitors to online dating sites each month in the U.S. (CBC News, 2004). In fact, the online personals category is one of the most lucrative forms of paid content on the web in the United States (Egan, 2003) and the online dating market is expected to reach $642 million in 2008 (Greenspan, 2003). Ubiquitous access to the Internet, the diminished social stigma

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