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Social shaping of technology approaches (Dutton, 1996; Mac Kenzie & Wajcman, 1985; Woolgar, 1996) acknowledge the ways in which information and communication technologies (ICTs) both shape and are shaped by social practices.As Dutton points out, “technologies can open, close, and otherwise shape social choices, although not always in the ways expected on the basis of rationally extrapolating from the perceived properties of technology” (1996, p. One specific framework that reflects this approach is Howard’s (2004) embedded media perspective, which acknowledges both the capacities and the constraints of ICTs.However, research suggests that pressures to highlight one’s positive attributes are experienced in tandem with the need to present one’s true (or authentic) self to others, especially in significant relationships.Intimacy in relationships is linked to feeling understood by one’s partner (Reis & Shaver, 1988) and develops “through a dynamic process whereby an individual discloses personal information, thoughts, and feelings to a partner; receives a response from the partner; and interprets that response as understanding, validating, and caring” (Laurenceau, Barrett, & Pietromonaco, 1998, p. Therefore, if participants aspire to an intimate relationship, their desire to feel understood by their interaction partners will motivate self-disclosures that are open and honest as opposed to deceptive.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 “honesty” is enacted online.In Goffman’s (1959) terms, more expressions of self are “given” rather than “given off.” This greater control over self-presentation does not necessarily lead to misrepresentation online.Due to the “passing stranger” effect (Rubin, 1975) and the visual anonymity present in CMC (Joinson, 2001), under certain conditions the online medium may enable participants to express themselves more openly and honestly than in face-to-face contexts.
In contrast to a technologically deterministic perspective that focuses on the characteristics of the technologies themselves, or a socially deterministic approach that privileges user behavior, this article reflects a social shaping perspective.
A commonly accepted understanding of identity presumes that there are multiple aspects of the self which are expressed or made salient in different contexts.
Higgins (1987) argues there are three domains of the self: the (attributes an individual ought to possess); discrepancies between one’s actual and ideal self are linked to feelings of dejection.
For instance, the anticipated future face-to-face interaction inherent in most online dating interactions may diminish participants’ sense of visual anonymity, an important variable in many online self-disclosure studies.
An empirical study of online dating participants found that those who anticipated greater face-to-face interaction did feel that they were more open in their disclosures, and did not suppress negative aspects of the self (Gibbs et al., 2006).