Cyberculting

A blog about Cyberculture and ICTs.

Posts Tagged ‘chat’

Man, I feel like a woman.

Posted by candacewhitehead on August 12, 2008

I find it fascinating to see how men and women represent themselves on the Internet, in terms of the avatars or images that they use, the way they represent themselves in their “About me” sections, or how they “speak” online.

In 2006, Elizabeth Coverdale, a student at the University of Southern Indiana, wrote a paper called “Cyberculture and Gender Identification in Online Chat Communities”. Her interest lies in the linguistic aspects of online interaction – basically, how men and women talk. She conducted an experiment on Second Life (SL) where although she kept the same ID, she changed her avatar to a male one for a week – albeit a slightly feminine one. As she began interacting with people – both long-time friends and people she was beginning to meet – she found the way she spoke to people changed dramatically.

She writes “I found that my sentences were shorter, more direct and filled with less chat detritus: meta-language like emoticons, laughter, and other emotional responses”. There she highlights one of the key markers differentiating the language that men and women use on the internet: what she labels “chat detritus”. I find this a very useful description: it is those conventions which can be deemed as “excess”.

Women tend to do it a lot – they add smiley faces such as :), 😦 or 😉 more readily than men. They often inject giggles such as “heehee” or “hehe” into paragraphs or at the end of a sentence – they use more words like “lol” or “hugs”, and are tempted to add dozens of little kisses at the end of each conversation. Research conducted in 1994 in Multi-User Domain Communities shows that female-presenting characters used almost three times the amount of emoticons and representations of laughter than their male counterparts. I took a look at my friends’ Facebook pages to see if I could spot these conventions, and I found this little gem:

“Hey Sally,
Iheard about you and Johnny shit I’m so sorry my lovvie but you know what he wasn’t worth it at all. I think you and me should hit [the club] this weekend for a little jam-jam, if you’re feeling up to it? 🙂 Also just wanted to check if you are free for a little dinner tonight? 🙂

I’m making lasagne so if you could bring some wine that would be oss-um. Heeheehee.

Many lovvies and hugs
xxxxxxxxxx” *

I would love to see the male version of this, applying Coverdale’s rule:

“Hey Johnny
Sorry about your chick. I’m heading off to the pub for a pint later, you keen?
Shot for the burger last night, it was lank awesome.

See you at the rugger at five. GO BOKKE!!!!!!
Cheers bra.”

Generally, women seek more acceptance in everyday speech than men do, which is something that Coverdale points out. Women use flippant extras to their speech in order to convey enthusiasm, support and a desire to keep the conversation “buoyant” – something that is translated into their online interactions.

I know I apply a number of these conventions: I love using smiley faces – they make me happy, too. (Ha, I sound like a woman there) And I’m really sensitive to when friends of mine use or don’t use smileys. Although I don’t go as far as using “lovvies” or “whuggles” or other nauseating phrases, I am just a part of this linguistic convention as most other girls I know.

Man, I feel like a woman.

*Any similarities to persons living or dead are not coincidental. That’s because I stole this off your Facebook page.

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The Great Pretender

Posted by candacewhitehead on April 28, 2008

Some time after my father fell ill, my mother began spending a lot of time on Skype. It was understandable – after almost five months of fourteen hour days at the hospital, she could relax when my father was brought home. She finally grew bored, and became a Skype addict, much to my brother’s and my dismay.

 

On Skype she met someone we’ll call Bob. They initially began talking every so often, as they had mutual friends back in Botswana. Then they started talking a little more. And then they were still chatting at four in the morning. She’s now in Pretoria with him. And according to Facebook, she is “in a relationship”.

 

As I said in my last post, the Internet brings with it a whole new set of rules, but a lot of the same problems. Cyber-romance is definitely a whole new playing field.

 

In 1998, Andrea Baker wrote an article called “Cyberspace couples finding romance online then meeting for the first time in real life”. Her research examines eighteen couples who met online.

 

Most online relationships seem to move from a public online space (open chatroom, forum or MUD) to a private space – personal messaging and e-mails, which mirrors most real-life relationships. You spot someone at a bar, shove your way through forty or fifty people, and manage to squeeze in next to the person you’d been eyeing. After a while, you might give them your number, or skip the whole polite-courtship approach and disappear back to their place (hey, it happens).

 

But can you accurately represent yourself over the Internet? Back in Baker’s day (and let’s face it, 1998 is ancient history when it comes to cyberculture) much of the focus was placed on writing, although now visual and vocal stimulation is as important in cyber-relationships as it is in real-life ones. Webcams and microphones are easy enough for anyone to install, and the same rules start cropping up again. Before signing on you check your hair and make-up, make sure your underwear isn’t showing thorough your shirt – that sort of thing. .

 

This calls up an interesting point – if you do fall in love over the net, it’s clearly because of the person’s personality, right? People forget is that e-mail and chat has the potential to be heavily composed and revised – my mother would fret for hours over sending an e-mail. Even chat gives you those few extra seconds to think about whether or not what you’re saying is going to make you sound stupid. And what happens in real life when you actually have to have a real-time discussion?

 

Baker only briefly discusses this in her article, and not very well. There can be either great satisfaction or great disappoint when meeting for the first time – the guy who can make you laugh until you cry over Skype suddenly makes you cry from boredom and contemplate drowning yourself in your strawberry daiquiri.

 

A Pew study on Online Dating revealed concern on the safety of an individual meeting their online hottie (or nottie) for the first time, and says that people really should scrutinise their online partners as carefully as their offline ones for signs of deception.

 

Despite the potential for disaster, most people seem to have had a good experience with online dating. As much as Bob freaks me out, my mother seems happy. They’ve now (apparently) been dating for five months – after meeting in real life for the first time in December.

 

And I must admit, this online thing might just take the hassle out of dating – I could lounge around at home in my tracksuit while telling the guy I’m wearing stiletto boots and designer jeans.

 

Because let’s face it – none of us mind a little misrepresentation. Especially seeing as I can barely afford Mr Price jeans.

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