Sunday, July 11, 2010

Dating and Intimacy via the Internet

The Internet has had a profound impact on society’s dating and intimacy traditions. As the Internet has become effortlessly accessible, it is no longer solely incorporated into our lives, yet it is built-in, as the services and resources it offers have become intertwined in our every day life. In this essay I will describe and explain how life is experienced now through Internet-mediated activities of information and communication with reference to dating; with the use of the internet we experience freedom of access and a greater access to information and are able to delve into levels of intimacy reinforcing our relationships.

The Internet is no longer a highway of information; it is now a lifestyle enhancement. With the amalgamation of social media sites into our everyday lives we have the right to use it for our personal benefit, by interlacing social media sites such as Facebook as a system to maintain contact with people whom a person already knows and to also form a relationship with someone whom we have just met assisting it become key ways in which we encourage relationships to form and also enhance intimacy (Stephure, Boon, MacKinnon & Deveau, 2009). The Internet persistently encourages us to take advantage of these conveniences simply because of the ease of access to networking sites and therefore dating via the Internet is now a socially acceptable behaviour. With these merits alone our dating choices and habits are no longer what they have been in the past. Prior to the integration of the Internet into our everyday lives, meeting new people required plenty of hit and misses, effort and possible public humiliation because “…finding a romantic partner typically required that individuals meet face to face before they could get to know one another and determine their compatibility as a couple.” (Stephure et al, 2009) But in recent years, our lifestyles have changed. We take more on board and we rely significantly on technology to take some of that burden which is then only natural for culture to alter in regards to dating and maintain a dating relationship. With the use of emails and status posts we can let those whom we love or are simply interested in know how we feel. The trust on technology would interfere in the natural transfer of emotions if the interactions were done only via the Internet: it is not healthy to rely exclusively on technology for interaction. Just as we use a telephone, a card, email or a Facebook wall post to maintain contact, we must continue to provide ourselves with the avid exchange that face-to-face provide. “Some recent studies have found Internet use to be associated with increased local and distant social circles and face-to-face interactions with friends and family” (Boneva, B., Kraut, R., Frohlich, D. 2001) So it must be said that Internet-mediated interactions will only improve those already established relationships and help form those that are no yet formed. Broadbent (2009) suggests that social media [blogs, Facebook, and Twitter] promote greater intimacy between individuals, rather than absorbing time away from social involvement, as it brings another element within inter-personal relationships that coincides with the level of technology that members of society experience, thus attracting new ideas and pushing technology to be within everyday behaviour and matters.

The Internet offers access to information and diversity of Internet dating sites. These facilitate users to be selective and permitting awareness of choices and to take advantage by offering niche dating. For example, if you are interested in dating only someone who is environmentally conscious Green-Passions provides a social network for those looking to socialize with environmentally conscious, eco-friendly singles. (Green-Passions, 2010) If you are interested in meeting someone close to you, you have the option of searching for those who are geographically nearby, as is someone of the same religion or within a particular age group by selecting sites which single out those requisites. There is greater access to particulars when using the Internet and it tolerates cliques which in a face to face environment may be seen as antisocial behaviour. The enormous amount of knowledge and data than one can obtain from using the Internet increases the chances to come across that which we are after, which can seem like a capricious desire, but from infancy we are lead to want to believe that we need another someone to become whole. Friedrich Halm wrote “Two souls with but a single thought, two hearts that beat as one” (n.d), which, personally, leads me to think that I need to find someone with whom to think as one, and if I use the Internet as a way to do banking, check movie times and buy inconsequential items, I would not overlook it to find my companion, which is, by my understanding nothing but fundamental.

Internet dating is no longer a new craze. “Its easy, it’s convenient. It’s not as intimidating as the real world” (Kingston, 2009). With the ease of availability, the Internet in homes, workplaces and included into our mobile devices, users benefit from the freedom of information that may lead to a lasting and true relationship. However, one must not believe that this method alone will establish a lasting true relationship. One must assume that during this process unwanted results may and will arise due, but it does expose you to people you might not otherwise run into (Kingston, 2009) so just like any other task performed offline, the online equivalent will have the same repercussions. What happen online does not stay online anymore, seeing as the Internet and our lives are a cluster of sequences which have become so intertwined, that online is no longer constrained to have specific meaning in regards to computer technology and telecommunications mainly due to the access we control, aided by devices such as the Smartphones which are more than telephones, as Steinberg (2009) points out “It’s a cellular phone that does more than just make calls to the point that it can actually serve as a functional laptop or desktop replacement” and as a result the Internet becomes more recognisable as a lifestyle feature which is interlaced within our interpersonal relationships.

Anonymity is something that the Internet offers without restraint. When engaging in conversation, in this particular case by using tools such as instant messengers, the user is secured from society by being in the comfort of their own home or workplace. This anonymity allows for a lack of inhibitions within a society that puts so much pressure on physical appearance, appropriate behaviour and political correctness. One could be habitually sitting at a desk in their pyjamas actively contributing to an insightful conversation, allowing the other party to be consumed by their input without feeling the need to address issues of attire, sitting positions or personal space. The movie Sleepless in Seattle (Foster & Ephron, 1993) portrays this situation, where the heroine of the movie, Annie Reed, logs into her computer to check her emails in her pyjamas, subsequently we see her tucked in bed chatting and sharing moments of intimacy with a member of the opposite sex without guard, as the anonymity facilitates the ability to share her feelings.

As with any relationship, be it amorous or platonic, one must take on the responsibility to nourish it, to bring constructive behaviours and to be able to make it grow; Internet imparts another level with which to do this. Popular instant messaging software Skype incorporates video calls and markets this by saying “Share a smile, blow a kiss, explain an idea or just gaze longingly – free video calls with Skype are the next best thing to being there” (2010) and with slogans such as these, you cannot help but want to be able to share emotions when those you care for are not at arms length. With technology’s advance, web cameras capture more than the blurry movement and we are kept amused with the ability to produce intimate moments. The levels of intimacy are heightened with the use of Web 2.0 as I can post status, tweets and send links that remind me about him, for whom my heart beats.

At some stage we will find ourselves far from loved ones and when a phone call isn’t enough we can take part in the multitude of ways in which the Internet deepens these connections. Not only does it does it encourage intimacy within a romantic connection, but in fact, enriches intimacy of all the relationships a person can have. By ways of social media our sharing experience becomes alive even though the medium is somewhat virtual, since the relationships are real and that is what transcends the invisible barriers between online and offline. Stephure et al (2009) suggests these barriers may be overlooked by younger people as they have grown up within this cyber-culture However, with the younger population utilizing virtual methods to communicate with those that who have been socializing without the use on internet-mediated activities or devices it is possible to create an involvement across ages, making it possible that intimacy and those early bonds formed with using new media be turned into something extraordinary.

The use of computer-mediated communication have increased “friendly, dominant, and relaxed communication styles” (Birnie & Horvath, 2002) which is only a natural evolution of culture. Alexander Graham Bell (n.d) said “Great discoveries and improvements invariably involve the cooperation of many minds.” He, who invented the telephone, invites normal everyday people to subject themselves to participate in this move towards the use of Internet-media, by using history as an example, and to take advantage of the richness of information which is evoked when one participates. If we become active users of said technology not only are we signing up as members but we are also satisfying the need for more intimate situations. However, this is only a way to balance our personal interactions and by no means is this to evade and bypass face-to-face interaction. When the two are utilized synchronously it is when we become part of an ethos, which makes use of technology and the echo of our feelings an analogous experience.

With the freedom to obtain information via the Internet and the availability of this information, the Internet is integrated into our lives not only for work and recreation purposes but for the more important aspects of our lives which is our personal relationships with those for whom we care. This adds substance to the relationships we choose to form and maintain. Because of the effortlessness in which we can now communicate, the Internet is readily available and it surpasses gender and age to fulfil the inquisitive nature of a human being and to interlace ones emotions with technology.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Net 102 - Assignment 1 TASK PORTFOLIO

1.                  How is the Internet part of your everyday life?
The internet plays a huge part in my life since my mid teens, but in recent years it has had a far greater impact with the use of WiFi and 3G enabled devices such as laptops, iPhone and gaming consoles. I can sit on the couch while watching tv and be on my laptop. I can post a status on Facebook as well as transfer money while I’m in the supermarket queue. If I have a query I can verify the answer by Google-ing and often while at the cinemas I use, a popular movie database website to search the actor whom I am certain I have seen in another movie.
Every morning when I wake up, after I turn off my alarm, I check my tweets as I am absolutely involved in Twitter and use it as my main source of random information. I use Foursquare to ‘check-in’ to places and therefore also can see my ‘friends’ check-ins. If I find myself without the use of internet its almost as if I become non-existent and a few times I have received phone calls asking me where I am since I have no posted anything. I have a blog and an account on Flickr and countless accounts on popular sites such as YouTube, DailyBooth, eBay and StumbleUpon. With all certainty, I can say that the internet and my life go hand in hand.
2.                  How is the Internet part of the everyday life of other people in society?
In my society most of the people with whom I actively associate have integrated the Internet as part of their every day life. This has to do mainly because of the age group I am in and also because of the lifestyles of people and their interests. Some of my peers use the internet just for work; others might be equally involved as I am. My own society dictates that the internet be an integral part of daily life. We use it for the mundane, essential and vital.
As a general outlook on society, in a country like Australia, we can safely say that to keep in contact, promote business and to have a part in culture one must be open to incorporate the internet into their lives by: using it, participating in it and building it.
3.                  How is your experience of the Internet different from the people around you?
As stated prior, most of the people that I connect with are equally involved in using the internet and all that it offers. In recent years I have seen tremendous growth in the integration of what Web 2.0 can provide, with businesses and corporations building around the new services and allowing their customers to use these features by integrating them through social networks and hand held devices.
Those around me, just as I am, are taking advantage of the new technology. Even though some might not take as much advantage as I do, they certainly do experience the new tools such as internet banking and online shopping. My experience is more involved; I rely completely in getting my information from the internet.

TASK 1.1 - Topic 1.1: Music: I Want My MP3

What role does music play in your life and does it mesh with any of the practices and meanings described in the readings?

Music plays a huge part in my life. Every significant event in my life has a link to a song or a tune. When I hear the tune of a favorite children’s TV show, for instance, feelings of comfort and fun build up in my chest. When I hear a song that reminds me of a sad occasion I am known to shed a tear. Also in the day to day, the mundane tasks are always accompanied by a few Latin tracks which help keep up the pace. I created a special playlist for when I go for a walk; something strong but not too fast so that I can strut to the beat. The songs have meaning and they make me want to walk to the next block.
That I can take my music with me instills a sense of ease, comfort and reassurance; no matter the situation I might find myself, be it uncomfortable or stressful for instance, I know that by plugging myself to my iPod can infuse me with my own world even though I am surrounded with that which isn’t my first choice.

Are your tastes shared with other people or groups that you are in contact with?

When I was a teenager my music tastes dictated who my friends where. I could pick out the people that listened to the same music as I did by the clothes they wear. In high school this was near impossible at first sight since a uniform would often hide the clues, but as soon as I had a good look at a person, small details would give it away. We would exchange $40 CD’s and record them onto cassette tapes. We would wait for an album to hit the store and hope that there were enough copies left. So definitely, when in high school my peers where those that shared my tastes in music, primarily because of the limited availability of music. By the time I was in tertiary school mp3 files were becoming more and more available; however I was still connecting my audio card to the auxiliary input on my stereo so that I could record the music that I had downloaded. Not only my tastes in music were shared but also the way I acquired my music. Now that any genre of music is readily available for download my tastes have shifted. I now consider myself an eclectic. My ‘core genre’ is still the same as it was when I was a teenager, but as I have easy and quick access to obscure bands or different varieties of music I am happy to listen to them all. My most played songs on iTunes can range from late 70’s Latin ballads to Top 40 hits of the last week. The ease availability has made my music collection a vast one and severely varied, which often mirrors that of those who I am generally in contact with.
How do you usually 'pick up' a musician/band or song?

I use sites like Last.Fm to suggest songs to me depending on my tastes, iTunes also does a very good job in linking me to new bands and it offers free downloads during a set time so that I can get a taste of a new band. I enjoy looking at the #nowplaying hash tags on Twitter which lists tweets where users share what they are currently listening to. As well as Blip.Fm tweets.
Soundtracks sometimes lead me to a great band. A good example of this is the movie Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging. In a particular scene they play a beautiful song which immediately captivated me. I pause the movie and started Shazam, an iPhone and iPod Touch application that uses the microphone to record a clip of a song: It listens to it, analyzes it and almost always comes back with the name of the song, album and name of artist/band. It also allows you to share this via social media so that others can benefit from your find. I have discovered many bands and artists this way.

Do you download music, watch videos with music, and reveal your tastes in online profiles and applications?

The same way that I find songs, I too share my finds. As previously stated, I use Shazam, an iPhone application and share on Twitter and/or Facebook. I have a Blip.Fm account which is linked to my Twitter account. By using certain Facebook applications, such as LivingSocial, I am able to list my “5 favorite songs of all times” or “5 Bands/Artists I cannot stop listening to at the moment”. Friends comment, like and we communicate about a particular song or concert. Social media has become a way for me to share specific things such as music without having to rub it in people’s face or by having they ask me.

TASK 1.2 - Topic 1.2: Games: At Work, No One Knows I am a Wizard
What are the implications of the rise of casual and social games for online gaming and everyday life?
Casual and social gaming has become increasingly integrated with online gaming. And gaming in general has become part of the everyday life.
Communities have come adapt to all sorts of users, and not just the token nerds which these here known to host. Now everyone belongs to a gaming community. For instance, my mother plays Bejewelled Blitz on popular social networking site Facebook. She is in a league and has battles and plays tournaments against her friends. At times the frustration gets the better of her that she yells to the virtual jewels. Against the vast gaming community, a group of people playing a virtual puzzle game on Facebook may seem as if it does not have an impact on online gaming yet if we take a step back and look at most online users, we all participate in some sort of gaming.
In recent years game consoles have become equipped to connect to the internet wirelessly. The download of games onto the consoles is part of the gaming experience. Interacting with other users and playing against them by using the internet creates a community and collaborates to the use of online gaming. People can interact while playing a single game of Tetris or become a tribe and battle in Tetris arenas. Racing against an opponent in a different country is as normal as playing tag with a neighbour. Online gaming has become part of everyday life with devices like the iPhone and the Nintendo DS, users are those who engage in casual games or are strict game players. The line between these two has become almost non-existent.
TASK 1.3 - Topic 1.3: Dating, Intimacy and Sexuality
How far would a partner/spouse have to go online before it is considered cheating?

Relationships are a personal matter. The dynamics are completely determined by the subculture that both parties in the relationship have brought together. And this subculture is therefore determined by own culture and the surroundings that they’ve been brought up in.
In saying this, there is a socially acceptable behavioural law that relationships must abide by. Personally, I feel uncomfortable then my partner looks at another girl so to me the online equivalent would be subtle conversation that could be interpreted as to have sexual undertones. While cheating face to face, for me would start with holding deep and meaningful looks, online this would be on par to registering with a dating site; by marketing yourself as single and available.
Online things happen far faster than face to face. Emails are exchanged. Statuses are posted on social networking sites, photographs are taken and sent. Small things like this can equate to a real relationship in person. One email could be dinner. A poke could be the same as grabbing coffee. A DM might be a suggestive text message.

Up to what point is flirting online acceptable?

There are two sides to online communication even if one is not communicating in real-time. The persons involved in the communication choose how much he/she will accept. Online involvement is voluntary and one should not be made to feel uncomfortable during these moments of interaction. If a person is naturally flirty face to face why would this not be acceptable while interacting online? It is all in the context and those involved in the content of the transfer of ideas. As an active member of an online community, which falls into a state of ‘virtual’ and be taken to mean non-existent, I am adamant to make to as real an experience as possible. However, as presented to me by a close friend, Marco Gonzalez
anonymity gives you some sort of advantages versus real life flirting and rejection is easier to get over on the net than face to face”. So, in my perspective, it’s acceptable to the point where you are comfortable. After that you are in the right to block, delete and tag as spam.
How 'real' is cybersex?
If those involved in it are a couple who have been together for 12 years, their online experience only mimics their interpersonal relationship. Their online rendezvous will add to that which they have when they are face to face in a familiar and private environment. In contrast, if two people who have never met decide to engage in any sort of cyber-sexual activity the experience is limited to only a fantasy. Their time spent ‘together’ is only a figment of their imagination; there is no depth to their encounter, it’s purely for entertainment purposes and as soon as the time is up it becomes another act of online participation. These two examples can then be broken up again into how the parties decide to remember the experience. Cybersex is as real as those involved make it.

TASK 1.4 - Topic 1.4: Health: What My Doctor Didn't Tell Me
Researching a health enquiry and using Internet applications.
I have chosen to research ‘Lice’ as in recent days there has been a notice sent to households about a lice outbreak in the area and children attending day-care, kinder and schools would be most at risk. Instinctively I look up the word Lice on Google. The first entry is a sponsored link which will surely take me to a store. Then there are several images of lice and their eggs which I do not need to see. A few entries later and I have found that Better Health has a page dedicated to this topic.
I want to know how to treat head lice if my child becomes in contact with them and how to prevent it. I found that the site informed me the exact amount I needed to know without being graphic or overly scientific. It provides ways in which I can check for louse and their eggs and how I can treat it.
Choosing to just Google the word Lice was always going to provide me with the most information but possibly not the right one. I didn't click on the first few; however, I did look for the sites that were relevant to my region, and those that would suggest products that I could find in my local chemist.
I have used this website before and I find that it is easy to navigate, its simple and doesn't use overly scientific explanations. It informs users on a variety of health topics that can range from very simple everyday health such as diet and sleep to more serious and uncommon diseases such as Malaria. On the home page there is a slide show which links to certain health topics which would be relevant to the time of the year.
This site is the Victorian Department of Health site. It also links to This website will also inform users of the current health issues that involve the Victorian health department and its current plans, new hospital and health community infrastructure as well as offering information to people’s concerns with health questions
Wikipedia offers a more scientific approach to my Lice problem. It shows me its biology and their classification; which is something that at first I don't need to know, although it appeals to me after I have decided how to treat the lice matter I may be involved in. I thoroughly value the links and the never-ending ability to jump from one topic to another via the links.

TASK 1.5 - Topic 1.5: Faith and Spirituality Online
Analyse and discuss the interrelation between faith, spirituality, daily life and the Internet.
Every human being believes in something, some one and in themselves. If we use the internet to research recipes then why not use it to involve your religion.
Each person applies their religion differently. If you live by your religion and you use the internet regularly then there is a higher chance that you will be part of a community of users that are involved in online discussions of that particular religion, or that you will be an active watcher of a YouTube channel that promotes messages via videos.
The interrelation between faith, spirituality, daily life and the Internet depends on how involved one is in their chosen faith. How much conviction they have and also how involved one’s chosen faith is on the Internet. The Internet will offer countless ways to find knowledge, to share it and to promote it. It is up to the individual to use this power given thru the use of the internet and to apply it.
By believing and following a particular faith’s convictions, certain sites may be out of bounds, may not be an allowed practice or may quite simply be non-essential to living by ones principles. Other faiths will vigorously take advantage of the power the internet gives by using it as a means to target specific principles and to maintain communication with its members by having several sited dedicated to their values and present their beliefs in ways that can be accessed thru several media outlets.
When the printing press was invented, it allowed information to be passes on. With the industrial revolution, churches and institutions used the availability to print by printing bibles and booklets advising people, informing and giving power to the people with written knowledge. With the addition of audio media these resources were also used, as well slides and as moving image. Not one of us who has an email address has become immune to receiving forwarded messages which try to instil a sense of spirituality via a few rhyming lines and Photoshoped landscapes with angel pictures. Often with the clause that one must pass it on within one hour or else the Titans will be let lose.
By using the internet to encourage member participation of a particular faith and help endorse the message all that this is doing is advancing in the use of the current technology. If printing Bibles was revolutionary in the 1800’s then Churches and Religious Institutions should take advantage of what the internet has to offer.
With the vast media that Web 2.0 uses, the integration of faith and the internet becomes almost impossible to distinguish. It pushes us to incorporate it in our daily lives as we do with our banking, shopping, movie watching and music listening.