Online dating ethnography

18-Nov-2017 12:08

And as people traverse many real-life and virtual spaces over the course of a day, each of these contexts compels them to think and act in particular ways, and shapes how they carry out subsequent interactions.

More and more of our "backstage" interactions are also negotiated online, through digital platforms.

As well, it is established in the psychology literature that people generally have weak self-assessment skills, tending to over- or underestimate their knowledge, skills and insights in relation to performance in various spheres of their lives.

Yet, a dating site is much more than the series of questions and catalogue of profiles.

This is a valid point considering that many of our social interactions effortlessly flit from real-life meetings to text messages to Facebook and back to real-life, and so on.

This quotation is from anthropologist, Margaret Mead, famous for her book, Coming of Age in Samoa, a contribution to the cross-cultural understandings of adolescence based on her ethnographic research on teenage females in the South Pacific.

As anthropologists engage in immersive naturalistic fieldwork by spending time with their research participants and conducting open-ended interviews, they generate extensive data that enables them to explore the linkages between what people say and do.

In Goffman’s presentation of the self, these interactions may thought of as the “backstage” self or “who we are when we think no one’s looking.” Big data analysis allows for the unearthing of interesting findings: "For example, a user may honestly believe that they listen mostly to classical music, but analysis of their i Tunes listening history or their Spotify playlists might provide a far more accurate picture of their listening habits." (Source: BBC) "People have a checklist of what they want, but if you look at who they are talking to, they break their own rules.

They might list 'money' as an important quality in a partner, but then we see them messaging all the artists and guitar players," Amarnath Thombre, president of, told Mashable.

These examples illustrate possible disjunctures between our front stage and backstage selves.

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