Virtual Relationships

  • Created by: frankie11
  • Created on: 27-04-19 10:50

Virtual Relationships on social media

-          Virtual Relationships on Social Media: it is becoming much more common and acceptable to start a relationship online, through social media. However, psychologists are interested in why virtual relationships seem to self-disclose more and develop intimacy sooner than real-life relationships.

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Absence of Gating Mechanisms

-          Absence of Gating Mechanisms: communicating through the internet removes factors that usually act as filters or barriers, stopping us from talking to certain people. These may be physical characteristics, age, gender, speech deficits or social and ethnic backgrounds.

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Reduced Cue Theories

-          Reduced Cue Theories: computers lack some of the features of face to face interactions, such as non-verbal communication. This may lead to people reading too much into texts or reading what they want into them.

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-          Anonymity: deindividuation is the process when somebody loses their feelings of personal responsibility and feels less inhibited as a result. They may be able to say things they wouldn’t usually say in real life. This lack of normal distancing factors that are regulated in face to face interactions can lead to feelings of closeness and intimacy but it can also lead to behaviours such as sexting and trolling.

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Hyperpersonal Model

-          Hyperpersonal Model (Walther 1996): people are able to easily manipulate their online identity and create either a hyper honest or dishonest version of themselves.

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Evaluative Research - Smith and Duggan (2013)

-          Smith and Duggan (2013): did a large-scale questionnaire on over 2000 Americans, asking questions about virtual relationships and online dating. They found that 53% of people agreed that using online dating allowed people to meet a wider range of people and therefore find a better match, suggesting that it is becoming more acceptable. They also found that the main reasons for online dating were finding shared hobbies (60%) and shared beliefs and values (52%). However, 54% agreed that they thought that someone had seriously misrepresented themself in their profile. This suggests that people see the internet as a way to overcome gating mechanisms faced in everyday life. It also suggests that people can take advantage of the hyperpersonal model by being dishonest.

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Evaluative Research - Smith and Duggan (2013)

-          This is supported by research by McKenna and Bargh (2000) who found that people in online relationships felt they could express themselves more easily. Also, after 2 years, 70% of online relationships had survived, compared to only 50% of real world ones.

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Building Evaluations

-          Research on virtual relationships may constantly lack temporal validity as technology is developing. For example, people are more comfortable using Skype which can provide rich non-verbal communication.

-          Virtual relationships can be seen positively, as it allows people who wouldn’t normally come into contact with others to meet people, which will reduce loneliness.

-          Excessive dependence on virtual relationships may lead to negative social consequences in the long run. A lack of practise of reading non-verbal communication may mean that face-to-face communication suffers as a result.

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Building Evaluations

-          It may be that not all virtual environments are the same. For example, people may self-disclose more on a gaming site than a dating site because on a dating site, there is the possibility of having face to face interaction.

-          There may be a lack of non-verbal communication online but there are other cues which may up for it, such as emojis and how long it takes someone to reply.

-          Cultural differences can affect social interaction. For example, Yum and Hara (2005) found that Koreans felt less trust when there is more disclosure in virtual relationships.

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