Date of Award

1-1-2006

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Communication

First Advisor

Dr. Randall Rose

Abstract

This was an exploratory study to investigate how online users portrayed themselves when using online personals in order to introduce themselves to a prospective partner in hopes of friendship, dating, or possible marriage. The primary method of examining the applicants was by the use of the online resumes that they placed on Yahoo. This study used 72 resumes from heterosexual applicants, male and female, between the ages 18 and 67, evenly proportioned across 5 year age groups, to examine the close-ended answers and open-ended statements that applicants provided. The main perspectives used in analyzing the resumes included Erving Goffman’s Presentation of Self and John Searle’s Construction of Social Reality. Most applicants were willing to divulge most of information requested except when the topic came to income, and women were less likely to divulge this information than men. Men did not divulge some information when the topic was on preferences regarding their prospective partner, which seemed to make the men appear less decisive than the women. Applicants appeared to present a better image of themselves than reality, since there were a few obvious discrepancies in their presentations which allowed them to present a more desirable image to others. The applicants were acting out a scene which was then presented to the audience, which included the online viewers of the resumes. All of this conforms to the Presentation of Self concept. The information is from a very localized arena of the stage though. As put by Searle, applicants hold a reality inside their minds that is separate from the reality held by the rest of the public. That reality which is shared becomes the reality of the group. That which is not shared is only real in the mind of the one primary actor. So this study only looks at the reality which the person portrays outwardly through their resumes. This study observed that many people were very careful not to let inconsistencies appear while others were not so careful. Lastly, this study attempted to examine whether there appeared to be a change in the applicant’s methods due to the type of medium which was used. This change is from Marshal McLuhan’s Technological Determinism Theory. This theory states that when people create the technology, technology then recreates the people. There does appear to be a change happening in the users of this medium, but is the change really due to the medium or is there another variable which is responsible? Another possibility is that the change was already happening and the medium is just an avenue to help it convert. These changes appear to be gender crossing, but this study did not arrive at firm conclusions regarding issues such as these and they are open to further investigation in future works.

Comments

A Thesis Presented to the Department of Communication and the Faculty of the Graduate College University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree Master of Arts University of Nebraska at Omaha. Copyright James W. Peoples III, 2006

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