Two more papers from Monica Whitty, both of which are over a decade old, but are still v interes to consider, particularly as the rules of the game in even the leanest of media (text-only) are still the same as the richest (f2f).
First: what relationships mean
Whitty, M. & Gavin, J. (2001). Age/Sex/Location: Uncovering the Social Cues in the Development of Online Relationships. Cyberpsychology & Behavior, 4(5).
Past research on online relationships has predominantly been concerned with how the quality of online relationships compares with offline relationships. This research has been more concerned with the medium itself than with the meanings that users construct around their interpersonal interactions within this medium. The current paper seeks to redress this imbalance by exploring the ways that available social cues are used to shape the meanings of online relationships. Sixty Internet users, ranging in age from 19–51 years, were interviewed about their online relationships. It was found that ideals that are important in traditional relationships, such as trust, honesty, and commitment are just as important in online relationships; however, the cues that signify these ideals vary.
Next: how we flirt
Whitty, M.T. (2003). Cyber-flirting: Playing at love on the Internet. Theory and Psychology, 13(3), 339-357.
While there exists some research on offline flirting, there is currently little in the way of conceptual theory or empirical research on flirting in cyberspace. This paper attempts to help redress this balance. The paper initially presents a summary of the behaviour of offline flirting and particularly identifies what constitutes offline flirting signals. Given this background context, suggestions are made as to how we might better conceptualize online flirting. The prevailing wisdom has been that we should focus on the absence of the body in cyberspace. This view is challenged here. Instead,it is argued that researchers should re-orient their focus to how the body is reconstructed online. Winnicott’s notions of ‘potential space’ and ‘transitional objects’ are drawn upon in this paper to advance an argument that online flirting should be considered as a form of play. In making this argument, it is contended that online flirting has unique aspects in comparison to offline flirting. In particular, while realistic elements are present in online flirting, there is a blurring between what is reality and fantasy when one engages in flirtatious behaviour on the Internet.
note & quote:
almost a decade old (and situated in text-based communications, Whitty readily admits), this is still an inters paper. Nice summary of courtship rituals and gender roles and how they’ve changed, and a provocative proposal about how women still make the first move even in a world when it’s expected that men should: through non-verbal flirting language. I like her description of how people cyberflirt here:
Demure glances and eyebrow flashes are not easily replicated online. However, there are some alternatives to these non-verbal gestures. For example, emoticons, which are drawings made from grammatical symbols, might be a useful alternative. We can use facial expressions such as smiley faces, winks and kisses as a substitute for body language. Moreover, rather than use audible laughing and giggling, individuals can use acronyms, such as LOL (laugh out loud or lots of laughs) and < BG> (Big Grin). Screen names are another device people can add to their repertoire of online flirting behaviours.