I visited the website www.omegle.com and am very so grateful to present the theories of impression formation in CMC that apply to young and high-strung teenage boys. The website omegle allows a user to chat randomly with a stranger where either of you can hit a disconnect button to stop typing to each other. Since I chose to have the text only version after visiting the video section and being exposed to a myriad of different male parts, we can say that the social cues in all of my text-based chats were fairly limited (no cues of physical appearance, voice, and body language the video could have enabled). Also, the presence of a disconnect button forces the users to be gregarious enough or likable enough so that they can continue conversation. This presence limits the amount of flaming possible and also makes users motivated to strike an interesting conversation.
The first male I spoke with definitely made quite an impression on me through employing many different tactics to appeal to me. He wanted to appeal to me on a sexual level since I introduced myself as female—something I found necessary to get the conversation past asl (age, sex, location) since everyone on the website was a straight, testosterone-driven male who would disconnect another male immediately (of course, my dishonest presentation and the fact that many males believed me to be female has to deal with the limited number of cues available for the medium I selected–in other words, my social presence was low and could be easily manipulated). At first, he tried to portray himself as the popular stereotype of a masculine, yet caring hypermale:
Stranger: 24 male
Stranger: long island
You: yeah im in upstate, going to college in ithaca
Stranger: im goin to penn state
You: whats your study?
Stranger: well i got a scolarship to go there to be the teams strong saftey in football
You: wow, you must be good at football
Stranger: yeah yeah what kan i sayy i dont like to braf
Stranger: u like strong men?
Stranger: well here i am
You: tell me something nice youve done in the past days
Stranger: ask me as many questions as u want il tell 100% truth
Stranger: wel i helped my brother learn how to ride a dirt bike
Stranger: and my other brother was in the hospital and got his bottom half of his body paralized and i do every thing for him
The fact that he would present an unbelievably strong image of himself lies with the hyperpersonal model of CMC because he was trying to form his impression quickly and selectively using the strongest evidence for masculinity and whole-heartedness he could think of. He was expecting his receiver to accept his impression and form a hyperpersonal liking to him in less than about a minute. Unfortunately for him, I was weary of his description and assumed his presentation wasn’t honest because I was not able to visualize him (also why would a 24 year old have a scholarship to play football at Penn?). Perhaps his motive to present himself as such a male also ties in with reduced context cue theory, which would explain that he had no motive to tell the truth since there were no nonverbal cues to force him to and he was able to manipulate many other receivers using this strategy. I observed another pattern later in the conversation that ties in with the decreased social presence, where he told me the truth about his age and used a different strategy to appeal to me:
Stranger: 14 but
Stranger: i have a huge [explicit]
You: well thanks for telling the truth
Stranger: wel i wana go to penn state
The disinhibited behavior displayed above ties in with the cues filtered out theory of CMC; the young male obviously lost his willpower to stay decent due to the lack of nonverbal cues present that might otherwise force him to adopt appropriate behavior. He knew his anonymity and that he could disconnect if I reacted in any sort of unfavorable way to him.
After my conversation with the 14 year old male, I thought for sure the comment about his male part tied in with the cues filtered out theories; however, after my conversation with a second male, I soon found out his comment actually could be explained by media richness theory! Here is the introduction of my second chat:
Stranger: i have a 7 inched [explicit]
You: well thats nice to know
Initially, I was thinking, “oh great, another one of these,” but then I was intrigued why he used this as his introduction. Why was the very first thing he told me his size? Why would he want to present himself in that way?! I questioned him:
You: you realize females dont like hearing about your size
Stranger: i just say that
Stranger: cuz of guys who want horney chicks
Stranger: it saves them the trouble
You: who are these horny girls?
You: well i guess you can find anything on the internet
You: you are interested in the horny females?/
Stranger: i guess yeah
After this short chat, I saw he was actually using the most efficient way to present himself for the task he wanted. Since the fastest way to achieve his goal was presenting himself in such a way, we can say he was enriching the medium as best as he could. After realizing the match between the task and the medium (and realizing I was basically on a sex chat site for young men), I thought back to my initial experience with the video chat and the wonderful male images I saw there. It all made sense. Media richness theory helps explain how young boys use these communication media to obtain their own “pleasure.”
(After I finished questioning the second male about why he would introduce himself as a measurement, he gave me his aim sn and told me he wanted to talk to me later because I seemed like a “cool chick.”)
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