Qualitative data analysis suggests that participants attended to small cues online, mediated the tension between impression management pressures and the desire to present an authentic sense of self through tactics such as creating a profile that reflected their “ideal self,” and attempted to establish the veracity of their identity claims.
This study provides empirical support for Social Information Processing theory in a naturalistic context while offering insight into the complicated way in which “honesty” is enacted online.
Although previous research has explored relationship development and self-presentation online (Bargh, Mc Kenna, & Fitzsimons, 2002; Mc Laughlin, Osbourne, & Ellison, 1997; Parks & Floyd, 1996; Roberts & Parks, 1999; Utz, 2000), the online dating forum is qualitatively different from many other online settings due to the anticipation of face-to-face interaction inherent in this context (Gibbs, Ellison, & Heino, 2006) and the fact that social practices are still nascent.
In recent years, the use of online dating or online personals services has evolved from a marginal to a mainstream social practice. In fact, the online personals category is one of the most lucrative forms of paid content on the web in the United States (Egan, 2003) and the online dating market is expected to reach $642 million in 2008 (Greenspan, 2003).
This tension between authenticity and impression management is inherent in many aspects of self-disclosure.