Posts Tagged ‘hyperpersonal’

Look Up Exaggerates Damages of Social Media uses science to dismantle the claims in the viral video “Look Up” made by Gary  (aaaand no, I’m not linking to it).

They put claims such as ” We share frivolous bits of ourselves on social media, but leave out anything meaningful” up against current literature and find the claims ring as hollow as an empty keg. The sources they cite are diverse including: danah boyd, Kowert, Griffiths, and Oldmeadows article on “geek” stereotypes, the New York TimesPew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project, and Deters and Mehl’s article on how Facebook can make us feel less lonely. They wrap up by citing an article from Slate.com which not only recaps technohysteria of the 20th century  but also reminds the reader of the Douglas Adams comment that any new technology will be regarded with suspicion and trepidation by people 35 or older.

Le sigh.

My generation?  We embraced 24/7 MTV and the the Sony Walkman with gusto. However,the Nervous Nellies of my youth intoned that these communication advances would erode our morals and make us socially disconnected narcissists. And now I see so many of us spouting those same arguments about computer and/or mobile media. Has my generation become our our parents at their most hand wringingest?

(Well, some of us, your gentle blog writer refuses to succumb to that kind of thinking.)

This cyberhysteria is the latest incarnation of panic over technology. Marvin’s When Old Technology Was New (1988) is a good book that tackles this topic with full force. She spells out how in the 19th and 20th centuries, electricity, the telephone, telegraph. the radio and television were subject to the same fear and hysteria as computer and mobile media is today.

Our most advanced consumer technology serves at the whim of its owners. I’m not a utopianist but a realist, we control our technology and that means that we have the lion’s share of control over what it does to us, our families and our children. On its own technology isn’t not good or bad, it’s tool and like a hammer it can be used to build or destroy.

Take a deep breath Gary, now exhale. There, that’s better isn’t it?


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The first couple of steps in the online identity hoax process involve a “person” with a compelling life story. Once that person is part of the social structure their life, as documented in their posts, becomes a litany of dramatic events.

The false persona’s posts take on the form of a dramatic narrative with the false persona cast as the brave hero weathering crisis after crisis. Additionally, in these situations the frequency and intensity of the crises increases over time. Despite the unlikelihood of so many major events befalling one person, the hoax continues as a critical mass of group members are still supportive of the false persona (or are keeping any misgivings to themselves).  The group members are generally intelligent, perceptive people who are not new to socializing through computer mediated communication (CMC).

Walther theorizes in Computer-Mediated Communication: Impersonal, Interpersonal, and Hyperpersonal Interaction (1996), when people communicate via CMC they fill in any missing cues and information heuristically. The deceptive person behind the false persona seems to exploit the Hyperpersonal Effect by creating a character for whom living in a constant state of crisis is the norm. I think creates an environment so rich in heuristic and emotional thoughts and behaviors that it might disrupt the normal socialization process that new group members go through.

The communication of the deceptive individual behind the deception seems to be in synch with Zhou, Burgoon, Zhang and Nunamaker’s observations about the language dominance of a deceptive individual in CMC environments (2004). They found that the intensity of the deceiver’s communication increased over the life of the deception as a mechanism for asserting language dominance over the group’s communication. This is consistent with the increasing the false persona experiencing increasingly dramatic incidents in their lives (as presented through their posts).

One of the things I wonder is what role, if any, the constant stream of crises play in prolonging the deception. Some of the elements presented by the false persona seem ludicrous after the fact. What prevents group members from seeing it or, at the very least, mentioning any misgivings they may have?

Could it be that it goes unchallenged because the issues adopted by the false persona are sensitive ones. Cancer or the death of a child are issues that touch the deepest of human fears. Could group members be consciously or unconsciously fearful of violating the social norm of holding these kinds of stories sacrosanct?  My other idea is that the deception might go unchallenged because these crises create a collective anxiety that uses up so much cognitive processing, either collectively and/or on the individual level that there is insufficient processing power left to engage in any kind of meaningful warranting of the false persona’s stories.

I guess I just assigned myself a new paper….


Zhou, L., Burgoon, J. K., Zhang, D., & Nunamaker, J. F. (2004). Language dominance in interpersonal deception in computer-mediated communication. Computers in Human Behavior, 20(3), 381. doi:10.1016/S0747-5632(03)00051-7

Walther, J. B. (1996). Computer-mediated communication: Impersonal, interpersonal, and hyperpersonal interaction. Communication Research, 23(1), 3-43. doi:10.1177/009365096023001001

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I am a movie fanatic, especially older movies. The past few weeks, I’ve seen several movies that deal with wartime romances which led me to thinking about Walther’s theories about hyperpersonal communication (1996).

In his description of the phenomenon, he talks about an idealized perception on the part of the communication partners as they fill in the information they don’t have about each other with the most positive assumptions possible. I wonder if two people have a relatively short time to get to know each other a similar process occurs. It logical that it might be a contributing factor. There may even be some deindividualization going on if the civilian partner (usually a female) sees and responds to the the uniform, the symbol o the fragility of the relationship as well as life, as opposed to the seeing the person who is wearing it.

Obviously Walther’s work deals specifically with cases where the communication partners are confined to communicating via CMC whereas the situation I am talking about the partners are co-located for the duration of this bonding process. I wonder though if the situation of people meeting when one of them is most likely (if not imminently) facing a danger creates an intensified sense of reality that leads to communication behaviors that are similar to what Walther describes.

I would be interested to read a couple of scholarly articles on the communication processes associated with called wartime romances.

(Some of the movies that feature this include, A Farewell to Arms, Waterloo Bridge, The man in the Grey Flannel Suit, The Best Years of Our Lives and many others.)

Walther, J. B. (1996). Computer-mediated communication: Impersonal, interpersonal, and hyperpersonal interaction. Communication Research, 23(1), 3-43. doi:10.1177/009365096023001001

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