Age, sex, location. Most people have had an encounter with this in a chat room or public forum at some point in their online experiences. Three letters most of the time: ASL. Before we get anywhere with a conversation online, we want to know the basics of who we are talking to in order to form a connection. Just like we saw yesterday during the group discussion on Omegle, everyone who they messaged the first line was “Hi, ASL?” The one thing that I have always taken notice of is how it all circles back to a huge part of our culture; sex. Not just as in what gender you are but really more so for what the other person is looking for in a sexual partner. Now, I realize this is not always the case but it seems to me that the majority of the social websites that do ask this question first when registering, hints at the basic fundamentals of why the website succeeds in general. People want to know about the other people around them.
Our culture, and I feel the online culture as well, has a very sexual core. First the largest online traffic was for pornography, and now it is social media. Social media is used to make connections for friendship, professional connections, common interests, support forums, and to connect with potential partners. The success of online dating websites proves this point. So isn’t it then that the most basic information about someone’s identity matters to most people?
Johanna Blakely stated in her video on TED “Social media and the end of gender” that she believes with social media now there will be an end to “gender” and the societal stigmas that are currently attached to it. While I think her idea is supported to a certain extent, I feel that is in the basic needs of a human to WANT to know someone’s gender and all that is implied with it. We want to be able to connect with others, especially online where the barriers that are normally attached to the stereotypes can be left at firewalls.
The basic components of who we are starts with our gender identity. Even though it does not define us, it is how you were made by God and connects us all to the very core of our beginnings. In Tanja Carstensen’s article “Gender Trouble in Web 2.0: Gender Relations in Social Network Sites, Wikis and Weblogs” she states in the introduction that Web 2.0 is being celebrated as a “revolution.” I think it is a revolution for the world too. We have the opportunity to connect with people that we can identify with by the click of a mouse. We can find support from people just like us. However, for this to happen don’t we need or more so WANT to know the basic information about the person on the other end of the computer screen? Think about it. Even though people can connect with others without really needing any background right off the bat, say for instance in an open public forum, if the situation is going to develop deeper both individuals on each end are going to want to know more. It again starts out with the very basic information; ASL.
There will always be stereotypes and stigmas because for as long as there have been humans, there has been discrimination. But hopefully, this “Web 2.0 revolution” can help lessen how we pre-judge people and how we automatically think a stereotype when we see a well-ripped, Mr. T hair-styled, African American avatar. Human nature wants connections and I think that this “revolution” means a bigger, better world for this to be achieved and our “global village” can exist and flourish.
Even though we want to know about and connect with the people we are talking to, do you think this “want” that we feel in human nature can evolve over time?
Do you think that we are going to lose “gender” in social media and that is isn’t as important?