With the onset of new and ever evolving technology, digital deception has become a real issue amongst online platforms. With an element of situational responsiveness, individuals can engage in the construction of alternate identities with much ease. Such self-fashioning of identity constructs invites the use of deception and also acts as a vehicle for the purpose of relationship building. Although there are many factors that contribute to this conversation, the increased deception of online users has raised much concern, as the motive behind this behavior is unclear.
As research shows, self-presentation is an incredibly dynamic and complex process that has been further complicated by communication technology. Toma and Hancock’s research asks how close do online self-presentations match real world identities and why. Empirical evidence shows that platforms where face-to-face interaction is expected at a later date, deception tends to be fairly subtle and self-enhancing rather than overtly malicious. For example, users tend to slightly embellish their physical features and personal assets on online dating platforms. With the emergence of profile based social networking sites, self-presentation is no longer limited to textual based description. Thus, photographs serve as a critical element to examine online relationships. These researchers devoted much scholarly attention to profiles with photographs to understand their role in the context of deception and motive. However, the primary questions addressed in the study failed to account for motive behind non-sexual relations. Yet, much insight was gained on the process of self-packaging and editing the self to create a certain impression for a designated audience. Such choices regarding what information to disclose and how to disclose it, and whether or not to engage in deception, reveals much information about the users the said profile is trying to attract. These choices are guided by two underlying tensions: self-enhancement and authenticity. Equally, there is much discrepancy in gender deception. More so, previous studies examine the interplay of these tensions to show how online daters balance their conflicting desires. Typically, these enhancements are subtle enough to go unnoticed upon face-to-face interaction with potential suitors. The study was fairly limited as it was explicitly focused on physical representation and researchers struggle to find out the WHY behind such behavior.
Similar research spearheaded by Hall supports these claims, as he includes further examination factors such as gender, self-monitoring, personality traits and demographic characteristics that influence online self-fashioning and deception. His research looks at strategic misrepresentation, thus that which is conscious and intentional. He contributes to the existing conversation on how computer mediated communication research environments have experienced notable growth in relation to the deception of its users. However, the data is most concerned with impression management and the goals of online users. It explains that deception is often based on high reward value to potential suitors.
There have been many widely publicized claims that Internet use causes depression and social isolation. However, the Internet itself is not the main cause of such behavior but rather the way in which identity, interactions and relationships take form. NYU researchers McKenna and Bargh explain how greater anonymity, reduced importance of physical appearance and physical distance allow for greater control of time and pace of interactions. Technological developments have reinvented ways of connecting, thus allowing individuals to project any kind of self-fashioning they can imagine in online electronic venues. Such computer mediated interactive social effects can have both positive and negative implications. The article introduces the word deindividuation, meaning when an individuals’ self-awareness is blocked or seriously reduced by environmental conditions. Anonymity, feelings of unity, a high level of physiological arousal and a focus on external events or goals are conditions that encourage and often produce deindividuation. Some of the outcomes produced by deindividuation include a weakened ability for an individual to regulate his or her behavior, reduced ability to engage in rational, long-term planning and a tendency to react to immediate cues or based largely on his or her current emotional state. McKenna and Bargh conclude that these effects can culminate in impulsive and disinhibited behaviors. Thus a lessening of self-awareness can trigger an individual to take on multiple roles or aspects of the self. It is also said that the ability to engage in anonymous interaction on the Internet allows individuals to explore previously unexplored aspects of identity. More so, socially anxious individuals may be motivated to resort to the Internet as a means through which they can make social connection with the absence of anxiety enhancing factors that exist in face to face interaction. Recent research has found that social anxiety is a strong predictor of those who will be likely to engage in deception and form Internet relations. Loneliness is another individual difference that predicts who will form online relationships.While this research explains how the behavior behind role construction it fails to explain its motive. The discussion admits what is not yet known, or rather consequences that may result from multiple online identities.
Rowe’s research states that most deception is a form of manipulation most frequently occurring in distant relations. His research focuses on already existing and extensive literature of different deception detection methods. Using both high and low level cues ranging from discrepancies in information presented to inconsistency in tone, specialized statistical methods can be used to locate these signs. Researchers have proposed data fusion like reputation management systems, automated fraud applications or mathematical formulations to decrease deception in online platforms. However, this approach fails to account for interfaces that have the ability to evade such analysis.
While many current studies have replicated past research on deception and self-presentation in online dating, there is also an extremely complex side to this conversation: The motive behind cyber relations. Huang has also investigated the relationship between online misrepresentation, self-disclosure and cyber relationship motives. His findings revealed that teenagers with online dating experiences exhibited different self-disclosure behavior both online and offline. Huang supports research by Ditommaso and Spinner, explaining that lonely individuals with emotional isolation and pessimism toward social relationships may drive individuals to engage in less self-disclosure. Thus, these individuals tend to create networks of online friendships. Gross, Juvonen, and Gable verified this speculation but also found that users with an increased sense of loneliness, prevalent social anxiety and few friends, found it easier to interact with strangers on the Internet than with peers within their vicinity. Huang documented a wide range of motives reported ranging from adventure, escape, romance, concern for privacy/security, insecurity, anonymity, opportunity, excitement, easier communication, curiosity, emotional support, social compensation, time away from the real world, love and sexual engagement. He went on to examine how differences in expectations about meeting in person impacted the degree of deceptive self-presentation. The results revealed that those who tended to misrepresent themselves were driven by both physical and psychological urges. Since this study adopted a quantitative method, the depth of discussion regarding self-reporting questionnaires seems limited. Further research might consider the use of in depth interviews to analysis subject motivation and reason for online deception.
The discourse shows that there is much uncertainty surrounding the motivation of people who engage in unacceptable online forms of deception. I hypothesize that people seek the ability to invent and create fantasy. Thus, I am looking to gain insight on the reasoning and motive behind the crafting and self-fashioning of identity. By focusing on non-sexual components of these relationships I am eager to gain some knowledge as to what void or part of their lives these individuals are looking to fulfill. I intend to contribute to the aspect of the conversation that focuses on people who lack self-awareness and thus, get positive feedback from digital deception. I would like to better understand the pathology of such people and the role of reinforcement in these interactions. My research will attempt to modestly add to the discourse by focusing on those individuals who have been targeted and victimized by digital deception.