So…in the midst of entering post-grad adulthood, I realized I actually miss blogging here everyday. I never realized how much of a home this was to me and my unsettled feelings about romance, love and movies. It was a good friend that allowed me to vent about everything without silently judging me. Sometimes, that’s all I really need.
Anyways, I wanted to share with everyone a small ethnography project I did for my cultural anthropology class. It was based on understanding the sociolingustics about dating among males and females. I’m not denying this could be more thorough, but I was able to grasp a small concept and delve a bit more deeper than I normally would. So take a whack at it, tell me your thoughts and enjoy!
*Obviously, names have been changed.
*Bing, It’s an Exchange of Power
As we venture deeper into the tech era, the modes of communication have diversified. Implications in dating have transformed and have aligned with such transformations. We are now not only faced with explicit difficulty in dating, but are now confronted with the difficulties of expressing emotion through electronic sources. In this paper, I demonstrate that males and females use various forms of communication, in particular electronic communication, in dating to maintain power over the variability of social situations.
This process of maintaining power within relationships allows modified curating over an expected language, a set of existing behavioral norms, both in the text message context and interpersonally. When we analyze the data, we can see how certain key terms such as “confidence” and “control” are frequently used when describing dating behaviors. For this study, a combination of methods was used. A series of in-person and informal interviews were held. Subjects were male and female, ages 21-26, all frequently engaged in several technologies to maintain contact. Subject A, Lothario, “thrived in interpersonal connections.” Once he attains a woman’s number, he is inclined to call them the next day. The idea of waiting seemed pointless to him he states and that he did not believe in a set of dating rules. He believed that it showing a sense of insecurity and to set himself apart, calling seemed more like a direct move instead of texting. When asked why he preferred calling he said, “conversation shouldn’t be scripted.” He described his style of dating as a means of proving “you’re not like anyone else.” What was present in this interview was Lothario’s ease in detecting what would be the form of communication based on the retriever. Lothario’s confidence seemed to differ from Subject B’s point of view when it came to approaching relations with the opposite sex. Steve can admit he was never keen on having phone conversations, a habit that carried on throughout his life. When asked what he thought was the best form of communication, he answered texting was. He explained, “easiest way to communicate because it gives you instant access, simulates being right there.” Steve felt that at times, phone calls could get “stale.” He cared for the fact that there was no urgency for immediacy, and more importantly, texts protect him from the awkwardness that phone conversations can have the tendency to do. The word “protects” seemed correlated to the idea of power once again. Curation of conversation was also a novelty of texting. As Steve points out, texting allows him “to craft your senses to make it sound a bit clearer.”
However, what I needed to understand was this existing norms of dating etiquettes that was constantly referred. Subject 3 was able to touch on this aspect. Subject 3, John, 25 and a student, believed there was no set of preferences in calling or texting. In fact, everything related to communicating was based on existing set of dating rules, but somehow translated into today’s times. He felt like once a connection was established with the opposite sex; he would generally text them two days after. He felt the absence of his presence built anticipation and his “value would not be diminished.” Value seemed to fit in the pool of self-image, and again correlated to the facet of confidence. Texting too soon would make him appear desperate; texting too late meant he was not interested. John also noted that texting was the easiest way of not dealing with rejection because in essence, it was one-way communication. When asked what simple rules he followed up, he just said, “It’s common sense. The basics, we have the ability to take hints which is dependent on the communication.” When asked similar questions to females, there was an astounding agreement that there was an existing etiquette into texting and calling. There was a limitation provided as well, too soon would be considered “too much.” They all agreed, when meeting someone, they expect the other person to follow up. Calling would be a surprise, but a text was perfunctory. As part of my fieldwork, I noticed that online dating allowed a sense of selection that I would have otherwise have not outside the web. Being provided with information about someone’s life at an instant provides an overwhelming sense of control and security that is not quite present when meeting someone in person. Selection becomes even narrower at this point. Another thing to note, messages that were exchanged followed the same prototype as texting – concise and curated. There was no room to allow variability because we had the Internet right at our footsteps.
Forms of communication essentially became physical metaphors of power. Analyzing the interviews, key terms that described the exchange of communications surrounded ideals of confidence and self-identification. These set rituals of dating only reinforce such power exchanges. What is striking that the nature of these existing rituals of courtship prompted men to initiate conversation, hence they have more power to lose. According to the study, “The Evolution of Courtship Rituals in Monogamous Species”, Wachtmeister and Enquist have examined how partner quality may be revealed because high-quality males can afford to use more elaborate displays or because a direct relationship exists between quality and performance. The study also noted “for manipulation to be possible, biases must exist in receiver’s behavior so that it is possible for a sender to elaborate on existing stimuli and thereby elicit responses more favorable to the sender” (Wachtmeister and Enquist, 1999). Dictating the conversation was then a crucial component in courtship as it meant manipulation in achieving partnership. Checking at female subject responses, not many mention a lost of confidence as feedback, the perception of the male played a more significant role in responses. These implicit signs of a power struggle ultimately impacted males more than females. It concluded that males are in control of the conversation. Variability solely relied on the female reaction. Therefore, whatever was said within text messages would be implicitly applied in person. This alludes to the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, in which language shapes or limits in which a speaker forms conceptions of the world. We can look to Hollywood to propel these explicit and often exaggerated representations of these modes of communications.
To summarize, I argue that there is an exchange of power, whether gained or lost, in communication between males and females. The various modes of electronic communication are metaphors of self-confidence in the perspective of the males, while a determining factor of perception for females. The ideals of courtship nurture the ideals of manipulation in the curation and control of conversations as understood in text messages. It is important to notice the language surrounding such courtship rituals that identify with the concepts of confidence an self-image. The variability of social situations is dependent on how quickly females can adapt to attraction. In conclusion, my arguments provides an explanation on the heavy reliance on texting as an acceptable form of communication in courtship, and how the presence of power is implicitly implied in such social situations.