Tuesday, November 27, 2007

coming out of the graduate school closet: off of the beach and onto the internets

i have been effectively blogging for over a month now (such a huge commitment i've made to the internets, i must say) and recently realized that i haven't actually said what it is that i am studying that makes this blog necessary in its: a) capacity to familiarize me with the exciting world of web 2.0 and, b) to offer me a place of solace, of peace, of genuine procrastinate-y goodness. drum-roll: i study online dating. now at parties, this makes me unbelievably popular. similar to my master's work when i did an "intensive" two month stint on a nude beach and got: 1) the best tan of my life, and 2) a master's degree out of the ethnographic account of it i gave in my thesis, this project is of widespread interest because of the amount that is not known about such an everyday activity. like nude beaches, online dating sites are places people might have stumbled upon or clandestinely ventured into for a "sneak a peak." but the folks i am interested in are the ones who stay and bask a while in what can become a lifestyle. online dating, as i am compelled to understand and research it, can become a lifestyle as well - or more pointedly, can alter the course of one's lifestyle if indulged in seriously. and i gotta say folks - people are serious about online dating. and why shouldn't they be. it is a wonder that popular culture references online dating as though it is for the desperate, defective, or depraved. my research, perhaps unsurprisingly, demonstrates that online daters are really just people that are committed, diligent individuals trying to meet people in a city that is infamous for its inhospitality to singles. online dating of course has a sexy side, a fetish side, a dissenting side, and a niche market side but what interests me most are those people simply and unabashedly looking for love. i mean theoretically i am interested in all of the online daters many-faceted motivations, expectations, and struggles to (be)come and show who they "really are." i have always been fascinated, since i was a child, with difference and what difference means in a world of the similar. online dating in some ways demands to be seen as a "different" way to meet people. but what is more fascinating is what that difference means to the lives of online daters and the ways that they understand themselves in the world. not only can you life, location, and love-life change, but your understandings of yourself and the effect you have on the other can also change. not that i am suggesting that engaging in online dating necessarily evokes change and wonderment at oneself. but it does offer a opportunity to reflect, on oneself and one's desires and thus a fertile valley of publicly accessible and vastly engaging accounts of the self. we must make ourselves intelligible in this world if we are to attract (an)other(s). being compelled to seriously look for those others in a forum such as online dating is interesting in its difference but also in its sameness. to oneself intelligible, one sometimes has to put themselves into boxes that don't quite fit, shade in areas of alien importance, and deign to answer those requests, behests, of those just not quite "right." i will have more to say about areas of the intelligible but for now i enjoy having intriguing dinner party talk and a memory of a summer on a hot canadian beach.

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