Life beyond the screen: embodiment and identity through the internet

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Abstract

This paper explores on-line and off-line identities and how relationship are formed and negotiated within internet environments that offer opportunities to meet people on-line and move into relationship off-line. To do this it draws on an analysis of users experiences of internet dating sites that are designed for those who wish meet others in the hope of forming an intimate relationship. Locating analyses in the context of the individualized sociability of late modernity, it is argued that virtual interactions may be shaped by and grounded in the social, bodily and cultural experiences of users. It is shown that disembodied anonymity that characterizes the internet acts as a foundation for the building of trust and establishing real world relationship rather than the construction of fantasy selves. The paper concludes with a discussion of the wider significance of this for understanding disembodied identities and interactions and the impact of cyberspace on off-line sociability.

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