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She Is Not A Robot by Dale Chong

In the world and culture of the digital age, I am fascinated at how relationships and interpersonal communication has shifted as we, individuals, increasingly use technology as an essential tool for communication. The Internet has already adjusted to catch the short attention spans of users today, and social media platforms have significantly changed the way we communicate, and inevitably present ourselves, on the Internet.

I initially began my project as an exploration of how social media users over exaggerate themselves on these platforms, in terms of behavior and appearance. I also wanted to explore how social media platforms allow us to change the way we communicate to one another simply with technology as the middleman. I started out creating a false persona of myself on Tinder, because it allowed instant interaction with other users. I quickly realized that it is quite hard to act as though I have a completely separate personality, and decided to venture more into finding a specific type of person on Tinder: the conversationalist.

As I realized that maintaining a false persona was not for me or this project, I learned that in order to fake an identity (also known as “catfishing”) there’s a lot of effort that goes into creating this person, and really knowing who they are, how they act, and what they think. I also realized that the users on this project were more likely than not expressing themselves but only in an exaggerated manner. A trend that I found both in others and myself was that as we put ourselves onto an online platform to speak with other strangers, it can feel as though it’s easier to voice controversial opinions or comments that we don’t feel comfortable saying otherwise. 

Tinder is a platform used with the intention of ultimately meeting someone face-to-face. Oftentimes, it has been described as a “hookup app” because of its emphasis on appearance, first impressions, and quick forms of communication. I decided to go a different way when using the app, letting people know immediately that I am only using it for conversation rather than looking to meet anyone in person. This got a slew of results, ranging from warnings that I’m on the wrong app, to people unmatching me.

As expected, I also received some crude greetings from others. Seeing these as attacks, I would become defensive or attack back. On occasions, I got the chance to ask these users why they feel compelled to act in such a way on the app rather than in public. Some said that it was “easier” to be more aggressive or assertive through this platform than in person. One even stated that because of the app, there’s a separation of the person from the body. On the rare occasion, my reactions led to interesting conversations where I was able to have intellectual discussions on how women are treated on the app, and online. My interactions led to an eye-opening experience about learning that while most people see the app as a way to a quick fix, there are some who swim upstream.

For the most part, my conversations didn’t extend too far beyond introductions or crude comments, however every now and then when I found the users receptive to my feelings towards how women are treated, I gained an insight about how it become easier to make such crude or absurd comments because there’s a level of separation from the human on the other end due to the technology used in the app.