This is an extremely absorbing routine which made me elect, in the end, only Ashley Madison 3 to work with, the website that gave me more quantitative and qualitative results at the time. Its interface in clear colors and easy access tabs to different tools made the access very dynamic and opened up the possibility to collect more information from the services available with no charge for female users. I registered two user profiles in the website, paying attention to the details of a cheater: a back turned picture, but sufficiently seductive from my point of view: I lowered my age, putting me away from the "abjection" line of the fifties 4 ; I offered only partial information which took me to the line between a detailed user profile and another one with more dry information.
Creating a user profile in dating websites is a highly rationalized process no matter if we are conducting a research.
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Registering is to build a kind of "computational version of oneself" Illouz, It mobilizes efforts for synthesis and commodification. What is the best way to advertise ourselves? How to differentiate oneself in the wide catalogues in which these websites have transformed themselves into? How to translate ichnographically the best part of ourselves?
Living this experience took me closer to the people on the website. I was faced with ethical challenges once my profile had to be sufficiently credible and attractive, but it could not be a "trap". It would not be honest to create expectations for the possible dates only to disappoint them with my research intentions.
The solution I found, after testing the website for a while using a profile with a nickname similar to my own name Lari Silva , was to create another profile, as Pesquisadora Researcher Pesquisadora was also a "trap", once in my presentation sentence I chose the ambiguous "exploring the field I reflected on this aspect a lot, but I considered that this kind of previous announcement would create an immediate bias, which would prevent me from knowing how many men would be interested in a profile like mine: a married woman, 45 years old, with the back turned to the photo while looking at the sea, that declared herself a good listener and said to be opened to new discoveries, and was interested in visiting swing houses.
Surprisingly many men accessed my profile sending me custom messages or "winks" and even virtual gifts like roses and puppies. Apart from the "winks" all other gifts are paid services to male users. That situation made my commitment even more complicated because people accused me of making them spending money in vain and told me I should be more honest in my presentation on the website. Every time I received custom messages, I mean, messages that were written by the users, I answered them also with a custom message telling them about my research. Some of them never wrote me again. Others were rude and few others, precisely 32 of them, agreed to exchange emails with me and with some of them this exchange lasted for months.
This article is about these mature men aged between 38 and 70 years old. Better, this essay is about masculinities, conjugality and technologies, whose field was consolidated in a website called Ashley Madison. This is a website oriented to sexual and love encounters among married people who want to remain married. However, this is also a text about methodology and ethics in researches oriented toward the uses of digital media.
I came to notice that the men who agreed to participate in this research had a very similar social and cultural profile: almost all of them were self-employed or worked with intellectual activities journalists, university professors, lawyers , they had remarkable cultural capital, they were literature and poetry connoisseurs, good writing lovers, and they had traveled a lot. In short, they were men who could be considered "successful people" in the mainstream values.
Still, there was something about solitude 7 in the answers they emailed me. Avoiding victimizing them, I began to consider that our conversation about happy family lives, which were tensioned by the existential emptiness of those middle-aged men, could be a seduction feature, calling upon not only my solidarity, making me a kind of accomplice of their small treasons, but, especially, a captive reader of the reports they sent me by email and an interested interlocutor.
Adilson writes me: "I think it is interesting to be able to share these big secrets with someone ". Days before he gave me another clue also by email: "I like this communication.
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Maybe because you certainly don't belong to this environment, despite being so interested in it". Not being a native, using an anthropological term, was advantageous exactly because it presupposed another kind of hearing about what people were doing on the website.
The emails were central as a means of communication for this research. I had worked with digital media before. In my doctoral research 8 I collected significant part of my data in conversations I had on Orkut communities 9 , emails discussions lists, blog posts and MSN instant messaging. The latter, because of its synchronicity, became at that moment a great tool for interview which often happened to be spontaneous conversations.
It cost me a lot to realize that for this research that tool would not fit my needs exactly because of its synchronicity and the possibilities it opened for my interlocutors to ask for webcam conversations which eventually caused persistent harassments 10 , but those situations helped me rethink the means of dialogue that I would use and make me realize that those means could also base the exercising of a certain masculinity. Reasonably, the men with whom I communicated through emails were those who believed on elaborated prose as a seduction mechanism but also as a way of textualizing their adventures and misadventures into narratives that enabled a self-evaluation made by the narrator himself and also by me, who was co-opted as an active listener, someone to respond to.
In other words, they had someone to interact with them. Sherry Turkle , in her research about the increasing use of media for personal communication, notes that the rapid interaction, the response to electronic messages received from people with whom we are not intimate with or even with people we never met outside the screen, is an enchantment factor. This is a different kind of interaction in relation to face to face contact, or, as Baym states, body to body.
What is different about this communication, for many of my interlocutors, has to do exactly with the lack of specific social cues that force them to guess who a person is through written language. Nancy Baym writes that "people show feeling and immediacy, have fun, and build and reinforce social structures even in the leanest of text-only media", so that those social cues we use on offline routine can be implemented with some efficiency even in an email. What I like about it is what happens behind our eyes: who will this person be, how is she, what does she like, what does she, is she telling the truth in the emails, does she ask the same questions I do?
I think that the seduction has to be complete: only the body is too little, only the soul is too platonic. Adilson, the only collaborator I met in person, also enjoys the pleasure of that self-textualization game: "Discovering the person gradually culminating in a personal encounter is really magic or can be ".
We can only realize personally ", he concludes. Still, he is delighted with the tasty emails he receives from one of his dates on the website, his "friend from Santos" 12 , a woman who is more than 50 year old, who amuses him with the stories of her day to day life. When he saw the photo of her breasts, which she "prankishly" sent him, he was moved. He would not have approached her if it wasn't for her verbal sagacity, he confesses me, and, then, share with me one of her chronicles by email. The uses assigned to each media change over time because the very people who use them attribute them different meanings.
We might just remember our personal and professional experience with the telephone, for example. For those who were adolescents during the 70s and 80s that technology carried a sense that has been largely lost nowadays, not only for the new generations, as well as to other people who have a number of other media available for both leisure and for work. Indeed, this is a line that was quite blurred in the routine of my interlocutors. I confess that this connected mobility used to invade my day in a disturbing way. The new supports for these technologies such as cell phones with internet access and tablets have become personal objects not usually shared.
Thus, protected by passwords or by tacit codes that stipulate the private use of certain devices, my interlocutors learned that communication made in transit could provide, also, fortuitous encounters at work breaks. In one of the emails he sent me Geraldo justified the hasty writing: "Oh, excuse the lack of commas but I am writing you at lunch and I did not have the time to review the punctuation".
She is 46 and unmarried, unlike her adventure's partner, but she says so, "saying that they don't think I want to marry them.
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I don't want to. But this kind of relationship has a downside, right? And we must learn that we will have to face Christmas alone, weekends too and many Skype conversations [laughs]". The relationship became possible, and muy caliente , in Lia's account, because digital media, portability and connectivity made it so.
A different kind of sex of that she is having, also using Skype, with her foreign boyfriend. Her boyfriend lives abroad and she brings to their relationship many things she learned about emotions and technologies.
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I like Bruna Bumachar's argument: "the choice of technologies not only reveals the language of control, but also expresses the language of emotions" As I have pointed out earlier, the emails granted me more control over the ways of interacting with those men. More than that, the emails allowed me to come back to the messages before answering them, unlike the instant messaging service MSN. Still, there was the possibility of being alone while immersing in the screen textualizing our subjectivities Illouz, yearning for the receiver's reading.
I found that there is pleasure in this process, not only for me. Adilson, a literature lover, 49 years old, professionally working with Exact Sciences, also felt some excitement in those permutation games which would precede the meetings what would make them even more interesting. In reference to a great love he had in the late 's at a chat room on UOL website, he writes: "The emails, the messages, the waiting, the pleasure of writing and reading, the diners, the tours The sociologist and psychoanalyst Sherry Turkle theorizing about the relation between the writing and the personal expectations of changes and transformations declares in an interview:.
In an important correspondence by mail and other forms of electronic communication, there is, on the one hand, the intensity and the fantasy of this kind of instant communication, but, unlikely a conversation, you can read and re-read a message. A supplement of meaning joins the power of conversation. There is an aspect of the order of participation in online conversation which can be frequent and can facilitate the coordination among different and geographically dispersed people Turkle, I live this power in me through the pleasure my interlocutors said to obtain using the digital communication technologies to intensify emotions which were numb to many among them.
After all, what kind of man gives up "hunting" women to be "researched"?