Presentation of Self in Virtual Life

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Nov 14, 2013 (4 years and 7 months ago)


Presentation of Self in Virtual Life

Web Page Personas in Cyberspace

Elayne J. Shapiro

Department of Communication Studies

University of Portland

5000 N. Willamette Blvd.

Portland, OR 97203


Leonard D. Shapiro

Department of Computer Science

Portland State University

P.O. Box 751

Portland, OR 97207


Submitted to the International Communication Association

October, 1997

Acknowledgement: We would like to express our deep appreciation to Lisa Tahara for her assistance
with this research.

© 1997 Elay
ne J. Shapiro



Personal web pages provide cues different from other

mediated venues such
as newsgroups, listservs, work groups, and chat rooms. This research examines
personal web pages from the perspective of self
presentation, self
disclosure and
relationship development. It surveys the categories of informati
on presented on
personal web pages and explores questions regarding how this medium may affect
interpersonal relationship development theories.


Presentation of Self in Virtual Life

Perhaps it is a sign of the times. When our son sent a letter introd
ucing himself
to the new college roommate he had never met, the roommate sent a postcard back
directing our son to the roommate’s personal web page “to learn more about me.” It
was definitely a nineties’ way to meet someone.

To what shall we compare th
ese personal web pages? Are they like business
cards? Are they like billboards? Are they equivalent to personal ads in newspapers
whose goal is to attract a prospective mate? Are they demonstrations of technical
prowess designed to show off what one can d
o technically? Are they put together as
much for one’s own pleasure as to impress others? Are they like albums: a collection
of memories, a pastiche of what one looks like, whom one is connected to?

What are the goals of these web pages: To inform? To

persuade? To
reminisce? To impress?

How do these web pages function in interpersonal communication? Do
they speed up relationship formation? Slow it down? Have no effect? Who are the
target audiences for personal web pages? How do we r
econcile the unsolicited
disclosure in an age when privacy infringements are eyed suspiciously? (Behar,
1997; Quittner, 1997; Rothfeder, 1997; Shapiro, 1997; Wientzen & Weinstein, 1997).
There are many unanswered questions.


Impact on Communication T

In addition to simple curiosity about how people use personal web pages,
scholars need to attend to this phenomenon for theoretical reasons as well. Current
interpersonal communication theories concerning how relationships develop may have
to be

altered as technology becomes integrated into our lives. For example, Social
Penetration Theory ( Altman & Taylor, 1973; Taylor & Altman, 1987) claims that as
relationships develop, people move from relatively shallow levels of self disclosure to
more i
ntimate disclosures. Miller and Steinberg (1982), in their Developmental Model
of Interpersonal Communication, relate interpersonal communication to self
In interpersonal communication one can explain another’s behavior or make predictions
out behavior based on psychological data, which comes from knowing an individual
well. Impersonal communication makes predictions based on sociological data largely
connected to one’s external roles. Knapp & Vangelisti (1992) characterize five stages in
elationship formation: initiating, experimenting, intensifying, integrating, and bonding.
If personal web pages serve as vehicles of introduction for people, but contain
enormous amounts of personal information, the pace of early stages of relationship
velopment may change. Uncertainty Reduction Theory (Berger, & Calabrese, 1975 )
argues that we have a need in interpersonal communication to get information about the
other person. Uncertainty Reduction Theory proposes that because people have a
time with uncertainty, and because they want to be able to predict behavior,
individuals are motivated to seek information about other people. During initial
interactions, people will ask many questions to get information. If personal web pages
y cover an individual’s life, a great deal of information may be provided before


individuals interact very much. Will this presentation of self alter relationship
development? Theories may have to be revised or discarded as the number of people
using ne
w technologies for interpersonal communication increases.

Studying personal web pages may also add to our knowledge of
mediated communication (CMC). Currently, CMC theory builds on data
gathered from such electronic mail venues as work groups,
newsgroups and chat
groups (Garton & Wellman, 1995; Kiesler, Siegel & McGuire, 1984; Reid, 1991; Shapiro
& Allen, 1995; Walther, 1996 &1997; Walther & Boyd, 1997). Theorists debate the
circumstances in which reduced nonverbal messages benefit or hurt both

task goals
and socioemotional goals. Personal web pages allow more elaborate graphic displays
(nonverbal messages) as well as sound, thereby augmenting message bandwidth.
Studying personal web pages may broaden our understanding of CMC.

Finally, in his
The Road Ahead
(1996), Bill Gates observed that personal
web pages are a cross between interpersonal and mass communication.
mediated communication began as electronic mail, a way to communicate
from person to person or to small groups. As
technology developed, however, CMC
evolved into a mixture of mass and interpersonal communication. With special
applications, people can develop their own web pages and upload them to a worldwide
audience. By including an e
mail address on the web page,
the web page owner can
get feedback and respond to web page visitors. A number of researchers argue that
interpersonal and mass theories of communication should explore their common ground
(Rubin & Rubin, 1985; Reardon & Rogers, 1988). In addition to cont
ributing to
interpersonal communication and computer
mediated communication, studying


personal web pages may contribute to understanding the interface between
interpersonal communication theory and mass communication theory.

While much theoretical work
lies ahead, it is the purpose of this exploratory
research to examine issues relevant to interpersonal communication. In looking at the
domain of personal web pages, we are particularly interested in how individuals present
themselves and the extent to wh
ich they self disclose. We are also interested in how
personal web pages might affect relationship development. After looking at the
literature on presentation of self and self

disclosure, we will report on a pilot study that
surveys personal web pages
to find out what type of information people post. Before
we can understand how web pages function, we must first examine their contents.
Since personal web pages are ostensibly about “self,” self
presentation theory provides
a reasonable framework from w
hich to begin.

Indirect Strategies of Self

Erving Goffman (1959) assumed that it is in our best interest to try to control how
other people respond to us. One means of doing this involves optimizing the impression
we give others of ourselves
. Goffman observed that our capacity to create an
impression rests on two different activities: messages we give and messages we give
Messages we give

refer to direct verbal symbols or their substitutes whose content
is designed to convey informatio
Messages we give


involves actions, “that others
can treat as symptomatic of the actor, the expectation being that the action was
performed for reasons other than the information conveyed”(Goffman, 1959, p.2).
Hence, if an individual drives a luxur
y car, we get the message that the individual has
transportation (content), but we are also likely to assign meaning about the individual


based on the message given off. The fact that s/he chooses a luxury car vs. a sports
utility vehicle or a jalopy is a
given off

Similarly, when one designs a web page, there can be messages given and
given off. On one level there is the message given, e.g. name, hobbies, favorite sites
on the Internet, and pictures (Gates,1996). While a software program may
the content, an individual fills in the blanks in any fashion; truth and fiction can be
intermixed. Whatever information an individual chooses to post defines that person
for strangers, acquaintances or friends who stumble across the web page.

In addition,
if one has technical savvy or access to someone with technical savvy, one can present
a dazzling web page (and hence a dazzling self), thereby, embellishing one’s image.
The onlooker, however, has no way of knowing if the content and presen
tation of the
content matches up to the person whose web page is being viewed.

When we interact face
face we look for clues that enable us to know in
advance what to expect of others. Based on these clues, we try to predict behavior
and better contro
l interactions. Goffman delineated how people sometimes go to great
lengths to present false fronts. He described how others sometimes collude with the
presenter to sustain a front. Goffman used the term “performance team” to characterize
a set of individu
als who cooperate in staging a single routine (Goffman, 1959). The
same collusion can occur on web pages and constitute indirect means of
presentation. For example, links (pointers to other pages that search engines can
access) are technical tools th
at permit team performance on web pages as well. By
providing a link to other web pages, an individual can associate him or herself with other
groups, other friends, other causes, so that a visitor to one’s web page literally, with the


click of a button,
makes a connection between self and, what Goffman might depict as,
a performance team. A major difference, however, between face
face performance
teams and cyber
performance teams is that cyber
performance teams may be co
without prior knowledge,

that is, no one need ask permission to create a link.

Whether one appropriates a link with or without permission, self
consequences accrue. Miller et al. (1966) pointed out that observers, making
personality and behavioral attributions on t
he basis of friendship ties, infer that friends
are similar to one another. Cialdini et al (1990) concurred stating that we can use the
“likeness among friends” heuristic to enhance our public image. By presenting
information about the traits, actions, an
d accomplishments of our associates, we
enhance our own public image. Furthermore, Cialdini et al. (1990) asserted that even if
there is no public audience to perceive the connection, we improve our own
concept by convincing ourselves that we are con
nected to positive things.
Addressing the same issue, Schlenker (1980), observed that people want to maximize
the association between themselves and desirable images. Hence, by linking to mass
media sites, or computer sites, or music sites, or reference s
ources, a web page author
indirectly gives off a message about the kind of person he or she is.

Direct Strategies of Self

We have described some indirect strategies that individuals can use to create
presentation. The concept of “region
” leads to some direct tactics as well.
Goffman defined a

as any place, bounded to some degree, by barriers to
perception (Goffman, 1959). For example, one might teach a course and, while in the
classroom (a frontstage region in Goffman’s terms),

act as an exemplary communicator.


Because students typically do not get to see the teacher’s communication behavior at
home (backstage in Goffman’s parlance), the classroom would be a bounded region. A
web page is highly bounded because the creator of t
he web page, through selectivity,
highlights some aspects of self while omitting others. The only way a visitor might

information would be if someone on a performance team presented
contradictory or unflattering information in his or her l

The concept of region suggests that self
presenters can use direct means to
create an impression. Jones and Pittman (1982) identified five direct self
tactics to influence others: ingratiation, intimidation, self
promotion, exemplifica
tion, and
supplication. Ingratiation tries to influence a particular person by emphasizing the
attractiveness of one’s personal qualities, so the individual tries to present aspects of
him or her self which makes the individual seem likeable to some target

audience. A
person using intimidation attempts to convince a target audience that s/he is dangerous.
Hence, a web page with satanic overtones might accomplish intimidation. Self

promotion involves seeking the attribution of competency rather than likabil
ity. One
who uses exemplification seeks to project integrity and moral worthiness. Typically, the
exemplifier presents him or herself as honest, disciplined, charitable, self
who sacrifices for a cause. In supplication, one advertises one’s d
ependence in order
to elicit protection. Jones and Pittman point out that their categories overlap. Indeed,
what intimidates one person may ingratiate a different person. Perception regarding
what is self
promoting vs. what is ingratiating lies as much

in the message receiver as it
does in the message source.


Self Disclosure

In addition to self
presentation, web pages may include self
disclosure. Some
researchers include as self
disclosure any mess
age about the self as long as it passes
from a source to a target (Bochner, 1982; Derlega & Grzelak, 1979). By this standard,
most personal web pages count as self
disclosure. Others researchers add the criteria
that the message must be communicated inte
ntionally and reveal something generally
unavailable by other means (Rosenfeld & Kendrick, 1984). Whether or not information is
available by other means depends on who visits the web page. Family and friends
might have access to other means of information
; strangers typically would not.

Existing research on self
disclosure primarily derives from face
face channels.
The research focuses on why people self
disclose, gender differences in self
and how people self disclose. Before looking at t
hese issues on web pages, we will
review the face
face literature.

Sidney Jourard argued that willingness to disclose to others increased
understanding in relationships and built intimacy (Jourard, 1971). Initially, research
suggested that people were

most willing to disclose to those with whom they were
intimate (Jourard & Landsman, 1960). When men and women were compared for
disclosure, results were equivocal. Sometimes women self
disclosed more than
men (Jourard & Lasakow, 1958), sometimes no
differences were found (Balswick &
Balkwell, 1977), and sometimes men disclosed more than women (Rickers
& Kusmin, 1958). Women appeared to disclose more than men on intimate topics
(Rubin & Shenker, 1978); both men and women disclosed more to
a woman than to a
man (Cash, 1975). Where gender differences existed, the intervening variable of


recipient made a difference. While both men and women were more likely to disclose
more to friends than to strangers, men were more likely to disclose to s
trangers than
were women. Chaikin and Derlega (1974) found that females reported disclosure to a
stranger as more inappropriate than did males. At times, people were willing to disclose
information to strangers at a very high level (Rickers
Ovsiankina & Ku
smin, 1958). For
example Pearce and Sharp (1973) found that the highest amount of self
occurred not only between close personal friends but also total strangers. Drag (1971)
discovered that strangers who expected no subsequent contact disclosed

more than
those who expected future interaction did. In sum, research in face
face disclosure
suggests that disclosing to strangers on web pages could be consistent with the
literature if the expectation was that future interaction was unlikely.

wing to whom one might disclose, however, does not shed light on why one
might reveal information to another individual. Derlega and Grzelak (1979) suggested
there were five reasons for revealing private information: 1) Self
expression, disclosure
to relea
se pent
up emotions; 2) self
clarification, disclosure to obtain feedback to aid
self concept; 3) social validation, disclosure to obtain social support; 4) relationship
development, disclosure to develop or maintain an interpersonal relationship; and 5)
ocial control, disclosure to manipulate the behavior of others. To understand how
disclosure was functioning, however, one needed to elicit the subjective reasons
from the individuals self
disclosing. Rosenfeld and Kendrick (1984) found that the thre
most significant reasons for self
disclosing to friends were: relationship maintenance
and enhancement, self
clarification, and reciprocity. The two most important reasons
for disclosing to strangers were: 1) reciprocity, i.e. providing enough informati
on so the


interactants could decide whether to continue the relationship and 2) impression
formation. A third factor was catharsis, namely getting something off one’s chest.

CMC and Self

Early research on CMC focused on the efficacy of e

for task and
socioemotional communication. Flaming, the use of hostile or profane speech, led to
characterization of CMC as uninhibited and depersonalized. Subsequent research,
however, revealed that CMC could evoke highly personal interactions (Baym,1
Walther,1996). In a meta
analysis Walther, Anderson, & Park (1994) found that over
time CMC groups elicited as much personal communication as face
face groups.
Another experiment revealed that when participants expected ongoing interaction, there
were no differences in immediacy, similarity, and receptivity of group members between
face and the CMC groups (Walther, 1994). Based on these CMC findings,
however, we cannot predict the amount of personal information on web pages because
we do no
t know what expectations web page creators have for future interaction.
Research Questions

It is the purpose of this research to explore the contents of personal web pages.
Personal web pages offer an opportunity to explore practical and theoretical issu
related to self
presentation and self
disclosure in a computer
mediated setting. Before
tackling those issues, however, we need a baseline regarding the amount and kinds of
information commonly disclosed on personal web pages. We need to know if web
ages merely contain rudiments of people’s social roles or more depthful psychological
profiles. One distinction Miller & Steinberg (1982) make regarding the difference
between impersonal communication and interpersonal communication involves the kind


of in
formation that is disclosed. In impersonal communication, one can only explain
another’s behavior or make predictions about behavior

based on sociological rather
than psychological data
This leads to research question number one.

Research Question 1: Wha
t categories of information do people post on
personal web pages?

Goffman suggests that people will incorporate performance teams in support of
presentation of self. The literature review proposed that links fulfill the function of a
performance team. T
his leads to research question number two.

Research Question 2: What categories of links do people incorporate in
their web pages?

disclosure literature suggests that although people are apt to disclose most
to those they know well, they might discl
ose to strangers with whom they do not
anticipate future interaction. This leads to research question number three.

Research Question 3: How frequently do e
mail addresses appear on web


Coding Scheme

Personal web pages were defined as web p
ages whose primary function
appeared to be presenting a person and his or her interests.

By contrast,
commercial web pages were defined as those purveying goods and services;
professional web pages were defined as those in which the primary focus was on w
related issues.

A preliminary survey of web pages generated categories used for the coding



As Walther noted (1997) sampling procedures in electronic space raise difficult

Regarding web pages, there is no way of knowing how many personal web
pages exist. Moreover, they are transitory: a web page posted one day may be gone
the next. Accessing web pages presents a similar problem. At the start of this
research, coders used

a search engine and followed one path to find web pages, but as
the research progressed, the search engine changed its format, so that researchers had
to find a different route. Moreover, some web pages, much like unlisted phone
numbers, are not referenc
ed on any search engine. To access such web pages, one
must know the exact address.

At the onset of this project, the search engine Webcrawler provided an icon
which, when clicked, randomly generated a personal web page. Shortly into the
research, the

Webcrawler page was reformatted and the icon disappeared. The
coders then reverted to using an alphabet provided by the same search engine and
accessed personal web pages through the alphabet on Webcrawler as well as Yahoo.
Consequently, this sampling p
rocedure cannot claim randomness. We must consider
this project exploratory and descriptive of web pages posted on Webcrawler’s People
Page and Yahoo’s Personal Pages found through their “Society and Culture” domain.
A list of all web page addresses used

in the study appears in Appendix B.

Two coders, working on sample web pages, employed the coding scheme in
Appendix A. Researchers used Scott’s Pi to check for interrater reliability. Each coder
then coded personal web pages for an N of 100.


Using Scott’s Pi, interrater reliability was calculated at .83.


Coders first looked for web page titles. Twelve of the pages did not include a
title. Twenty
nine of the pages used either the first name or first and last name of the
person for the web p
age title. The remaining titles varied in their creativity and in
indirect presentation of self.

Of the 100 web pages surveyed, 72 % belonged to males; 24% belonged to
females; a man and woman shared one. The remaining pages did not identify sex.
Only 3
5 % of contributors stated their age.

TABLE 1. Distribution by Age.



17 years and below









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Twenty four percent referred to their marital status (10% were married, 1% divorced),
and five percent mentioned they had children.

Eleven percent of web pag
es listed addresses; one provided a map to his
church; and six percent included home phone numbers.

six web percent of web pages described sports, hobbies, and pastimes.
Distribution of activities was as follows:









Water sports

6 Music





4 MN Vikings





5 Making Models


Ultimate frisbee



1 Jumping out of airplanes 1

Philosophy 1 Collects elephants 1



Fi Fantasy

1 Spending mo
ney 1 Horseback riding




Working out

2 Castles 1



Eagle Scouts

1 Crabbing




Aviation pilot

1 Stealing


George Bush


playing Games

2 Racism




Playing Sports

19 Pool





9 Barbra Streisand 1

Dragons 1 Movies 3 Guitar


Space 2 Darts






1 Wearing Italian shoes 1

Bar hopping 1

Computer Games 3 Politics


Gay Sc



5 Mushrooming 1



The Southwest

1 Animals




Playing cards

1 TV


Roller blading


Playing board games






Meeting new people

1 RaceCar Driver


While moving graphics are best understood in the context in which they appear,
we list them below to convey the variety (or lack of) which w
eb page creators employed.

An orange lion running across the screen; a cartoon graphic.

A hand writing a letter than folding it and putting it in an envelop.

A running mouse; blinking eye

A moving skull and earth; a flickering candle

A cartoon cat walking

around; a key that waves and blinks its eyes.

Eyes blinking; blood dripping from a line at the top of the screen

A quote moving across the screen; dolphins spinning

An airplane

Bugs spinning; earth spinning; cow walking on a sign.

Earth spinning; UFO flying; hand waving.

Sailboats moving across the screen.

Blood dripping from the lettering of the name.

Dog running across screen; character moving across screen; Calvin & Hobbes

Flashing lights around a moose picture; Pacman eating acr
oss the screen followed by a ghost;

dog runs across screen

Hand waves on introduction screen to welcome

Skull rotates; dog runs across screen; letter goes into envelope; cat that scratches itself.


Cute devil moving around, dog running around, Dave
Matthews (singer) playing his guitar (video)

Graphic of a monster; “under construction” man working

Flashing “welcome” sign

Beating hearts

Moving 7
up dot characters dancing, message on bottom bar line moves across screen

Skeletons dancing, lights flickeri
ng in JackO’lanterns

Welcome sign moves across screen

Elmo jumping up and down

up dot dances & the dot turns into a character

“Welcome” spins; Homer Simpson appears behind a wall.

A house that spins; an open book with turning pages

up dot dances, beati
ng heart, flying Canadian Geese

Happy Faces & Moving mouths

Flashing “Open Come In.” Beating hearts

Flickering pumpkin lights, dancing skeletons, a person Trick or Treat etc. moves across screen

Envelopes appear and disappear


A cat chasing a fly

e that opens and closes

Links or pointers to other web sites occurred on 73% of all web pages.

Their distribution appears in Table 2. .

TABLE 2. Distribution of Links

Type of Site


Other personal web pages


Neat web sites


Music groups


Reference material




Political sites


Ot her


The last category coders noted encompassed pictures and accompanying

TABLE 3. Pictures and Accompanying Information

Type of Pictures and Accompanying


Pictures of self


Pictures of family and friends





Pictures of travel




Poetry, stories




Pictures of animals


Essays, school projects


Pictures of pets






In our discussion of our first research question,
What categories of

information do
people put on web pages?

we will use several threads developed in the literature
review. Miller and Steinberg (1982) distinguished impersonal versus interpersonal
communication on the basis of whether one could make predictions about behavior
based on sociological rather than ps
ychological data. Looking at the titles of web
pages, we find some titles at the impersonal end of the continuum that offer little depth
about the person. Pages that include no title, or merely cite the name of the individual,
disclose little about the a
uthor. A title such as “Welcome to Garrett’s Home Page”
offers a bit more about the individual, and if it is accompanied by a moving graphic, we
might impute more intent to the level of
. Other pages, albeit ambiguously, tilt
more towards the psyc
hological end of the continuum and disclose more about the
author, for example, “Billy’s Multiple Personality page” or “ Welcome to my Insane
Asylum” or “Distinguished Women who Kick Ass.” In the framework of self
viewers of these messages m
ight assign varying meanings to the titles. For example,
one viewer may conclude that the page uses intimidation as a tactic while another
viewer decides that the page uses self
promotion. The primary point here is that page
titles differ in the amount of
data suggested about the subject. Viewed in the
framework of self
presentation, different titles “give off” different messages about the
individuals, but the information is cryptic.

People varied in the extent to which they mentioned demographics. Rega
sex, 72% of the pages sampled belonged to men and 23% women. Given the
preponderance of men involved in computers in the general population, this finding is


not surprising. Only 35% of the sample mentioned age, the highest percentage in the
21 c
ategory. This corresponds with occupations category, where 34% identified
themselves as students. Two factors may account for the youth and strong student
presence on web pages. First, as people move into professions, web pages may
evolve from personal
displays into professional displays. Second, students may have
more time than other occupations to experiment with web pages. Young people may
be among the early adopters of new technology. Not surprisingly, the second highest
category mentioned under oc
cupation was technology.

Only 24% of the sample mentioned marital status. Of these, 10% were married
and 14% were not. With respect to self
disclosure, these facts are not particularly
intimate: They fall towards the impersonal end of Miller & Steinberg
’s continuum. Yet,
when one considers that the information is being made available to total strangers, it is
notable that alongside the demographic information, 11% of the sample provided their
addresses and 6% their phone numbers. In Altman and Taylor’s

terms (1973), the
disclosure has breadth in number of topics, but not much depth.

Knapp & Vangelisti’s model of relationship development provides another way to
think about this data. Describing sports, hobbies or other pastimes and providing
pictures o
f family, friends, essays, and poetry, bridges two stages of the model before
individuals ever interact. Information that might be exchanged in the initiating and
experimenting stage of relationship development appears in the 56% of the web pages

Returning to Goffman, people who list common sports and activities give off
one message; while people who list less common activities, such as stealing, wearing
Italian shoes, spending money, give off quite another. People who provide personal


give off yet more information about self. Without interviewing web page
creators, we can not know if intentions were intimidation, self
promotion ingratiation or
something else entirely. The casual viewer, however, will assign his or her own
meaning espe
cially in the context of a complete web page.

four percent of the sample included moving graphics, symbols
incorporated for fun, for impact or for person
specific meaning. Some graphics recur
on several pages: the earth spinning, 7
up dots dancing
, animated “welcome” signs.
Others are unique, for example an individual’s name which dripped blood. In the
context of self
presentation graphics may be an indirect tactic, a sign of technical savvy,
or they may be a direct tactic of intimidation or ingr
atiation, as in the case of happy
faces or hands waving welcome.

The second research question asked, What categories of links do people
incorporate in their web pages? Goffman suggested that people incorporate
performance teams in support of presentation

of self. Indeed, 44% of surveyed web
pages included links to other people’s personal web pages. Miller’s et al. (1966) claim
that observers will make attributions on the basis of friendship ties may explain the
prevalence of links to other people’s web
pages. We suggest that most links equate to
messages an individual gives off about self, be it “neat web sites” one has found and to
which one directs other people or links to one’s favorite music groups. Frequently, in
the context of a single web page,
patterns about the individual emerge as a
consequence of the various links. In some cases, extensive links disclose a
considerable amount about a person’ s deeper concerns. To give an example, one
web page provided: 14 links to the “Seth Material,” 6 lin
ks to M.Scott Peck, 13 links


related to the Lucidity institute and interpretation of dreams, 7 links to hypnosis sites, 6
sites to out
body experience sites, free online tarot readings and a literary showcase
of the author’s own works. Extensively link
ed web pages go beyond simple
demographics and disclose more of the psychological dimension of a person.

The last research question asked, How frequently do e
mail addresses appear
on web pages. Seventy
six percent of the sample included e
mail address
Presence of e
mail addresses is important because e
mail permits interaction between
a web page guest and the web page host. In the literature on self
anticipation of future interaction determined the level of comfort with disclosing to
trangers. It is not clear if the presence of e
mail indicates an expectation of future
interaction, but the presence means that interaction is possible. Moreover, 21% of the
web pages provided guest books. A guest book allows a visitor to identify him o
herself to the host.


The purpose of this research was to survey a sample of personal web pages and
ascertain the breadth and depth of information posted. In addition, it explored how
issues related to presentation of self and self

played out, and how those
issues might impact relationship formation. In general, the breadth of information
provided on web pages exceeded the depth of information. In other
mediated communication forums such as Internet Relay Chat, chat rooms
and some usenet groups, researchers attribute participants’ anonymity and
depersonalization for the communication dynamics. Further study of personal web


pages is needed to uncover the extent to which those dynamics or others affect web
page composition

and interaction.

Moreover, future research should include interviews with web page creators to
find out the extent to which web page programs dictate content and find out the thinking
behind the decision
making regarding self
presentation motives on the
web page. It
would be valuable to know how personal web pages function in people’s lives. To what
extent do they facilitate interaction with strangers? How much deliberate deception

Quantitative research that compares content of women and men’s

web pages
might shed light on whether or not there are significant gender differences in web page
presentations. Similarly comparisons among varying age groups would add clarity.

At the onset of this paper we asked, to what shall web pages be compared
Business cards? Personal Ads? Albums? Trading cards? Currently, the great variety in
web pages does not allow an easy answer to this question. The metaphors are still in
the making.

Appendix A: Coding Scheme

1. Web address:

2. What is the titl
e of the Web Page?

3 ____ male ____female

4. age____

5. religious affiliation________________6. ethnic background____________________________

7. political party ___________________ 8. occupation_______________


9. marital status: ___single ___ma
rried ___divorced ___partnered

10 number of children _____

11. address

12. map

13 favorite sports, hobbies, pastimes ________________________

14. Please indicate types of links on the page:

___ other personal web pages

___reference material

___neat web sites


___music group

___political sites or issues

___other (specify)

15. Types of pictures and accompanying information

16. Please describe any moving graphics



Appendix B: Internet Sites

O'Connor, J. Netscape. (September 24, 1997).

Netscape. (September 24, 1997).

Fred and Michael's place in space. Netscape. http:/

(September 24, 1997).

Bachran, P. Pete Bachran. Netscape.

(September 24, 1997).

Bachenheimer, E. Eric A. Bachenheimer. Netscape.

- (September 24, 1997).

A day in the life of South Africa. Netscape.

(September 29, 1997).

Netscape. (September,

29, 1997).

Yeh, D. (1997). The hall of the seeker. Netscape. (September 29, 1997).

Wadkins, G. (1996). Welcome to Garrett's homepage. Netscape. (Septemb
er 29, 1997).

Yahnker, C. (1997). Chris Yahnker's homepage. Netscape. (September 29, 1997).

Wainwright, I. (1997). Netscape.

(September 29, 1997).

Darren's Hom(r)
page. Netscape.

(September 29, 1997).

Bathing in blood lust. Netscape.

Http:// (September 29, 1997).


Yang, K. (1996). Kevin J. Yang. Netscape.

(September 29, 1997).

Yang, P. The midnite crusade. Netscape.

(September 29, 1997).

Rippke, I. (1997). Ian's huge tracts of l
and. Netscape. (September 29, 1997).

Cornia, L. Netscape.

(September 29, 1997).

Ko, V. (1996). Victor dragon Ko. Netscape.

(September 29, 1997).

Wang, A. Amy's page. Netscape.

(September 29, 1997).

Shain, M. Melanie's page. Netscape.

(September 29, 1997).

Becker, A. (1997). Anthony Becker. Netscape.

(September 29, 1997).

Shengdong, Z. Shen's homepage. Netscape.

(September 29, 1997).

DeVore, R. Netscape. http:

(September 29, 1997).

Wilkes, S. (1996). Netscape.

(September 29, 1997).

Avila, J. (1997). Netscape. (September 29
, 1997).

Massetti, M. The moose corral. Netscape. (September 29, 1997).

Uleau, J. Opus's eternally unfinished page.


(September 29, 1997).

Uenking, M. (1997). The bear's cave. Netscape. (September 29,

Ucko, David. David Ucko's homepage. Netscape.

(September 29, 1997).

Notta, A. 100+ India links. Netscape.

(September 29, 1997).

Freeman, C. Colleen's home page. Netscape.

(September 29, 1997).

Floyd, Brooke. (1997). The babblings of Brooke. Netscape.

http://www.geo (September 29, 1997).

Kelly, F. Scully's coffee corner. Netscape. (September 29, 1997).

UC's place. Netscape. (September 29, 1997).

Jackson, S. (1997). Sabrina. Netscape.

(September 29, 1997).

Jack and Beard homepage. Netscape.

(September 29, 1997).

Jaaski, A. Netscape. http://www.cs. (September 29, 1997).

Azevedo, J. (1996). Jorge's HTML tutorial. Netscape. (September 29, 1997).

Musgrave, M. Mandy Musgrave’s Homepage. Netscape.
m/m/mandy56/ (September 29, 1997).

Rain Dragon. Netscape. (September 29, 1997).

Rage, M. Mieghan. Netscape. (September 29, 1997).


Radmacher, D. (1996
). Netscape.

(September 29, 1997).

Radloff, L. (1996). Netscape.

(September 29, 1997).

Raas, U. Urs's homepage. Netscape.

(September 29, 1997).

Raab, M. (1997). Marvin Raab. Netscape.

(September 29, 1997).

Ra, J. (1995). Wacky Jack's homepage. Netscape. (September 29, 1997).

The shooting star BBS. Netscape.

(September 29, 1997).

Tricia's homepage. (1997). Netscape. (September 29, 1997).

Computers. Hmmmm. Netscape. http:

(September 29, 1997).

Thompson, B. Billy's multiple personality page.

(September 29, 1997).

Thornton, H. (1995). Helen Thornton's web page. Netscape. (September 29, 1997).

Tysver, C., Tysver, J., & Tysver, T. Tysver home page. Netscape. (September 29, 1997).

Greggory, T. The mirror dark. Netscape. (October 2, 1997).

Glass, R. Netscape. (October 2, 1997).

The spot for good classic sci
fi. Netscape.

29 (October 2, 1

Fullerton, T. Tim's page of pictures and other stuff. Netscape. (October 2, 1997).

Fu, M. Ming's realm. Netscape.

(October 2, 1997).

Fekete, A. Di
stinguished women who kick ass. Netscape. (October 2, 1997)

Fawcett, M. (1997). Mark Fawcett
ICF World Cup Professional Snowboarder.

Netscape. (October 2, 1997).

Fardad, A. (1997). Amir Fardad hompage. Netscape. (October 2, 1997).

Eickhoff, B. Big red's homepage.

- (October 2, 1997).

Dyer, J. (1997). In His service… Jeff's homepage. Netscape. (October 2, 1997).

Dominquez, R. Netscape. http:/

(October 2, 1997).

Denningham, R. Piggyman online. Netscape. (October 2, 1997).

Cristo, D. David Cristo's homepage. Netscape.

http://www.geocitie (October 2, 1997).

Dave's travel. Netscape. (October 2, 1997).


(October 2, 1997).

Hung, S. Seung
Min's home page. Netscape.


(October 2, 1997).

The crackhouse. Netscape. (October 16, 1997).

Chong, M. Monica Chong. Netscape. h

Clauset, A. The yellow submarine. Netscape.

(October 16, 1997).

Christensen, D. (1997). Tiggrgrl's world. Netscape. (Octo
ber 16, 1997).

Chladek, N. (1997). Neil's funky website. Netscape.

- (October 16, 1997).

Chan, D. Dicky. Netscape. (October 16, 1997).

Catapano, G. Gina's cyber office. Netscap

(October 16, 1997).

Hubelbank, C. Casy's little spot in cyberspace. Netscape. (October 16, 1997).

Bryan, J. (1997). Jeremy's homepage. Netscape. (October 16, 1997).

Brooks, P. Persephone's page. Netscape.

(October 16, 1997).

Braseth, J. The maze. Netscape.

(October 16, 1997).

Agnes, A. Alexander's homepage. Netscape. (October 16, 1997).

Bieber, E. Netscape. (October 16, 1997).

Bell, D. Pagnia de Peligro.


(October 16, 1997).


Beattie, S. Steve's homepage. Netscape.

(October 16, 1997).

Barbour, J. Drunken ramblings. Netscape.

(October 16, 1997).

Bailey, D. Aries' castle. Netscape.

(October 16, 1997).

The flaming eye. Netscape.'s/Metro/7279/idea.html

(October 14, 1997).

A perfectly nor
mal homepage. Netscape.

- (October 14, 1997).

Tammy's town. Netscape.

(October 13, 1997).

Netscape. http://tor

(October 14, 1997).

Renee net. (1996). Netscape. (October 14, 1997).

Netscape. (October 14, 1997).

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Safdi, S. Sean Safdi homepage. Netscape. (October 9, 1997).

Keebi’s world. Netscape.

(October 13, 1997).


(October 9, 1997).

Lilalena’s fish tank. Netscape. (October 8, 1997).

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Canjar, M. Netscape. (October 14, 1997).


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