This paper will argue there is an assumption of trust in online communities such as eBay and that deception by members threatens to damage that trust. Trust is essential for building strong relationships and establishing credibility. An authentic identity helps establish that credibility. Deception threatens the stability of online auction sites, their members and their reputations. This can then have a negative effect on future sales and transactions with others. The studies that were researched during the course of this paper discussed the importance of trust and authentic self-representation when communicating or exchanging goods in online marketplaces such as eBay.
In this paper, I will discuss the importance of trust and identity and the fundamental role they play in online communities such as eBay. I will demonstrate that trust is an essential part of every human interaction and that the use of deception when it comes to identity threatens to destroy that trust. I will discuss how trust and identity work together within an online marketplace where the sale of new and used products is facilitated with little to no face-to-face interaction within a virtual community. I will demonstrate how trust in identity strengthens relationships between buyers and sellers. I will produce substantiating evidence that trust and authentic identity are vital for establishing strong relationships within online communities such as eBay. I will show how they help establish credibility and build solid reputations in online communities such as eBay and how when it comes to identity there is an assumption of trust. Particularly in this type of relationship because people within online communities not only exchange goods they also exchange personal information. It is this information that assists in establishing identity and it is an authentic presentation of self that forms the base for which lasting relationships are developed. When sellers provide information it is assumed to be accurate and true. The buyer then assumes the information they have been provided is also authentic. It is for this reason trust plays a pivotal role in online communities. Information provided about our identity is important not only because it is unique but because identity establishes who we really are. All online communities are based on information and it is this information that makes people identifiable to others. There are some who may ask why so much emphasis should be placed on authentic identity and the assumption of trust. The answer is authentic identity initiates trust, creates credibility and establishes a solid base for relationships to grow. Therefore the ability to continue developing strong relationships relies heavily on trust. When deception is revealed, irreparable damage can be done to the credibility of online communities and to the reputations of its members. Reputation of members on online auction sites such as eBay is fundamental to the success of the communities.
- The importance of trust.
- Anonymity and identity.
- Deception, credibility and reputations.
For the first part of this paper, I am going to focus on the importance of trust and the role it plays in online auction sites such as eBay. How trust is an essential part of every human relationship and the success of those relationships is dependent on trust. According to Mezgar (2016) trust plays a central role in all human contact and when exchanging goods in an online marketplace it is no different. In online communities such as eBay trust helps maintain good customer service. When it comes to behaviour, there is an expectation of honesty whenever goods are bought and sold, according to Ridings and Gefen (2005). This also applies to individuals who are not known to each other, often the case when exchanging goods online. How an individual conducts themselves when exchanging goods online assists in establishing trust because the disclosure of personal information has a positive effect as opposed to information being withheld which has a negative effect (Schwämmlein & Wodzicki, 2012). Trust will develop much easier in a relationship when there is mutual respect and the formation of close personal bonds which often comes as a result of liking one another. Successful personal interactions based on trust help promote a sense of community. Being part of a community brings with it a feeling of belonging (Delanty, 2018). It is this sense of belonging within a community that may be a way to enforce positive behaviour (Ridings & Gefen, 2005). The positive affirmation of trust helps create confidence in ourselves and each other, while the ability to trust makes us feel secure in the decisions we make (Mezgar, 2016). Loss of trust makes us doubt ourselves and question our ability to accurately judge others. When it comes to buyers and sellers exchanging information in online auction sites, a person’s true identity is the key to a successful relationship according to Donath (1995). This is because a certain amount of trust is required when purchasing goods in an online marketplace. Studies have shown that if people do not have trust in a service they will not use it (Mezgar, 2016). A successful sale is based on information provided by the seller and which the buyer believes to be truthful and honest. This is supported by Schwämmlein and Wodzicki (2012) who declare that the presentation of an authentic self forms the basis of a strong and long lasting relationship. Communicating an authentic self is important because it not only establishes trust between members it is vital in the success of an online community such as eBay.
Here I will discuss anonymity and identity and how misleading information can affect online auction sites such as eBay. Identity is the tool used to identify ourselves to others and is how trust is gained. When it comes to exchanging goods online, providing false or misleading information about identity can negatively affect the ability to trust. According to Mezgar (2016) whenever trust is placed in someone it is an indication of confidence that information that has been provided is reliable. Alternatively, establishing identity over a period of time can also have a positive effect on the ability to trust, providing that information is authentic. The reason for this is that having an established identity is critical when deciphering valuable information and deciding what is truthful and what is not (Talboom & Pierson, 2013). In online communities such as eBay nothing is more important than the ability to trust and that the information provided is accurate and trustworthy. This is especially important when transferring money into bank accounts of an individual whose identity has only been established through online interactions. The use of anonymity creates problems when it comes to the exchanging of information, how a relationship progresses and in the decisions that are made (Wang, 2018). Individuality is lost when people become anonymous and this can have an effect on a person’s demeanour. Faceless online communication can result in a lack of personal accountability which according to Donath (1995) results in behavior that is dangerous and irresponsible. Hiding behind anonymity masks true identity and this type of misleading information can bring about behavior that is unacceptable and anti-social (Wang, 2018). At other times an identity has been manufactured or altered. This deliberate act of deception then threatens the stability of newly formed relationships. It can also threaten the credibility of buyers and sellers in online communities such as eBay. This not only highlights the necessity for establishing trust but how important feeling part of an online community is. This is because “members who have an investment in something within a community are far less likely to blow that investment through inappropriate, negative behaviour” (Grohol, 2006). While conducting research on anonymity, I came across an interesting statement from Donath (1995, p. 2) in which she states “an anonymous community is an oxymoron”. While I agree that an anonymous community is an oxymoron, I do not believe it is the community that is anonymous but the members within that community. The success of an online community relies on openness and truthfulness if it is to grow and attract new members in the future. The use of deception by members to hide or alter their identity can impair how they trade in the future. The success of on online community such as eBay depends on the honesty of its members. When buyers rely on the reputations of the seller and of the relationship they have established the use of deception will have a devastating effect on credibility if it is used when communicating identity to others.
Finally, the paper examines the use of deception in an online auction community and auction site such as eBay and the harmful effect it can have on reputations. Deception is a deliberate and malicious act carried out by individuals who lack morals and refuse to abide by a code of ethics. The use of deception, in online communities such as eBay, damages trust and creates uncertainty. According to Resnick and Zeckhauser (2001) it may only take a few minutes for a bad experience to take place but those few minutes have the potential to spread across the globe to an untold amount of people which could undoubtedly have an enormous impact on all future trade. Another way deception can be used is considered to be a means to an end. Where the use of whatever means someone considers appropriate in order to achieve something they desire (Schwämmlein & Wodzicki, 2012). This will not become a problem until the deception is exposed and reputations are damaged. One such system where this can occur is eBay. Resnick and Zeckhauser (2001, p. 1) claim that “that one of the earliest and best-known Internet reputation systems is run by eBay”. This only helps to highlight the importance of honesty when exchanging goods online. Uncovering deception in online communities such as eBay often results in an account being suspended or permanently closed, meaning they are no longer permitted to trade. I would like to add here that deception can come in a variety of different ways. It can be altering or leaving out specific details or creating inaccurate information. However, when it comes to identity caption can take many other forms and one of those forms is the impersonation of others. The use of deception when it comes to impersonating others can have a devastating effect on credibility and reputations. This only helps to demonstrate that truth and honesty in online communities helps establish a level of trust and create solid relationships. Of course, the best way trust can be established is through experience and a history of truthful and honest interactions and exchanges between members (Talboom & Pierson, 2013). While conducting research for this presentation, I encountered critics who argued that being truthful about identity in online communities is not possible because the internet was a community void of ethics (Delanty, 2018). While I agree that a lack of morals and unethical behaviour does occur, it does not mean the whole community lacks ethics and will act inappropriately. This type of label should not be applied to a community where the majority of its members are conducting themselves within the constraint of community rules of operation. This is where the feedback from members is important as it gives both buyers and sellers credibility which helps to establish solid reputations (Resnick & Zeckhauser, 2001). The success of future transactions in online communities such as eBay relies heavily on the ability to trust. Deception will have the opposite effect and an place that future success in jeopardy. However, once trust has been established, it will be an indication to others that they are reliable and trustworthy which in turn builds a rock-solid reputation within that online community.
In concluding, truth and identity do matter in online communities and particularly auction sites such as eBay because in every human interaction there is some level of trust. The ability to trust is important as it provides the confidence needed to trust in ourselves which helps form the basis of a strong online community. To be successful the members of these online communities rely on attaining and maintaining good reputations. Gaining a good reputation can only be achieved by previous transactions in which trust has been demonstrated and that credibility is valid. Within online communities such as eBay, a lack of truth and honesty will have a negative impact upon good standing which could negatively influence a person’s decision when it comes to deciding to purchase goods elsewhere. Digital deceit is faceless, genderless and deliberate. In an online community and online auction site such as eBay, deception damages trust, ruins credibility and destroys reputations. It also helps create a level of uncertainty and at times can make people second guess themselves and each other. When people are deceived they can be left with a feeling of betrayal. Betrayal is traumatic and personal, which makes the rebuilding of trust a difficult one. When trust is important to us and something we highly value, it can be difficult to understand why everyone else does not feel and act the same way we do. There is no place for deception or anonymity in online communities and online auction sites. Online communities such as eBay operate under an assumption of trust. The intentional use of deception only serves to damages that trust.
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