خودارائه گری و جنسیت در شبکه اجتماعی مای اسپیس
|کد مقاله||سال انتشار||مقاله انگلیسی||ترجمه فارسی||تعداد کلمات|
|38960||2008||13 صفحه PDF||سفارش دهید||محاسبه نشده|
Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, Volume 29, Issue 6, November–December 2008, Pages 446–458
Abstract Within the cultural context of MySpace, this study explores the ways emerging adults experience social networking. Through focus group methodology, the role of virtual peer interaction in the development of personal, social, and gender identities was investigated. Findings suggest that college students utilize MySpace for identity exploration, engaging in social comparison and expressing idealized aspects of the selves they wish to become. The public nature of self and relationship displays introduce feedback mechanisms by which emerging adults can legitimize images as associated with the self. Also, male–female differences in self-presentation parallel, and possibly intensify, gender norms offline. Our study suggests that social networking sites provide valuable opportunities for emerging adults to realize possible selves; however, increased pressure for female sexual objectification and intensified social comparison may also negatively impact identity development. A balanced view, presenting both opportunities and drawbacks, should be encouraged in policies regarding youth participation in social networking sites.
Introduction In 2008, 530 million people across the world are visiting social networking sites. MySpace and Facebook are the most popular, each with more than 100 million visitors per month (Comscore, 2008). Released in 2003, MySpace was originally a site in which aspiring bands advertised themselves. But MySpace immediately experienced phenomenal growth, initially among adolescents and emerging adults. By 2006, MySpace had expanded its appeal to a greater age range. Nonetheless, more than ten million emerging adults between 18 and 24 were visiting MySpace every month (Comscore, 2006). The present study investigated how emerging adults experience the issue of self-presentation as they and others interact with peers on MySpace. The goal of this investigation was to conceptualize the impact of these online self-presentations on identity development. For analytic purposes, we differentiate three components of identity: personal, social, and gender. 1.1. The role of cultural context and cultural tools in identity development Identity forms over time from the bidirectional interaction between the individual and his or her context (Lerner, 2002). Adams and Marshall (1996) theorize that cultural values manifest in social institutions, which impact the dialogue and interactions between individuals. These interpersonal processes then influence identity. Socio-cultural researchers have also proposed that adaptation to cultural context through social processes is central to identity formation (e.g. Baumeister and Muraven, 1996 and Cote and Levine, 2002). We suggest that MySpace introduces a cultural context in which norms of social interaction and self-presentation develop and create new possibilities for experimentation and reflection on both actual and possible selves. In addition, the socio-historical approach to development has asserted that a culture's tools, the byproducts of technologies, are internalized in the development of intellectual skills (Bruner, 1966, Cole and Griffin, 1980, Maynard et al., 2005 and Vygotsky, 1978). This notion is based on a fundamental idea in Vygotskian psychology, well expressed by the Russian psychologist, Tikhomirov (1974, p. 374): “Tools are not just added to human activity; they transform it”. Up to now, this powerful idea has been applied only to cognitive development, never to social development. In the present article, we take a socio-historical approach to the development of self-presentation as a marker of identity and examine how the tool of an online social networking site, MySpace, is transforming the human activity of constructing personal, social, and gender identities. 1.2. Personal identity Emerging adulthood has been described as a critical period for identity development (Arnett, 2000). Building on Erikson (1968), researchers have conceptualized identity as an ongoing process of exploration and commitment to possible selves (Waterman, 1999). Emerging adulthood, roughly from eighteen throughout the twenties, represents a period of extended exploration afforded by the circumstances of contemporary society (Arnett, 2004). Emerging adults are in a liminal stage characterized by instability and self-focus, exploring a variety of possibilities in work, relationships, and beliefs before committing to adult roles (Arnett, 2004). One important way that emerging adults engage in exploration is through peer interactions. Erickson (1959) viewed adolescents' interactions with peer groups as the primary mechanism by which they create a healthy sense of self. Research has confirmed that friendships are related to adolescents' abilities to create a coherent identity (Reis & Youniss, 2004). But in our culture it is not until emerging adulthood that a coherent identity is typically established (Waterman, 1999) and a variety of research demonstrates the important role peers play in emerging adults' transitions into adulthood (Nurmi, 2004). Social scientists such as Cooley (1902) have long believed that a sense of self derives from individuals' reflections from others in social interactions. Symbolic interactionists such as Goffman (1959) have theorized that the way individuals present themselves to others through impression management is involved in the development of self. Similar to the notion of the “looking-glass-self” (Cooley, 1902), Goffman's theory posits that individuals develop a sense of self from creating an impression they wish to give to others. By the time individuals reach emerging adulthood, they possess abstract notions of the self, internalizing the social approval they have received for their self-presentations (Harter, 2003). As emerging adults present themselves within social interactions, they share goals and reflect common values, helping one another consolidate identities as they move into adulthood (Nurmi, 2004). Also, research increasingly illuminates the role that self-presentation through narrative plays in identity development (McAdams, 1999). The autobiographical stories we tell ourselves and others are used to develop and maintain the self (McLean, Pasupathi, & Pals, 2007). Researchers have suggested that the online environment differs from other media environments in that participants co-construct their own environment. Subrahmanyam, Smahel, and Greenfield (2006) suggest that the flexibility of communication capacities, in formats such as chat, frees individuals from existing at the effect of an externally created media environment. Rather, they are creating and co-creating their virtual environments through social interaction. Identity becomes socially constructed in environments such as a chat room (Greenfield, Gross, Subrahmanyam, Suzuki, & Tynes, 2006), actualizing adolescent identity issues in new forms. Compared with chat, the flexibility of the MySpace “profile” provides many additional ways to present oneself to others. It is a personalized, prefabricated webpage that displays personal information and links users to networks of friends. Users utilize profiles to describe themselves and whom they want to meet; to list their favorite music, movies, and books; and to post videos, pictures, music, art, and blogs. All aspects of the MySpace profile page are customizable from the background to photos. Profiles are often a cacophony of media. One user described the profile as “another way to express ourselves; how we feel, and how we view life” (Flores, 2006). The nearly infinite number of ways to display oneself to others through the profile may give users expanded opportunities to realize aspects of selves limited in their offline lives. Indeed, research has demonstrated that adolescents often experiment with their online identities, with some pretending to be older or someone else entirely (Greenfield et al., 2006). The potential for anonymity and expression of multiple selves online has been cited by postmodernists as evidence of increased fragmentation of the self (e.g., Turkle, 1995). Turkle claims that with human–computer interactions, individuals accept reality as it appears, with disparate role-playing identities all having legitimacy in their own right, no longer integrated within the individual. However, others, such as Wynn and Katz (1997) challenge this point of view, arguing that multiple aspects of the self are not unique to the Internet but are also experienced in different contexts in the offline world. Further, they point to evidence showing interactions online are socially grounded and connected to lives in the offline world, rather than anonymous. Others concur, finding that online interactions facilitate intimacy and self-disclosure, actually allowing individuals to express what they feel are their true selves, rather than false selves (McKenna & Bargh, 2000). Researchers are only just beginning to question the ways in which emerging adults are navigating the social norms and virtual affordances of online networking sites. Youth are at the forefront of technologies that are transforming social interactions in ways we have yet to fully understand (boyd, 2007). In the present study, we were interested in how virtual rather than physical and real-world presentations of self might express personal identity. 1.3. Social identity Individuals' memberships in social groups help to define who one is, and people are motivated to have positive feelings toward their group (Tajfel & Turner, 1979). A large body of work in social psychology has elaborated upon Tajfel and Turner's Social Identity Theory. Generally speaking, this research demonstrates how the attributes and status of a group are internalized by the individual through self-categorization processes (Hogg, 2003). In addition, individuals also derive a “relational self” from their connections to particular others (Brewer & Gardner, 1996). In this sense, we not only define ourselves in terms of our alliance with others but our self-definitions interconnect with the cognitive representations we have for significant others. Group memberships for today's emerging adults increasingly involve virtual communities on the Internet (Konstam, 2007). On MySpace, emerging adults “hang out” with each other by sending private messages or by publicly posting on each others' “walls”. The “wall” is a space dedicated to postings from others that often includes greetings, jokes, praise, or sharing of photos and videos between friends. Researchers have pointed out the persistent and public nature of these online interactions (boyd, 2007). Words that are written on a blog, comment wall, or email message resonate for longer periods of time and may be shared with others who were not the intended audience. Expanded and invisible audiences are created in these virtual communities when an individual posts information about herself, or engages in social interactions publicly on the profile “wall”, for it is unclear exactly who will be observing that communication. Most important for the present study, users' social identities are displayed on MySpace in ways not exhibited offline. “Friends'” photos and names are displayed on users' profiles, with a select few making it to the list of “top friends,” ranging from a “top four” to a “top 40”. (We use the word “friend” or “friends” in quotation marks to indicate person(s) listed as friends on a user's MySpace profile and therefore part of the user's MySpace social network. Without quotation marks, the word friend is used in the traditional sense.) The “top friends” is an automatic feature of the profile; thus, most users utilize it to rank their friends unless they know some basic computer programming skills to remove the feature. Users can view all their “friends'” contacts from their “friends'” profiles with click of a mouse. MySpace profiles also include a list of the user's memberships in special interest groups such as “Red Sox Nation” or “World Artists Network.” The opportunities to engage in social exchanges and relationship displays in ways that are public, replicable and persistent, presents a kind of interactivity that has been little studied (boyd, 2007). Our study endeavored to fill this gap. 1.4. Gender identity Cultural notions of gender influence children's beliefs and self-concepts through daily interactions with peers, family, and media (Leaper & Friedman, 2007). Burgeoning sexuality and matchmaking goals become important in adolescence, activating gender-related self-perceptions (Hannover, 2000). In emerging adulthood, gender has a salient role in new identity questions of future family and career roles (Archer, 1985). For many, emerging adulthood is a time to explore a variety of romantic partners and delay marriage until later in life (Arnett, 2004). Social interactions create gendered behaviors through perceivers' gender stereotypical expectations and actors' identity negotiation and impression management (Deaux & Major, 1987). Interpersonal interactions may be experienced differently by young women and men as gender schemas influence and reflect differing identity and self-presentation concerns. For example, women tend to use more affiliative communication strategies, whereas men tend to use more power- and status-oriented speech strategies (Carli & Bukatko, 2000). In addition, women disclose more than men, and both men and women self-disclose more to other women than to other men (Dindia & Allen, 1992). Identity processes may also differ for women and men because they negotiate different kinds of social roles for interpersonal behaviors (Archer, 1989). Unlike men, women tend to ascribe greater importance to sexual–interpersonal aspects of self-definition than to ideological ones (Bilsker, Schiedel, & Marcia, 1988). A review of gender differences in identity development revealed few gender differences, except in the domains of sexuality and family roles (Kroger, 1997). These findings support Gilligan's (1982) theory that relationships are more important to women's identity formation than they are to men's. Research suggests that issues of gender and sexuality are central to online social interactions among adolescents and emerging adults. For instance, in chat rooms where nicknames substitute for one's physical identity, gendered nicknames are prevalent and often used to attract potential sexual partners (Subrahmanyam, Greenfield, & Tynes, 2004). Smahel and Subrahmanyam (2007) found that older adolescents are more likely than younger ones to specify the gender of the partner they are seeking, consistent with increased sexual concerns. College students are increasingly utilizing the Internet to fulfill intimacy and sexuality needs (Morahan-Martin, 2001); and Internet pornography has become a common part of life for many emerging adults, especially men (Carroll et al., 2008). Characteristics of Internet communication may affect gender self-presentation. For example, physical and auditory gender cues are not present in online communications. This situation can provide a more level playing field for women and men (Herring, 2003). The anonymity of some modes of Internet communication like chat may also allow men to take greater risks in being more open, intimate and genuine (Morahan-Martin,1998). The Internet may also be utilized as a tool for gender and sexual exploration in ways not possible offline. For example, in one study, a third of adolescents reported having their first sexual experience over the Internet and some reported that they changed their gender to explore their sexual identity (Smahel, 2003). Women may take more authoritative roles when communicating online; for example, a greater proportion of declared females made partner requests than did declared males in teen chat rooms (Smahel & Subrahmanyam, 2007). These findings parallel those of Rodino (1997) who notes that the relative anonymity and bodilessness of computer-mediated communication may liberate women from the often subordinate position they experience in offline romantic or sexualized interactions. At the same time, research also indicates that other aspects of gender norms are replicated online. Similar to offline behaviors in romantic pursuits, those who identified as female online were more likely to utilize implicit sexual communication, whereas those identifying as male were more likely to utilize explicit sexual communication (Subrahmanyam, Smahel, & Greenfield, 2006). In addition, a content analysis of MySpace profiles found that, similar to the offline world, female emerging adults were more likely to display themselves through relationships than were male emerging adults (Magnuson & Dundes, 2008). Because current findings regarding gender and the Internet are equivocal, our study endeavored to clarify the influence of virtual environments on gender norms and on the gendered nature of social interactions. 1.5. The present study This study explored the ways in which college students understand and interpret the MySpace experience, focusing on interactions with and self-presentations to other members of the network. The goal of this exploration was to conceptualize how online social networking might impact the development of personal, social, and gender identities in emerging adulthood. A focus group procedure was chosen because of its suitability for eliciting participants' own interpretations of the MySpace experience. The fluid and dynamic nature of focus group interaction provides space for new ideas and phenomena to emerge, ideas and phenomena not envisioned in advance by the researchers. A facilitator guided the conversations to focus participants on issues of self-presentation in the MySpace environment.
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
. Conclusions Consonant with what the socio-historical theorist Tikhomirov (1974) would have predicted, our data suggest that MySpace provides emerging adults with new cultural tools for identity construction. This is particularly profound for emerging adults who are in a period of expanded identity exploration (Arnett, 2004). These tools provide a means to construct personal, social, and gender identities. 4.1. Personal identity Others have discussed the complexity of online impression management that blurs the distinction between the ideal and the authentic (Ellison et al., 2006 and Suler, 2002). Our study extends the idea, suggesting that this ambiguous situation opens up a new space for those experiencing a period of identity exploration to cultivate ideal selves by trying them out in virtual reality. Emerging adults objectify possible identities through profile images, displaying them to a new kind of public audience. Transcending physical limitations, public presentation presents a new mechanism for young adults to realize experimental aspects of their identities. Shared reality theory (Hardin & Higgins, 1996) as well as empirical research demonstrate that aspects of one's sense of self derive from public displays of behavior (e.g. Baumeister, 1986). In the absence of a physical reality on MySpace, users utilize social verification and validation processes to reify aspects of personal identity that are absent from their everyday physical lives. Festinger's theory of social comparison posits that individuals are more likely to rely on the consensus of others in situations where physical reality is ambiguous (Festinger, 1950). Thus, in the MySpace environment, public comments authenticate virtual self-displays that may or may not exist in the offline world. Possible selves may be transformed into actual selves when a MySpace user transforms ideas about the self into an objectified image, and that image receives public social approval from his or her audience of friends. Experimental research has demonstrated that individuals are more likely to report behavior enacted with peers as a reflection of their “true selves” than the same behavior enacted in privacy (Tice, 1992). Thus, emerging adults who display images of themselves without acne or driving a sports car to their MySpace audience may be more likely to incorporate these aspects of themselves into their identities than if these same things had been done without an audience of peers. Does the online display of an impossible physical reality (e.g., acne-free complexion, above) get internalized in the same way as does an actual physical reality (e.g., driving a sports car, above)? The answer to this question is beyond the scope of our data; however, Hardin and Higgins (1996) do not distinguish between “physical” and “social” realities, but instead speculate that all human experiences are made meaningful through mutual construction of shared realities. According to their theory, the more one shares certain features of the self with others, the more these features become a foundation of reality in the experience of the self and the more they become resistant to change. 4.2. Social identity Participants' reports regarding social identity and group membership processes indicate that MySpace may facilitate integration, rather than fragmentation, of identity development. In the offline world, individuals are able to present certain aspects of the self differently to different groups, varying their social identities for different groups (Roccas & Brewer, 2002). For instance, young adults might brag to their friends about how much alcohol they drank last night, but tell their families about how much they studied last night. But, as boyd (2008) notes, with one heterogeneous public audience on social networking sites, aspects of the self cannot be presented differently to different groups. Therefore, MySpace actually may introduce pressure for an integration of self-presentations into one that is appropriate to everyone, from your best friend who shares your value system to a distant acquaintance who may not. The public performance of relationships and memberships in social groups through comment walls and the display of friends also indicate that circumstances on MySpace may intensify one's commitment to group memberships, which may also be another method for solidifying a coherent sense of self. According to social identity theory (Tajfel & Turner, 1979), individuals' social group membership helps to define who one is, and people are motivated to have positive feelings toward their group. 4.3. Gender identity Results suggest that overall, gender role constructions on MySpace seem to correspond to gender role constructions in mainstream U.S. culture: females as affiliative and attractive, males as strong and powerful. While new contexts may obviate the need for roles divided along traditional gender lines, previous scripts for behavior may still be utilized in the creation of new norms. MySpace users do not arrive at their computers devoid of previous social norm knowledge and gendered notions may provide a foundation for what to expect in this new medium. Further, the MySpace online context does not appear to be completely removed from users' offline lives, but rather represents an extension or elaboration of offline interactions, such that social realities and roles translate into this online context (see also Steinfield, Ellison, & Lampe, 2008-this issue, as well as Subrahmanyam et al., 2008-this issue). As one participant in our study articulated, “It's not something where it's like, ok this is a dream world”. This study suggests that social norms are not completely reinvented online; rather, offline gender scripts and roles guide expectations for appropriate behavior online. Data demonstrate that there is increasing pressure for men to display their physical attractiveness on MySpace; however both men and women showed discomfort with men's concern over their own physical beauty, possibly because the incorporation of feminine aspects of self-portrayal into masculine self-portrayals represents an attenuation of men's superior social status or represents an infringement on physical beauty as a feminine domain. On the other hand, data clearly indicated the pervasiveness of sexualized female self-presentation on MySpace. This is not surprising considering the prevalence of female sexualized bodies in media and in the culture as a whole (Kilbourne, 1995 and Greenfield, 2002). The pressure to display sexualized images comes with a strong caveat. Young women negotiate discrepant cultural messages that communicate their value as sexual objects while at the same time punish those who embrace sexual behavior with the label of “slut” (White, 2002). College women on MySpace seem to face this paradox at a more intense level because of the pressure on MySpace to depict desirable and attractive images on profiles that will draw comments and attention from the MySpace public. 4.4. Limitations and future directions The focus group procedure of this study generated new insights into the ways emerging adults' peer interactions on social networking sites may impact the construction of personal, social, and gender identities; however, this study is only a first step. The discussions reveal the experiences and phenomenology of a limited number of MySpace users; they also shed light on MySpace as a cultural environment. However, they do not reveal individual differences in patterns of identity construction on MySpace; nor can the generalizability across individuals be assessed. Focus groups are also limited in the extent to which they can illuminate the actual processes of identity exploration and commitment. Longitudinal studies that observe participants' MySpace behaviors and track self-perceptions over time would better ascertain whether self and relationship displays and public feedback actually lead to idealized self-displays becoming integrated into the self. 4.5. Implications for practice and policy Data from this study provide evidence for both benefits and dangers of online social networking sites in emerging adults' identity development. On the one hand, MySpace gives emerging adults a tool to explore possible selves and express ideal selves that they may want to become. Ease of communication on social networking sites allows emerging adults to remain connected to a variety of people (see Subrahmanyam et al., 2008-this issue, as well as Steinfield et al., 2008-this issue). On the other hand, increased pressure on young women to objectify their sexuality while also preserving their innocence may be a confusing and detrimental influence on their development. Further, the intensified social comparison to idealized self-presentations that may or may not have veracity may also be discouraging to emerging adults who may not feel like they can live up to these flawless images. A balanced view, one that presents both opportunities and drawbacks, should be encouraged in policies regarding youth participation in social networking sites.