Computers in Human Behavior
Computers in Human Behavior 24 (2008) 1816–1836 www.elsevier.com/locate/comphumbeh
Identity construction on Facebook: Digital empowerment in anchored relationships
Shanyang Zhao *, Sherri Grasmuck, Jason Martin
Department of Sociology, Temple University, United States Available online 17 March 2008
Abstract Earlyresearch on online self-presentation mostly focused on identity constructions in anonymous online environments. Such studies found that individuals tended to engage in role-play games and anti-normative behaviors in the online world. More recent studies have examined identity performance in less anonymous online settings such as Internet dating sites and reported diﬀerent ﬁndings. The present studyinvestigates identity construction on Facebook, a newly emerged nonymous online environment. Based on content analysis of 63 Facebook accounts, we ﬁnd that the identities produced in this nonymous environment diﬀer from those constructed in the anonymous online environments previously reported. Facebook users predominantly claim their identities implicitly rather than explicitly; they ‘‘showrather than tell” and stress group and consumer identities over personally narrated ones. The characteristics of such identities are described and the implications of this ﬁnding are discussed. Published by Elsevier Ltd.
Keywords: Anonymity; Facebook; Identity; Internet; Self-presentation; Social networking sites
1. Introduction The impact of the Internet on identity production has been underinvestigation for more than a decade. However, most early studies focused on online identity constructions in anonymous environments such as MUDs (Multi-User Dungeons), Chat Rooms, and Bulletin Boards (Rheingold, 1995; Surratt, 1998; Turkle, 1995). It was found that
Corresponding author. E-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org (S. Zhao).
0747-5632/$ - see front matter Published by ElsevierLtd. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2008.02.012
S. Zhao et al. / Computers in Human Behavior 24 (2008) 1816–1836
individuals tended to play-act at being someone else or act out their underlying negative impulses in the online world. More recently, researchers began to shift their attention to self-presentations in less anonymous online environments such as Internet dating sites (Ellison, Heino, &Gibbs, 2006; Gibbs, Ellison, & Heino, 2006; Yurchisin, Watchravesringkan, & McCabe, 2005). The results suggested that people acted diﬀerently in such environments than they did in other online settings. This was an important ﬁnding, for it indicated that the online world was not monolithic, and online self-presentations varied according to the nature of the settings. The present study extends thisline of research to identity constructions on Facebook, a newly emerged online social networking site which has become most popular among college students in the United States. We intend to explore the range of identity claims people tend to make in a non-anonymous online setting; to ﬁnd out whether identity performance is inﬂuenced by the nonymity of the environment in which the performancetakes place; and, if so, to investigate how it is aﬀected by that. We believe that the ﬁndings of such a study will increase our understanding of self-presentation in general and identity construction in the online environment in particular. 2. Literature review Identity is an important part of the self-concept. Self-concept is the totality of a person’s thoughts and feelings in reference to oneselfas an object (Rosenberg, 1986), and identity is that part of the self ‘‘by which we are known to others” (Altheide, 2000, p. 2). The construction of an identity is therefore a public process that involves both the ‘‘identity announcement” made by the individual claiming an identity and the ‘‘identity placement” made by others who endorse the claimed identity, and an identity is established when...