Identity construction on facebook

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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: shanyang.zhao@temple.edu (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

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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...
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