Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2013

Document Type

Thesis

Department

Communication

First Advisor

Michele Jackson

Abstract

In today’s society technology has become very integrated into our lives. Many of us use it on a daily basis and it is part of the way we communication. Some scholars believe that the level of anonymity that is enticing about online communication brings about a sense of de-individuation. In other words, these scholars believe that anonymity online allows people to disguise themselves, engage in “uncharacteristic” outburst of identity and fosters a loss of individuality. However, through my own personal experiences and general observations throughout the time that I have used Facebook, I began to notice that people are not actually hiding behind anonymity. The more I thought about it the more I noticed that people on Facebook were sharing sometimes very intimate details of their lives. At the same time, Facebook has an incredible power to bring people together if there is some sort of social issue users find important enough to express their opinions. These kinds of situations also occur when there is a topic that is heavily debated. This observation was especially emphasized during the presidential election of 2012. It seemed like every day more people were posting statuses about their thoughts on the election and where they personally stood on different issues that were debated. I wanted to explore whether there was a connection between anonymity online and social identity establishment. This study examined how technology, specifically Facebook, has shaped the way that people manage two kinds of identity: individual and group identity. This study gathered 30 participants (female=16, male=14) who agreed to share posts with me from their personal Facebook profiles. Information pertaining to participants’ identity was gathered through profile observation, which I was able to do because I had gained consent from all of my participants. The next step of this study as to cross-examine how participants’ individual identity compared to the amount of social identity disclosures they had. The main research method that was utilized in this study was observation, but in order to understand the levels of social identity disclosure each participant had based on the postings some rhetorical analysis was used as well. The findings of this study are that previous notions of anonymity and social identity disclosure are starting to become less applicable to today’s computer mediated communication methods, such as Facebook. This means that the way we have used technology to communicate in the past, is not necessarily the same way we do so now. People who use social media sites such as Facebook to communicate now feel that they can maintain a level of individual identity which would be similar to the type of identity they would hold in offline settings. Along with this, Facebook users have found this site to be a tool to easily demonstrate various in-group allegiances without losing that sense of individuality.

Share

COinS