Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2011

Document Type

Thesis

First Advisor

Dr. Rolf Norgaard

Abstract

Gossip serves as an informal control for maintaining social norms and increasing group cohesion in small, closely bonded groups; that is, until the context enters the world of social media. Gossip via social networking directly contributes to the creation and reinforcement of the norms and values of groups, and thereby has a direct impact on group and individual behavior. By looking at informal, evaluative communication strategies within social groups, more commonly known as gossip, this thesis will explore and discuss how gossip serves as an underlying regulator of norms and values within online social environments. In particular, this thesis will examine how and why gossip plays a role as an informal control strategy in the unfolding mode of online communication, and how informal social controls may grow in strength with the introduction of new technologies and the associated social complexities. One of the key findings of this thesis is that gossip exists neither exclusively online nor exclusively offline, rather gossip online is complementary and supplementary to gossip in face-to-face interactions. Therefore, the rhetorical functions of traditional face-to-face gossip remain effective in online environments. Additionally, a second key finding is that privacy (or lack of privacy) is an important driver for the adaptive features of gossip in online environments.

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