The Construction of the Virtual Self on MySpace


Social networking Internet sites are transforming the ways youth engage with others in their social worlds. This qualitative study examines communication processes of identity construction within social interactions among emerging adults using MySpace. One-on-one interviews in front of a computer monitor were conducted with five female and five male college students who were active users of MySpace. Participants were videotaped as they gave interviewers a tour of their MySpace profile. Participants reflected on their own profiles to answer questions about online communication and self-presentation. Analysis of the interviews and the profiles was carried out to understand communication on social networking sites, focusing on how features of MySpace are used as tools to construct social identities. Results revealed three major themes: 1) Visual metaphors are employed to display and solidify connection with others. 2) Through photos, users create a visual narrative of social identities connecting past and present social selves. 3) Visual images and multimedia become integrated in the sense of self as the line between advertisement and self-promotion disappears.

social network sites, self-presentation, online peer interactions, identity, commercialization
Author biographies

Goldie Salimkhan

Author photoGoldie Salimkhan graduated with Psychology and Latin Honors from UCLA in 2008 and is a researcher at the Children`s Digital Media Center in Los Angeles. This article is based on the honors thesis for her B.A. degree in Psychology. She will be attending Pratt Institute's MFA program for communication design in the fall of 2010.

Adriana M. Manago

Author photoAdriana Manago is a doctoral candidate in developmental psychology at UCLA and a researcher at the Children’s Digital Media Center@Los Angeles. She studies adolescent gender and identity development and the transition into adulthood in different cultures, including in the context of social networking sites and in a Maya community in Chiapas, Mexico. She is also the first author of "Self-Presentation and Gender on MySpace" published in Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology in 2008.

Patricia M. Greenfield

Author photo Patricia Greenfield, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of Psychology at UCLA and Director of the Children’s Digital Media Center @ Los Angeles, is author of Mind and Media: The Effects of Television, Video Games, and Computers (1984), subsequently translated into nine languages and released as a classic edition in 2014; coeditor of Effects of Interactive Entertainment Technologies on Development (1994); coeditor of Children, Adolescents, and the Internet: A New Field of Inquiry in Developmental Psychology (2006); coeditor of Social Networking on the Internet: Developmental Implications (2008); and co-editor of Interactive Technologies and Human Development (2012). Her empirical research on the developmental implications of interactive media has included action video games, massive multiplayer online role-playing games, teen chat rooms, social networking sites, and YouTube. A member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, she has received the Bronfenbrenner Award for Lifetime Contribution to Developmental Psychology in the Service of Science and Society from the American Psychological Association (2010) and the Distinguished Contribution to Cultural and Contextual Factors in Child Development award from the Society for Research in Child Development (2013).

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