“Girls are addicted to likes so they post semi-naked selfies”: Peer mediation, normativity and the construction of identity online

Vol.9,No.1(2015)
Special issue: Mediation of Children´s ICT Usage

Abstract
This paper examines how children aged 11-16 in three European countries (Italy, UK and Spain) develop and present their online identities, and their interactions with peers. It focuses on young people’s engagement with the construction of an online identity on social media through pictures, and explores how peer-mediated conventions of self-presentation are appropriated, legitimated, or resisted in pre-teens’ and teenagers’ discourses. In doing so, we draw on Goffman’s (1959) work on the presentation of self and “impression management” to frame our analysis. Mobile communication and social network sites serve an important role in the process of self-presentation and emancipation, providing “full-time” access to peers and peer culture. Our findings suggest that there are gender differences and the presence of sexual double standards in peer normative discourses. Girls are positioned as being more subjected to peer mediation and pressure. Boys blame girls for posing sexy in photos, and negatively sanction this behaviour as being aimed at increasing one’s popularity online or as an indicator of “a certain type of girl.” However, girls who post provocative photos chose to conform to a sexualised stereotype as a means of being socially accepted by peers. Moreover, they identify with the pressure to always look “perfect” in their online pictures. While cross-national variations do exist, this sexual double standard is observed in all three countries. These insights into current behaviours could be further developed to determine policy guidance for supporting young people as they learn to manage image laden social media.

Keywords:
self-presentation; selfies; social network sites; young people; peer mediation
Author biographies

Giovanna Mascheroni

Author photo Giovanna Mascheroni, PhD, is a Lecturer in Sociology of Communication and Culture in the Department of Sociology at Università Cattolica of Milan and a Visiting Fellow in the Department of Media and Communications at the London School of Economics and Political Science. She was the coordinator of the Net Children Go Mobile project and has been the national contact of the EU Kids Online network since 2007. She is also part of the research project, WebPolEU: Comparing Social Media and Political Participation across EU (http://www.webpoleu.net/).

Jane Vincent

Author photo Jane Vincent, PhD, is a Visiting Fellow at the London School of Economics and Political Science. She participated in the Net Children Go Mobile and EU Kids Online projects for the UK and has led studies on children and mobile phones for the University of Surrey. Her research interests focus on information communication technology user behaviours and emotions and their usage of mobile phones.

Estefanía Jimenez

Author photo Estefanía Jimenez, PhD, is a Lecturer in Media Studies at the School of Social Sciences and Communication of the University of the Basque Country. She has been a member of the EU Kids Online network since 2012 and she has also participated in the Net Children Go Mobile project as the Spanish representative. She works on Media Literacy, audience research, and usage of SNS.
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