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

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.

Bibliographic citation

Mascheroni, G., Vincent, J., & Jimenez, E. (2015). “Girls are addicted to likes so they post semi-naked selfies”: Peer mediation, normativity and the construction of identity online. Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace, 9(1), Article 5. doi:https://doi.org/10.5817/CP2015-1-5

Keywords

self-presentation; selfies; social network sites; young people; peer mediation

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https://doi.org/10.5817/CP2015-1-5


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