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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Negotiation(s) of identity through online social networking and implications for educating youth Sangha, Manjeet


“I think adults have a very distorted view of Nexopia saying they think it’s all they think it’s bad and I don‘t know. Every adult is “What’s Nexopia, I better not let my kid get on that!” It’s a way to communicate with your friends and put a little bit about your self right“. Blain Social networking sites have become increasingly popular among various segments of youth culture. Online, users of the Internet have formed a reciprocal relationship with media sources: they are not simply consumers but active collaborators and producers of remixed content. Individual spaces on social networking sites, also known as homepages, have become a medium for identity representation and negotiation during adolescence. Literature attributes self-presentation and impression management as the primary goals of online users; however, embedded within impressions are controlled symbolic representations embodied through text and graphics. Adolescents online are motivated to regulate how others perceive them. This case study describes the actions of at-risk adolescent social online space creators between the ages of 14-18. Ten adolescents were interviewed and transcriptions analyzed. The central aim was to provide a greater understanding of the extrinsic motivations of adolescents for the use and management of individual social online spaces. Adolescents revealed their primary reasons for creating an online space was communication with peers. The space was used as an outlet to reflect and reveal discourses—the transgression of values, thoughts and understandings in relation to peers and society. I found that at-risk adolescents experience a relational and representational continuum with their social space: the longer they are online the less reliance they attach to their peer group and their page becomes more of a functional place to commune with peers. Time online maintaining a social online space was connected to an increased awareness of peer perception in relation to symbolic portrayals. In summarizing, the adolescents interviewed used a space online to validate and negotiate emerging representations of self identity. There was an active state of negotiation as users explored aspects of self-identity offline and transferred this knowledge into their online social space over an extended period of time. The online representations were related to offline realities regardless of the content of the space. The acknowledgment of marginalized out-of-school identities within school contexts would begin to bridge the exclusion some adolescents’ experience. The study suggests educators examine online themes of marginalization, acceptance, culture and power within the framework of primary and secondary discourses.

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