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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Contextual identities : narratives of self-identified shy adolescents' close friendship experiences in online and offline settings Tan, Joanna Ee Na


As the Internet has evolved over the past decade, adolescents now tend to communicate with existing offline friends instead of strangers. However, a particular profile of shy and introverted users seems to prefer communicating with online-exclusive friends. This qualitative study aimed to explore how self-identified shy adolescents constructed their identities through their narratives of close friendships in online and offline settings. With a focus on “contextual identities”, I examined how the context may influence identity construction and social processes, as well as how continuity and change across the online-offline divide surfaced in the narratives. Six female adolescents aged 14 to 18 years were recruited, where online interviews were carried out using an adaptation of Arvay’s (2003) reflexive collaborative narrative method. The narratives were analyzed with a holistic-content approach by Lieblich, Tuval-Mashiach, and Zilber (1998) to preserve the unique voice of each participant. This was followed by a cross-case analysis (Stake, 2006) that yielded the following six findings: (1) Adolescents constructed a reticent identity through enacting a generalized worldview of an untrustworthy social environment, due to experiences of broken trust or perceived rejection. (2) Adolescents presented a self-concept of diffidence and insecurity through recounting childhood experiences that undermined their development of competence and autonomy. (3) Adolescents constructed a shy self-concept through identifying personal deficits in relation to societal referential standards, and concurrently constructed role identities that put themselves in positions of strength. (4) Trust, as a main factor in overcoming the fear of self-disclosure, was more easily established in online autonomous dyadic interactions than in offline settings where group structures and norms limited the freedom to be themselves. (5) Online affordances built social competence by providing a scaffold for overcoming the fear of self-disclosure and replicating offline social practices which accelerated intimacy development. (6) Shy identities seemed contextualized to the general offline interactional experience, but these could change over time with new positive experiences in offline settings via increased self-confidence or self-acceptance. These findings, together with educational implications and future research, are discussed.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada