Self-presentation and gender on MySpace
Within the cultural context of MySpace, this study explores the ways emerging adults experience social networking. Through focus group methodology, the role of virtual peer interaction in the development of personal, social, and gender identities was investigated. Findings suggest that college students utilize MySpace for identity exploration, engaging in social comparison and expressing idealized aspects of the selves they wish to become. The public nature of self and relationship displays introduce feedback mechanisms by which emerging adults can legitimize images as associated with the self. Also, male–female differences in self-presentation parallel, and possibly intensify, gender norms offline. Our study suggests that social networking sites provide valuable opportunities for emerging adults to realize possible selves; however, increased pressure for female sexual objectification and intensified social comparison may also negatively impact identity development. A balanced view, presenting both opportunities and drawbacks, should be encouraged in policies regarding youth participation in social networking sites.