Identity work on Facebook

Stephanie Marie Laudone, Fordham University


Social media has become part of the fabric of American society and culture, effectively changing people's experiences of society, others, and themselves. The social and cultural meanings of social media have been the focus of journalistic and academic studies, but the effect of social networking sites on people's experiences is relatively unexplored. Using a multi-dimensional analysis, this study examines the personal and cultural significance of Facebook, asking: "How do individuals experience Facebook" and "How are age/generation, race, and gender presented and managed in this online context." The methods of this study include: in-depth interviews with 22 college students, between the ages of 18 and 24, selected from a large, private university located in a northeastern city and 11 adult community members, ages 35–50, drawn from a neighboring community, content analyses of 30 participant profiles, and netnography collected over a two year period. The study highlights the experiences of Facebook users, finding that Facebook is a site of personal significance with highly personal and emotional associations. These findings describe the ways in which participants construct and "do" age/generation, race, and gender on Facebook. The uses and significance of Facebook differs by age, with younger Facebook users report using Facebook for interaction and relationships, often dismissing Facebook's importance on their everyday lives. Older users reported using Facebook to reconnect with friends and family, as well as "possible selves" and identities. Despite the perceived racial neutrality of the site, findings reveal that Facebook is embedded with racial meanings, in both the textual and visual culture, as well as in patterns of behavior on the site. In many cases, race and racism were performed through joking or political discourse. Gender differences were found among adult community members. For example, while female adult community members digital identities were closely connected to mothering, fatherhood was not a focus of the male adult community members' digital identities. In their stories, participants described the ways the online and offline experiences are both co-constructed and interconnected.

Subject Area

Social research|Individual & family studies|Web Studies

Recommended Citation

Laudone, Stephanie Marie, "Identity work on Facebook" (2012). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3512282.