Document Type


Date of Degree

Summer 2009

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Mass Communications

First Advisor

Polumbaum, Judy

First Committee Member

Andrejevic, Mark

Second Committee Member

Durham, Frank

Third Committee Member

Wieting, Steve

Fourth Committee Member

Berkowitz, Dan

Fifth Committee Member

Singer, Jane


This study examines identity presentations on the online social networking site, The two-phase research design includes a period of participant observation of a sample of 346 college students and recent graduates followed by an interview period with a sample subset of 48 interviewees. The study analyzes key performance components on the site using a symbolic interaction perspective, to determine common characteristics of Facebook profiles, importance of performance components, and categories of identity performance.

Identity performance components are broken into two general categories, static and dynamic. Dynamic components, those that are updated frequently and drive much of the activity online, are far more important in terms of identity performance. Dynamic components on Facebook found to be important in this study are status updates, use of bumper stickers and pieces of flair, giving gifts, and photos.

Analysis of these components supports the symbolic interaction literature in general and the works of George H. Mead specifically. The Facebook news feed allows Facebookers to continually observe identity performances of others as well as to give and receive feedback on performances. This continual flow of information allows for the development of a generalized other, used as the basis for anticipating reactions from others to potential activity. Based on these anticipations, in an effort to reduce misinterpretations, Facebookers develop exaggerated performances that serve to distinguish in-groups from out-groups.


Computer-mediated, Identity, Online Community, Social Network, Symbolic Interaction


vi, 247 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 232-241).


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Copyright © 2009 Lee Keenan Farquhar