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Date of Award


Document Type

Thesis - Pacific Access Restricted

Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)



First Advisor

Qingwen Dong

First Committee Member

Carol Ann Hackley

Second Committee Member

Kenneth Day


This ethnographic study investigated the underlying motivations behind college-aged students ' use of the popular social-networking site, MySpace. It also examined how MySpace influences online and offline relationships as well as impacts individuals' self concept. The research method included an initial unobtrusive observation of 50 random MySpace pages, participant-observation of informants' sites and 18 interviews with the study's participants. Each component of this ethnographic design helps reveal various patterns associated with relational and self motivations using MySpace.

Following transcription analysis and multi-tiered triangulation among interview, participant-observation and lurking data, the information was compiled in a matrix to help break down and to evaluate data in manageable pieces. Two key findings related to concepts of self and relationships resulted from this study. The first discovery suggested that participants engage in a number of relational maintenance strategies, particularly activities associated with alleviating dialectical tensions, such as autonomy and togetherness. Secondly, the study revealed that MySpace members constantly negotiate their ideal and actual selves through computer-mediated communication, based on reflective appraisals from significant others on MySpace. Taken together, relational maintenance strategies and self-concept activities are engineered by the users' need to necessarily learn the values, norms and culture associated with life in MySpace.

The study builds upon previous literature on ethnographical methods, computer-mediated communication, relational maintenance, self-concepts and socialization practices. This thesis contributes to burgeoning research in virtual ethnography as well as to emerging, yet underrepresented academic research investigating social networking sites use motivations.



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