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Date of Award

2008

Document Type

Thesis - Pacific Access Restricted

Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Department

Communication

First Advisor

Qingwen Dong

First Committee Member

Kenneth Day

Second Committee Member

Jon Schamber

Abstract

This thesis explored MySpace and Facebook, two popular social networking sites (SNS), from the perspectives of the uses and gratification model and impression management theory. As a qualitative exploratory study, this thesis had three objectives. First, it investigated why young people use SNS. Second, it sought to discover how members use SNS for self-presentation. Finally, it aimed to contribute to the current body of literature and serve as a basis for future qualitative and quantitative studies on SNS.

The focus groups that were conducted for this thesis elicited ten themes that provided insights on the motivations and behaviors of individuals who use SNS for needs fulfillment and impression management. These themes included: 1) efficient communication, 2) convenient communication, 3) curiosity of others, 4) popularity, 5) relationship formation and reinforcement, 6) self-enhancement, 7) otherenhancement, 8) self-disclosure, 9) conformity and 1 0) identity-management.

Based on the first five themes, the study suggested that an emerging theory of instant gratification is being developed. The theory helps researchers explain why young people use SNS and predict what factors motivate young people to get ,_ involved heavily in SNS. Based on the second five themes, this study confirmed the relevance of Goffi:nan's theories of the presentation of the self in explaining how young people manage their impressions through SNS. As a powerful socialization agent, SNS provide new opportunities and diverse ways of presenting one's self online. Though there are some evident differences between online and face-to-face social interaction, it is clear that Goffman's theories will continue to help researchers explain self-presentation within the context of SNS.

Pages

73

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