Loughborough University
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The 'like' generation: an exploration of social networking's influence on adolescents' productions of gender, identity, (virtual) capital and technological practices

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posted on 2017-10-25, 15:29 authored by John J. Whittle
This thesis explores how social networking platforms influence the production of identity, status and capital amongst adolescents. This includes an exploration of how some digital communication platforms have negatively impacted on the social experiences of some teenagers and resulted in these users adapting their digital communicative practices to overcome communicative challenges. The study draws upon data collected via 9 semi-structured interviews, 9 focus groups and 84 surveys with boys and girls aged 11-16 from three schools in England. It explores specific social norms which relate to gender, and how they are negotiated within both masculine and feminine interactions through the respective practices of banter and gossip or stalking. These interactional processes are used as a means of negotiating status and of in-group inclusion and out-group rejection (Goffman, 1963). Furthermore they are important elements in the formation of relationships, identity and social capital. For Bourdieu social capital is the aggregate of the actual or potential resources which are linked to possession of a durable network of more or less institutionalized relationships of mutual acquaintance and recognition (1980, 2). The production of social capital is linked to an individual s capacity to manage group norms and approved values. This study demonstrates that online displays of gender are part of adolescents attempts to generate social capital through gaining positive public affirmations (for example in the form of likes). This has led to a new form of capital which has been titled virtual capital , and which is revealed to be a crucial element in adolescents self-worth and status. Although social networking sites can facilitate the creation of these capitals, they can also simultaneously hinder their creation. Facebook s system of widespread automatic information sharing, alongside a lack user of control in managing the flow of data which is received and shared, has led to many teens experiencing challenges in how they produce identity and gain popularity. This has led to negative social experiences, a growing disillusionment with Facebook, and increased use of more contemporary platforms such as Snap Chat which offer a solution to these problems. Therefore this thesis presents findings on how adolescents use social networking to negotiate gender and identity, produce social status and how these attempts can be confounded by the very technology that facilitates their production.



  • Social Sciences


  • Communication, Media, Social and Policy Studies


© John Joseph Whittle

Publisher statement

This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) licence. Full details of this licence are available at: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

Publication date



A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.


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