Being a Girl in the Age of Social Networking

Iolanda Tortajada, Núria Araüna

Abstract

Social networks have become a most favored space for interaction amongst teenagers. By creating and managing spaces for intimate exchanges, and in close connection with offline contexts, boys and girls build their own gender identities. Throughout a four-year-long research study we have looked into teenage practices and uses on social networks in order to explore such identity-building processes. We have applied both quantitative and qualitative methods to content-analyze 400 Fotolog entries, 18 entire albums and 32 teenagers' views and opinions to show how teenage girls present themselves on such networks and how these self-presentations are understood and assessed by themselves and their peers. Results suggest that gender underpins such self-presentations. These are interpreted and even accepted or refused according to certain gender-based codes. When they show themselves on these networks, girls usually appear on their own and use their bodies as active assets. We can identify a few patterns of representation that result from adopting models borrowed from other media and from a sort of creative appropriation by these teenage users themselves. However, girls risk their own reputation as they achieve wider presence and visibility in these kinds of spaces, especially since their self-presentations tend to show a highly eroticized body. When this happens, girls do more frequently get criticisms with sexual overtones than boys do.

Keywords

Adolescence, Self-representation, Social Networking Sites, Gender, Labelling.

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