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A case study of adolescent girls’ use of social media and its influence on identity and belonging

Langley, Linda

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Linda Langley


This research aimed to investigate social constructions of gender identity among girls aged 14-16 years in a state secondary school within the broader framework of social network media use. The research explored the proposition that social network media (SNM) use had a negative impact on the wellbeing of some female students. Given that communication technologies were an integral part of the lives of young people that they took for granted, the researcher argued it was important that educators, parents/carers and policy makers understood the implications of this new context on their development, in order that ways of supporting young people could be established. A case study approach was used to gain a picture of the lived experiences of the respondents, and from a range of data collection methods, the views, perceptions and experiences relating to the case were established. Consequently, the following four key issues were drawn from the data relating to the impact of SNM on the development of gender identity:
1. the data showed respondents were using SNM to reinforce existing relationships, keep in touch with peers from offline lives, organize themselves into social groups and support each other
2. case study was a successful choice of methodology because it allowed the researcher to uncover details of the lived experiences of those in the sample and extrapolate material from the data to make informed recommendations
3. some respondents indicated SNM could be reinforcing peer relationships at the expense of those with parents
4. SNM was perceived as a distracting influence on respondents at school
The research concluded that SNM impacted on the development of gender identity and this was evident in the way individuals gained information about social group norms as they co-constructed their identity. Social constructivism usefully framed this process as bonding social capital, and the research showed this was a key element in building, maintaining and reinforcing relationships. Because of SNM use, online and offline worlds were becoming increasingly merged and this was not always understood or acknowledged by parents, educators and policy makers.


Langley, L. A case study of adolescent girls’ use of social media and its influence on identity and belonging. (Thesis). University of the West of England. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Thesis
Publicly Available Date Jun 6, 2019
Keywords gender identity, social media
Public URL
Award Date Jul 27, 2015


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