An exploration of female early adolescent self-presentation and social comparisons, when engaging with social networking sites

Thompson, Emily Beth (2021) An exploration of female early adolescent self-presentation and social comparisons, when engaging with social networking sites. DAppEdPsy thesis, University of Nottingham.

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The use of social networking sites (SNS), including Instagram and Snapchat, is an integral aspect of adolescent life (Throuvala et al., 2019). Existing research has explored the possible impact of using SNS, which is described as a ‘double-edged sword’ (Keles et al., 2020) due to its benefits and potential risks for adolescents. However, a significant proportion of research concerns a sample of older adolescents, this is despite findings that suggest children as young as eight years are accessing SNS every day (Children’s Commissioner, 2018).

Alongside being frequent, devoted users of SNS (Shankleman et al., 2021) adolescence is also a formative developmental period for identity (Erikson, 1968). One’s identity is socially embedded (Davis, 2011) and individuals gain an insight into their performance through comparing themselves to others, which can be facilitated by SNS (Vogel et al., 2014).

Therefore, it is necessary to further explore the development of self and social comparisons made on SNS, due to possible associations between SNS and this aspect of development. Furthermore, research utilising an early adolescent sample is required, to acknowledge the increased use of SNS, within this demographic.


The sample comprised of six females aged between 12 and 13 years, who all attend the same school. Semi-structured interviews were completed to explore views and experiences. The research was positioned within a social constructionist paradigm (Burr, 2015) and data analysed using Reflexive Thematic Analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2019a).


Results suggest an individual’s self-presentation online is a performance, where a selective or restricted self is shared. The presentation of self is underpinned by the perception of the audience, which is of great importance to adolescents. Participants spend time hypothesising possible audience views and adapt their performance accordingly, to ensure it will be accepted.

Feedback can also strengthen an individual’s self and participants engage in a number of actions to protect themselves online. This is in relation to online risk, alongside the protection of self from negative feedback.

The sample was found to engage in a range of social comparisons against others, which can provoke a variety of emotional responses and possibly influence the development of identity, such as through individuals engaging in identity exploration.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (DAppEdPsy)
Supervisors: Lewis, Victoria
Keywords: self-perception, mental health, psychological wellbeing, adolescents, social networks, SNS, social media
Subjects: H Social sciences > HM Sociology
L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB1050 Educational psychology
L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB1603 Secondary education. High schools
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Science > School of Psychology
Item ID: 66090
Depositing User: Thompson, Emily
Date Deposited: 25 Jan 2023 15:53
Last Modified: 25 Jan 2023 15:53

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