Gender Performance and Social Media Platforms: Identity Presentation among Facebook Users in Iraq
This thesis investigates individual Iraqis’ performance and use of social network sites, and particularly the Facebook platform to determine the potential challenges and opportunities that this offers when they construct their online identities and use social media in their daily interactions. The study mainly investigates the issues of negotiating and presenting identity in online environments and the variations that occur in the participants’ enactment of the self-online compared to the offline self. The study aims to contribute to the current knowledge of identity presentation by focusing on Iraqi users of both genders and explores how they negotiate the multiple pressures placed on them when they use Facebook as a platform to engage in various activities, and for communicating and interacting with other users on the site. This study utilised an explanatory sequential mixed qualitative methods of research model, which was divided into two phases of data collection. The first phase consisted of interviews; two types of interviews were conducted, offline and online. The second phase was based on ethnography that was in the form of virtual ethnographies of the self-performance and the activities presented by the research participants on Facebook. The thesis is conceptually informed and the analysis is positioned within a critical engagement framework based on studies of Goffman’s dramaturgical approach, Goffman’s Modal of Face, the social role theory of gender differences, and social capital and social media milieus. The results constitute a significant contribution to the body of knowledge in relation to our understanding of the ‘space’ that internet social networks provide for Iraqi users to negotiate the boundaries imposed on them by cultural and societal rules. Firstly, the findings reveal how Facebook is used by participants as an ‘affinity space’ to construct an alternative persona that enables them to perform different roles and to serve certain purposes. The study proposes an extension to the scope of relationship construction through initiating a new type of relationship based on the weak ties formed by bounding relationships. Secondly, this thesis also contributes to our understanding of the connection between ‘impression management’ and the concept of ‘face’ via the participants’ attempts to construct and present the virtual self in a way that protects their face (persona) in both the online and offline worlds from any negative consequences. Thirdly, the findings reveal the extensive effort invested by the research participants in constructing and managing their online identities, with attention paid to the contents presented, the management of their private and public regions, and the prevention of context ‘collapse’. Finally, the study reports on the relationship between identity formation and presentation and Facebook audiences, by revealing the strategies utilized by the research participants in managing their online viewers. Evaluation of the participants’ online and offline identities and their self-presentations, performances and activities enabled a correlation to be made between the users’ online and offline lives and how their offline interactions impacted on their use of Facebook.
- PhD