Date of Award

5-1-2014

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Department

Applied Linguistics

First Advisor

Fuller, Janet

Second Advisor

Halliday, Laura

Abstract

AN ABSTRACT ON THE THESIS OF TOMMIE LEE WILLIAMS, for the Master of Arts Degree in APPLIED LINGUISTICS AND TEACHING ENGLISH TO SPEAKERS OF OTHER LANGUAGES, presented on NOVEMBER, 5, 2013 at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. TITLE: AFRICAN AMERICAN IDENTITY CONSTRUCTION ON FACEBOOK MAJOR PROFESSORS: Dr. Laura Halliday and Dr. Janet Fuller In contrast to early utopian theories about life on the internet, research revealed that the internet does not exist in a gender, class and racial vacuum (Kendall, 1998, Zhao et al, 2005). Identity issues that exist in the real world are mirrored in online presentations (Turkle, 1995). A previous study on Ethno Racial displays on Facebook examined whether different ethnic and racial groups used different identity strategies to construct their online identities on the Facebook social media network. The findings from that study and others were instrumental in the development of this research. The study conducted Face book profile page analyses for over 150 students from five distinct ethnic groups, African American, Vietnamese, White American, Hispanics and Indian. Their methodology included a coding system and instrument that revealed that the five ethnic racial groups did employ different strategies in the construction of their profile page identities. The object of this study is to exclusively study African American identity construction on Facebook. The goal of the study is to add to scholarship and body of research in this area. The research involves analyzing the Facebook profile of twenty former employees of a southwestern call center that closed the same year Facebook was founded. The employees vowed to keep in touch with each other through the new social network. A decision to employ a multiple methodology approach to the study was primarily driven by the small sample size and complicated nature of the information. A quantitative study was conducted first followed by a qualitative case study of the individual profile pages of four of the subject. The choice of the case studies selected was driven by results of the quantitative analysis which revealed outlier categories and cases. The findings from the two studies were then calculated, analyzed and reported. The early report of the quantitative study revealed that in comparative analysis that there were no significant differences between the two independent variables labeled Ethnicgroup White and Ethnic group African American. The secondary report from another statistical analysis discovered differences as a result of outliers in the data. The identified outliers were used to choose the subjects for the qualitative study. The results from the qualitative case study revealed that the African Americans in the study used different identity construction strategies. The strategies, however, did not show congruence on racial or ethnic lines. The data suggested the subjects chose identities that adhered to established socio-cultural archetypes rather than exclusively afro centric models. Triangulation of the data also suggested support for the original quantitative report of no significance.

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