I’m Not Who I Am: Self-Presentation In Online Communities
Cross, Aaron Christian
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This dissertation was performed with the aim of understanding more about how people interact with and deceive one another in an online context. To build that understanding, the study was motivated by five research questions: (1) How do users experience the process of misrepresenting themselves to others? (2) How do users present themselves in online contexts in which they may not feel comfortable with portraying themselves fully? (3) How do perceived norms and expectations within groups inform users’ self-presentations? (4) How do users’ perceptions of who will view their information impact self-representation? (5) How do perceived affordances impact how users feel they can engage in deceptive practices? To explore and answer these questions, 27 interviews were conducted via the social networking platform Discord with members of the r/Fantasy server. The findings from the research show that how users perceive the potential audiences they have in a group setting is impacted by what they perceive the affordances of the platform to be. In turn, these perceptions influence what users care to share about themselves and how and if they engage in deceptive practices with other group members, both of which are also motivated by a desire to fit in and be accepted by the group at large. These findings provide insight into how users interact with and deceive one another, but also open up room for future research into the intersection of affordances and audiences and how users modify how they present themselves in relation to those perceived components of the online experience.