Students lying on their online profiles

Posted by reyjunco on April 7, 2011 in Research |

It’s important to preface this post by saying that these are old data– collected as part of the Net.Generation survey I conducted in 2006 (N=7,705). While these data are old, I’ve been thinking a lot about online identity lately and thought this information would be useful to share. As part of the survey, we asked students to tell us if they’ve ever represented themselves online in ways that weren’t their true selves. Here’s what we found:

Data - students lying on their online profiles

Before jumping right to interpretation, let’s keep a few things in mind– as I’ve already said, these data are old. The practice of online profile creation has come a long way since 2006. Data from the Pew Internet and American Life project from 2006 show that only 31% of 18-29 year olds used social networking websites. The most recent Pew data from 2010 show that 60% of 18-29 year olds use social networking. Even more germane to the discussion are data collected in 2010 by the EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research (ECAR) from a sample of 36,950 students which showed that 90% of students used social networking websites and 97% of those saying they used Facebook. So students are definitely more comfortable creating profiles and many more of them are doing so. The fact that Facebook is now students’ primary social networking website would also play a role in constructing their online identities– Facebook profiles have always had more of a reputation for being “the real you” than Myspace profiles. The difference was especially striking in 2006 when many more students were on Myspace. Indeed, the culture of Myspace was such that students could (and would) create multiple profiles and explore different facets of their identities within the (relative) safety of the platform.

Even still, these data show that most students (90-97%) expressed their true selves along these domains. The most misrepresented facet of their true self, age, may have been due to circumventing social networking site age restrictions.

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