A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words: A Mixed Methods Study of Online Self-Presentation in a Multiethnic Sample of Emerging Adults

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Using a mixed methods approach, this study examined the meanings that emerging adults (N = 261; 195 women, 66 men; M age ≈ 22 years old) ascribed to their online self-presentation. A thematic analysis based on 761 Facebook photo descriptions and 714 wall posts and status updates revealed that these emerging adults presented their individual, social, gender, ethnic, and spiritual identities as well as their positive, neutral, and negative affective states online. Individual and social identities were presented more frequently than other types of identities, and were linked to positive and negative affective states. The emerging adult women presented their social and gender identities in their photos more frequently, whereas the men presented their individual identity more often. When presenting their individual identity, women disclosed positive states more frequently whereas men disclosed neutral states more often. Latino American participants presented their individual identity less frequently than their Asian and European American peers, whereas Asian American participants presented their gender identity less frequently than their Latino and European American peers. When presenting their individual and social identities, Asian American participants disclosed neutral states more frequently and positive states less frequently than their Latino and European American peers. Findings have implications for the psychosocial development of emerging adults from ethnically diverse backgrounds, as well as for theory and research about self-development within online contexts. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)

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