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“It’s a Virtual World, Not the Real Thing”: Young People’s Online Activities, Friendships, and Power

Fri, May 26, 11:00 to 12:15, Hilton San Diego Bayfront, Floor: 3, Aqua 309


During adolescence, young people learn how social acceptance and popularity among peers translate into power. The internet adds flexibility to these relationships because adolescents can exercise greater independence in choosing peer groups. This study examined how young people negotiate their social status in offline and online spaces. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with adolescents (aged 12-18) in Canberra, Australia (N=17) from February to June 2014. The type of power exerted online differs from that exerted offline; different skill sets are required to attain social status. Offline power translates into online power but not vice versa. However, participants appreciated the broader social networks that were afforded online and explored new boundaries of social interaction. In doing so, they were skeptical of the partial depiction that were portrayed online. Different values and status ladders were explored, which provided them with opportunities to develop new power relationships.