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Volume 6 • Issue 3 • July-September 2016
Studying how social network site (SNS) users from different countries present themselves is crucial
for inquiring into the dynamics of culture and youth. This study of 100 adolescents age 14-18 (Mage=
15.90, SD = .1.48) was designed to determine whether cultural differences between adolescents in the
U.S. and Turkey would manifest themselves in their online self-presentation strategies on Facebook.
Snowball sampling was used to reach U.S. and Turkish adolescents (50 participants from each country)
who were using Facebook. The study provides novel insights into how adolescents from each country,
in relation to its specific cultural framework, display certain kinds of self-presentation strategies. By
coding Facebook profiles of adolescents, the authors found that the sharpest cross-cultural contrast
was found in the frequency of the self-promotion strategy, which was more frequent in the United States.
There was also a significant difference in use of exemplification strategy between the two countries;
it was more widely used in Turkey. The high level of the ingratiation strategy in both countries may
reflect the importance of “likes” in the Internet culture. There was also a significant cross-national
difference in the ingratiation strategy, which U.S. teens used more. Finally, the authors also found a
low level of use of the intimidation and supplication strategies in both countries. The study highlights
the importance of self-exploration in constructing identities that conform to desirable cultural roles.
Adolescents, Cultural Differences, Self-Presentation Strategies, Social Networking Sites
Nevfel Boz, Children’s Digital Media Center @ Los Angeles, Department of Psychology, University of California Los
Angeles (UCLA), Los Angeles, CA, USA & Department of Media and Communication, Social Science University of
Ankara, Ankara, Turkey
Yalda T. Uhls, Children’s Digital Media Center @ Los Angeles, Common Sense Media & Department of Psychology,
University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), Los Angeles, CA, USA
Patricia M. Greeneld, Children’s Digital Media Center @ Los Angeles & Department of Psychology, University of
California Los Angeles (UCLA), Los Angeles, CA, USA
The use of new media for information exchange, self-expression, and connection is highly prevalent
among youth around the world (Lenhart, Purcell, Smith, et al., 2010; Pew Research Internet Project,
2014; Subrahmanyam & Smahel, 2010), with online social media sites continuing to grow in popularity
(Duggan & Smith, 2013; Lenhart et al., 2015). In the United States, the number one social network
for teens, ages 13-17, is Facebook, with 71 percent reporting its use. Alongside the United States,
Turkey ranks in the top five countries with the highest percentage of Facebook users (Gezgin, 2013).
Volume 6 • Issue 3 • July-September 2016
In the last four decades, Turkey transitioned from a primarily agricultural, collectivistic country to one
which is more industrialized; as such, valued identity markers may be shifting, both offline and on.
According to Erikson (1963), an important task of adolescence is to explore and develop
stable identities. Extant research has found that online spaces seem to be a new social context
where adolescents address developmental issues such as identity development and self-presentation
(Greenfield & Subrahmanyam, 2003; Subrahmanyam, Greenfield, & Tynes, 2004; Subrahmanyam
& Smahel, 2011; Uhls, 2015). In addition, cultural norms may emerge online and present themselves
on social media profiles, shaping adolescents’ use of self-presentation strategies. Understanding how
social network site (SNS) users from different countries present themselves is important for exploring
the dynamics of culture and youth.
This study was designed to determine whether cultural differences between adolescents in two
countries, the United States and Turkey, would manifest themselves in their online self-presentation
strategies on Facebook.
We turn to Goffman’s dramaturgy theory (1959) as the lens through which to examine online self-
presentation. Self-presentation can be defined as a process through which individuals transmit their
image to others (Jones & Pittman, 1982; Leary 1996; Leary & Kowalski, 1990). Goffman argues that
the primary motivation in self-presentation is to present an idealized image of self that conforms to
cultural expectations. Just as an actor’s desire for a standing ovation motivates him/her to perform
according to the audience’s feedback, ordinary individuals too, are eager to present a certain identity
and presentation based on the feedback they get from others in their society. This is why Goffman
argues that an individual’s most important desire is to successfully present the ideal role they think
is fit for them in their society (Goffman, 1959).
In order to create the desired impression for an audience, individuals need to strategically
control the information that they disclose (Leary 1996; Leary & Kowalski, 1990). In other words,
self-presentation provides a link between the self and others; it represents how they view themselves
and how they want to be viewed by others (Baumeister, 1982; Leary & Kowalski, 1990). In general,
people engage in self-presentation in order to obtain social and material benefits, such as identity
validation, power, friendship, or financial benefits (Jones & Pittman, 1982; Leary 1996; Leary &
Social networking sites serve as opportunities for identity exploration and self-presentation through
the moderation of the information on users’ profiles (Stutzman, Capra, & Thompson, 2011; Tufekci,
2008). Notably, teens construct their public personas by formatting the information on their profiles
(Manago et al., 2008; Madden et al., 2013). Adolescents may use various Facebook affordances for
self-presentation in the process of identity development. For example, adolescents’ construction of
a Facebook profile (e.g., the type and amount of self-information they disclose about themselves)
and the changes they make to these profiles on a daily basis (e.g., edits, posting pictures, posting
comments) can be considered acts of self-presentation.
The offline context has implications for online experiences (Subrahmanyam & Smahel, 2011).
Teens can also use online social networking sites to gather cultural information and express real and
idealized selves within the context of their environment (Rainie, Lenhart & Smith, 2012; Manago,
Graham, Greenfield, et al., 2008; Michikyan, Dennis, & Subrahmanyam, 2014; Salimkhan, Manago,
& Greenfield, 2010; Subrahmanyam et al., 2006; Uhls, 2015). Cultural identity and audience
characteristics are two crucial factors that shape the presentation of idealized values (Hofstede, 1980;
Maltz & Borker, 1982).
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