Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


This was an exploratory study of the ways in which online social networks like can impact perceptions of the user in terms of self and others. Specifically, the focus was on how online experiences may have different levels of impact on these perceptions depending upon users' self identifying as having a concealable stigmatized identity based on sexual orientation or disability. Research for this study was conducted through an online survey and was promoted using the classifieds posting forum on There were 100 respondents who accepted the terms set forth in the Informed Consent. Seventy-six of these initial respondents completed the survey in its entirety. Participant responses reflect their experiences in five areas of interest: a) demographics, b) experiences growing up, c) current life experiences offline, d) active use of the Myspace network, and e) current life experiences online. Findings were filtered into categories based on self identified sexual orientation and disability status. Responses from these groups were then compared to their corresponding non-stigmatized identity group. Analysis of the collected data showed that for individuals self identifying as having a concealable stigmatized identity, experiences growing up and in their current offline lives, indicated increased levels of self living than did the opposing non-stigmatized group. Data analysis also showed that in online activity, the ability to self construct personal profile identities provided those participants with stigmatized identities increased perceptions of control over how and when they could choose to self disclose their true self aspects often kept hidden in offline life.


iv, 117 p. Thesis (M.S.W.)--Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Mass., 2007. Includes bibliographical references (leaves 100-102).