Digital Youth

Part of the series Advancing Responsible Adolescent Development pp 59-80


Constructing Identity Online: Identity Exploration and Self-Presentation

  • Kaveri SubrahmanyamAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, California State University Email author 
  • , David ŠmahelAffiliated withFaculty of Social Studies, Masaryk University

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From the early days of the Internet, scholars and writers have speculated that digital worlds are venues where users can leave their bodies behind and create new and different selves online. These speculations take on added significance in the context of adolescence, when individuals have to construct a coherent identity of the self. This chapter examines the role of technology in identity construction – a key adolescent developmental task. We begin by examining theoretical conceptions about identity in the context of adolescence and then explore the meaning of the terms self-presentation and virtual identity. To show how adolescents’ use technology in the service of identity, we will first describe some of the online tools they can use for self-presentation and identity construction. Then we show how adolescents use these tools to explore identity on the Internet, particularly through blogs and social networking sites; in a separate section, we show how youth use the Internet to construct their ethnic identity. Last, we turn to whether adolescents’ engage in identity experiments and online pretending and whether they have virtual personas in a psychological sense. In the conclusion section, we identify questions about online self-presentation, virtual identity, offline identity development for future research to address.