Honors College Theses

Date

2021

Major

Communication Studies (B.S.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)

Faculty Mentor

Beverly Graham

Abstract

In the age of social media networking and online dating, interpersonal communication has evolved. Today’s young adults have grown up during the evolution of social media. Social Penetration Theory (SPT) proposes that interpersonal relationships develop through self-disclosure (Punyanunt-Carter, 2019). As we move from public to more private information in the process of self-disclosure, we develop deeper and closer interpersonal relationships. The purpose of this study is to analyze attraction, perceived authenticity, and relational development on social media through the SPT lens. I argue that Twitter is a popular social media platform that encourages user authenticity and that social media users interpret relational closeness and form impressions of other social media users’ identities by analyzing disclosures. Twenty-one undergraduate college students participated in surveys and focus group interviews for the study. I surveyed participants about the perceived authenticity of social media users on Twitter, Instagram, and general social media platforms, as well as what attributes and qualities they examine while observing others’ social media profiles. Participants rated Twitter higher than Instagram in depicting social media users’ true, authentic selves. Results indicated that participants commonly observe the social media profiles of others to determine similar interests, beliefs, values, appearance, and social circles. Furthermore, I created a Twitter profile and asked participants to observe the profile and attempt to apply the steps of the SPT. All participants analyzed disclosures from the Twitter profile to form impressions of the profile user’s personality traits, values, and personal beliefs. By applying the SPT to social media, I explicate the common factors that influence attraction on social media and conclude that social media users analyze disclosures to form impressions and evaluate relational prototypes of others via social media.

Thesis Summary

In the age of social media networking and online dating, interpersonal communication has evolved. Today’s young adults have grown up during the evolution of social media. Social Penetration Theory (SPT) proposes that interpersonal relationships develop through self-disclosure (Punyanunt-Carter, 2019). As we move from public to more private information in the process of self-disclosure, we develop deeper and closer interpersonal relationships. The purpose of this study is to analyze attraction, perceived authenticity, and relational development on social media through the SPT lens. Twenty-one undergraduate college students participated in surveys and focus group interviews for the study. I surveyed participants about the perceived authenticity of social media users on Twitter, Instagram, and general social media platforms, as well as what attributes and qualities they examine while observing others’ social media profiles. Results indicated that participants commonly observe the social media profiles of others to determine similar interests, beliefs, values, appearance, and social circles. By applying the SPT to social media, I explicate the common factors that influence attraction on social media and conclude that social media users analyze disclosures to form impressions and evaluate relational prototypes of others via social media.

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