Not/All about Having Fun: Social Norms of Belonging Amongst College Students on Facebook

Monday, 11 July 2016
Location: Hörsaal II (Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG))
Distributed Paper
Liang-Wen LIN, University of California, Los Angeles, USA
The purpose of my research is to reveal how college students in Taiwan interpret and negotiate the social norms regulating their online interpersonal relationships and belonging on Facebook.

Based in Taipei, Taiwan, this research applied a multi-sited approach and methods including in-person interviews and online observation to explore the struggle between belonging, privacy, emotion-expression and peer-surveillance on Facebook amongst Taiwanese college students, which exists under the surveillance of unseen audiences and the influence of mediated sociality. I refer to the conceptions of performance introduced by E. Goffman, distinction proposed by P. Bourdieu, and surveillance developed by M. Foucault as the primary theoretical frameworks in this research.

        36 participants were recruited from the same department of two universities for analytical purposes, as they offer similarities and differences that make for an interesting comparison of dissimilarities not only in urban and rural areas but also in public and private universities.

My research reveals a potential cultural pedagogy of Facebook in higher-education practices in terms of obligated sociality and impression management. I suggest that young people face the pressure of their day-to-day practices on social network sites because it is not about fun—instead, it is about how to maintain their college student identity online regarding school work, friendship, emotion expression, and self-image. In this context, I examine how they interpret and negotiate with the norms—obligated sociality, un/certainty in keeping friendships and the rules of emotion expression, and emphasis on struggles and contradictions when they confront the norms. I argue that college students use metaphor as an expression of negative emotion to deal with the struggles between publicity, privacy and belonging.