Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Kristen Gillespie-Lynch

Committee Members

Patricia J. Brooks

Anna Stetsenko

Michael Mandiberg

Ellen-ge Denton

Subject Categories

Developmental Psychology


Online, identity, gender, editing, communication, Facebook, Wikipedia


College students are increasingly using digital media, such as social network sites (SNSs) and collaborative editing tools (Wikipedia), as identity exploration tools, aligning or distancing themselves from their offline selves through the online affordances of anonymity and agentic choice. The opportunities for gender fluidity available online (Armentor-Cota, 2011) provide college students with opportunities to experiment with and manipulate varied identities in a safe space where consequences of confronting identity norms may be less severe (Turkle, 1996; Shaw, 1997). Similarly, restrictive offline gender differences may diminish in online spaces, favoring a more flexible and androgynous enactment of gender (Martin, Cook, & Andrews, 2016) in certain online spaces. Even so, research has identified a significant gender gap in collaborative digital spaces such as Wikipedia (Glott, Schmidt, & Ghosh, 2010; Hill & Shaw, 2013; Lam et al., 2011; Pande, 2011). The current research examined identity choices and gendered communicative patterns online using a popular SNS, Facebook, and a simulated collaborative editing environment. Study one explored gender variations in communicative patterns on Facebook, while study two explored gender expressions in a public, collaborative editing task. Although the studies found specific gendered communicative patterns on both Facebook and Wikipedia, the majority of the online behaviors were not gender-specific and online behaviors reflected more similarities than differences between men and women, supporting a more flexible understanding of gendered expressions (Martin, Cook, & Andrews, 2016) online. Based on these studies, some offline gender differences replicated through certain online spaces, such as women favoring relationship maintenance (Facebook), women orienting towards more harmonious behaviors/environments (Facebook and Wikipedia), and gender-specific power dynamics from offline spaces (Facebook). Women also favored more positive collaborative environments and those that included at least one other female editor, while men more actively edited in a neutral environment lacking positive affirmations. Other gender differences appear to dissipate in certain online environments, illustrated by both women and men actively editing and collaborating to the same extent on a fact-based section of an essay. Furthermore, men have more often favored this type of information sharing than women in other online environments. Overall, these results find that certain offline inequalities and power dynamics may replicate in online spaces. Online gender differences appear to be nuanced in nature with regards to specific online behaviors and expressions of gender may reflect the gender composition of peers engaging in the online space.