Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Suzanne Ouellette

Committee Members

Michelle Fine

Joan Greenbaum

Diana Woolis

Jessie Daniels

Subject Categories



Due to staggering technological shifts in recent decades, the Internet has become a routine fixture in everyday life. The popularity of social networking sites, in particular, raises myriad questions regarding identity construction and social interaction. It is also unclear how these practices are related to perceptions of privacy. This dissertation examines how traditional notions of privacy compare, and apply, to privacy on the Internet and considers how issues of power are (re)created in online spaces. By focusing on identity enactment strategies and social connectivity practices, this work sheds light on the ways in which individuals define privacy and choose to engage online. This analysis also investigates how current public discourses, which emphasize users' ignorance to privacy threats online and the detrimental effects of social media on interpersonal interaction, map onto user experiences. The findings stem from an online focus group with twenty Facebook users coupled with five individual interviews with researchers, legal experts, and artists whose work centers on social media. This project constructs a psychology of privacy that helps fill in existing gaps in the research on what is now happening on the social networking site, Facebook. The findings challenge familiar tendencies to pursue research agendas premised on binary frameworks, such as isolation versus connection and authentic versus inauthentic identities. Instead, the data highlight the novel forms of connectivity and identity practices that transpire online. As such, the data add to existing research that accentuates how online practices serve to enhance social connections and allow for a multiplicity of identity. Further, undermining some of the assumptions woven throughout public discourses concerning privacy invasions online, this dissertation demonstrates that users adopt innovative strategies for maintaining personal levels of comfort with respect to privacy online and reveals that perceptions of privacy are largely rooted in the ability to trust fellow users with personal information. Individual actions of marking boundaries with respect to what, and with whom, users share online provide the material with which researchers can construct new, dynamic definitions of personal privacy in virtual contexts.


Digital reproduction from the UMI microform.

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Psychology Commons