Data & Society > our work > academic journal > Performing a Vanilla Self: Respectability Politics, Social Class, and the Digital World

Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication | 04.06.18

Performing a Vanilla Self: Respectability Politics, Social Class, and the Digital World

danah boyd, Alice Marwick, Mikaela Pitcan

In this study, Data & Society Founder and President danah boyd, Affiliate Alice Marwick, and Researcher Mikaela Pitcan interviewed ask, how do young people of low socio-economic status in NYC manage their impressions online using tactics of respectability politics?

“This paper analyzes how upwardly mobile young people of low socio-economic status in New York City manage impressions online by adhering to normative notions of respectability. Our participants described how they present themselves on social media by self-censoring, curating a neutral image, segmenting content by platform, and avoiding content and contacts coded as lower class. Peers who post sexual images, primarily women, were considered unrespectable and subject to sexual shaming. These strategies reinforce racist and sexist notions of appropriate behavior, simultaneously enabling and limiting participants’ ability to succeed. We extend the impression management literature to examine how digital media mediates the intersection of class, gender, and race.”

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