Date of Award

2017

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Communication Studies

Department

Communication Studies

First Advisor

Renee Hobbs

Abstract

Past research found that messages in popular television promote fame as a top value, while social media allows anyone to reach broad audience. Adolescents ages 11-17 are more likely to value fame, wealth, and image over community, affiliation, and self-acceptance. Teens may become addicted to the peer connection and affirmation they are able to get via social media. As a result, young audiences may be highly influenced at this stage of development and their value system may be influenced negatively by their use of social media? Despite this research, some researchers see adolescent social media use well within normal socialization, as “kids will be kids” noting that many elements of the American teen culture remain unchanged in the digital age. This research explores these expectations through in-depth interviews of teens and an exhaustive literature review of scholarly articles on this topic. I used a survey questionnaire from “My Pop Studio,” an interactive educational media literacy resource developed by the Media Education Lab. A convenience sample of teenagers (between the ages of 11-17) took the “celebrity quiz” from the My Pop Studio website using a think out loud protocol where I observed them taking the quiz and had them explain to me their choices for their response. Findings reveal how teens value television, music, magazines, and online media and were the way they connect to these media forms. This research found that teenagers valued being “liked” and in some instances, being famous. Moreover, they demonstrated values such as confidence and community, revealing that teens’ identity and social development may be affected by participation in a media saturated culture. Through this lens, I explore current emerging themes in the current value system of teens. Because ego is a representation of self, it is important for this study to investigate the development of egos in young audiences who use social media. Based on the findings, it is evident that the rise of social media is connected to the development of self-esteem in teens. The implications of social media use, in particular, YouTube, can build character and confidence through self-identity and creativity. It can also help promote social identity in groups.

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