"I pretended to be a boy on the Internet": Navigating affordances and constraints of social networking sites and search engines for LGBTQ+ identity work
First Monday

I pretended to be a boy on the Internet: Navigating affordances and constraints of social networking sites and search engines for LGBTQ+ identity work by Vanessa Kitzie



Abstract
In this multi-platform study, I analyze interviews with 30 lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) individuals in the United States (U.S.) to demonstrate how social networking sites (SNS) and search engines afford and constrain their identity work. Data analysis identifies three key affordances and constraints for how participants create, negotiate, and sustain their LGBTQ+ identities: identity expression, visibility, and anonymity. I explore each using a tripartite analytical frame of stigma, tactics, and authenticity. Findings describe how participants navigate hetero- and gender-normative discourses encoded into SNS and search engines to affirm their LGBTQ+ identities. Designers can use these results to create platforms inclusive of LGBTQ+ identities that afford, rather than constrain, these navigations.

Contents

Introduction
Conceptual framework and relevant literature
Methods
Findings
Discussion
Conclusion

 


 

Introduction

Consider the following scenarios relayed by research participants Jamie and Joanna [1]. Jamie, assigned female at birth, created a social media profile using male pictures. With this profile, Jamie practiced masculinity and was read by others as male. Jamie now says that he identifies as male due, in part, to this experience. Joanna scoured search engines for information about queer identities and found search results that stigmatized these identities. Joanna now ascribes negative meaning to their [2] queer identity based on this experience.

Both scenarios illustrate how SNS and search engines afford and constrain the identity work of LGBTQ+ [3] individuals. Informed by semi-structured interviews, this multi-platform study examines these affordances and constraints using a tripartite analytical frame of stigma, tactics, and authenticity. Findings can assist designers with creating online technologies that leverage affordances for LGBTQ+ identity work while mitigating constraints. I invoke the concept of a stress case as a design ethic from which to frame these recommendations.

 

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Conceptual framework and relevant literature

The study’s conceptual framework examines how SNS and search engines mediate identity work. Identity work represents what “people do, individually or collectively, to give meaning to themselves or others” [4]. Identities are widely understood signs with accompanying norms and rules. People work to create desired images of themselves using these norms and rules as resources (Goffman, 1967; 1963; 1959).

Stigma and authenticity regulate how individuals should express their LGBTQ+ identities online. Stigma denotes “an [identity] attribute that is deeply discrediting” [5] based on what an individual “ought to be” [6] in a social situation. For example, search engines stigmatize LGBTQ+ and other marginalized identities by displaying results that belittle, fetishize, and negate these identities (e.g., Noble, 2013). Authenticity consists of “recipes for an appropriate attitude regarding the self” [7] that render an identity as “real and worthy” [8]. For instance, LGBTQ+ online communities perpetuate identity metanarratives that prioritize characteristics like whiteness (Gosine, 2007; Mitra and Gajjala, 2008; Nakamura, 2008; Raj, 2011). These metanarratives shape communities’ judgments of “authentic” LGBTQ+ identity expressions online, creating a rift between how individuals craft themselves as cyber subjects and their physical embodiment (Bromseth and Sundén, 2010; Gray, 2009; Haimson and Hoffmann, 2016).

While stigma and authenticity shape people’s actions, they do not determine them. People can creatively appropriate stigma, authenticity, and material features of technological artifacts for personal gain. These practices represent tactics, which de Certeau (1984) defines as instances where those who are subjugated appropriate surrounding materials and technologies to fulfill certain goals. LGBTQ+ people engage in tactics online, such as a transgender vlogger appropriating YouTube’s tagging feature to increase their visibility among LGBTQ+ individuals and broader audiences (Raun, 2015a, 2015b).

These examples illustrate that online technologies are not necessarily emancipatory for LGBTQ+ individuals but may provide new possibilities for identity work. Affordances and constraints offer a lens to examine these possibilities. Affordances facilitate specific uses of technologies, while constraints restrict them (Baym, 2010; Gibson, 1979; Leonardi, 2011; Norman, 1988). The materiality of technological artifacts [9] shapes affordances and constraints — a person given binary gender options on an SNS cannot create additional options. Perception also matters. People perceive varying affordances and constraints as salient based on sociocultural context and individual situation.

Facebook’s real names policy illustrates affordances and constraints as concepts. This policy dictates that individuals can have only one profile that uses their given name. It negates identities that belie this assumption, such as someone who is transitioning genders (Cirucci, 2017; Haimson and Hoffmann, 2016; Lingel and Golub, 2015). Facebook encodes this assumption within its material features, which restrict people from creating multiple or joint accounts. However, people can circumvent these restrictions using tactics. For instance, transgender individuals employ workarounds like using more than one e-mail address to create multiple accounts (Haimson, et al., 2015).

The conceptual framework for this study examines how the interrelationship between individual situation, sociocultural context, and material features mediates individual action. By adopting this framework, designers can better evaluate the potential consequences of their design decisions among marginalized groups.

 

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Methods

I applied the conceptual framework to 30 semi-structured interviews with LGBTQ+ individuals from the U.S. between the ages of 18 and 38. Online technology use shapes the traits of participants who are in this age range (Howe and Strauss, 2000; Pew Research Center, 2016). Further, they are likely to have performed identity work in their adolescence, allowing them to recall and articulate these experiences (Grov, et al., 2006; Savin-Williams, 2009).

I recruited participants using convenience, purposive, and snowball sampling methods. I sent a recruitment e-mail message to personal contacts and LGBTQ+ centers in New York and New Jersey. Participants shared the e-mail with others interested in participating. Table 1 describes participant details. I asked participants what labels they used to communicate their LGBTQ+ identities to others, and which, if any, labels were meaningful to them [10]. Figure 1 displays 17 distinct participant locations [11]. Eight are in the Northeast (47 percent), one in the South (6 percent), three in the Midwest (18 percent), and four in the West (24 percent). One participant resides outside of the U.S. in El Salvador but grew up in the Northeast U.S. (6 percent).

 

Map of participant locations
 
Figure 1: Map of participant locations.

 

 

Table 1: Participant details.
ParticipantAgeIdentity labels
Ben28Gay, Male
Will32Gay, Gender questioning, Male
Emerson28Queer, Masculine-of-center, Gender questioning, Female
Stephanie28Queer, Bisexual, Female
Eva30Gay, Female
Jamie24Straight, Transgender, Male
Diane30Gay, Female
Casey26Queer, Gender non-conforming
Rihanna27Queer, Androgynous, Female
Rose18Queer, Female
Amina30Queer, Female
Stefan30Non-binary, Queer, Genderqueer
Whitney35Gay, Female
Sebastian18Queer, Bisexual, Polysexual, Pansexual, Female
Sage25Queer, Transgender, Genderqueer, Genderfluid
Sierra24Transgender, Bisexual, Female
Campbell29Queer, Gender Non-conforming
Lauren35Queer, Female
Nicole29Queer, Gay, Female
Rachel26Transgender, Female
Cole28Queer, Butch, Lesbian, Female
Kristen30Queer, Female
Kyle24Queer, Transgender, Male
Sarah29Queer, Female
James25Transgender, Gay, Male
Jessica19Bisexual, Female
Mary30Transgender, Bisexual, Asexual, Female
Joanna31Queer, Gender non-conforming
Autumn31Queer, Transgender, Female
Mark 24Transgender, Male

 

During interviews, I used the critical incident technique (Flanagan, 1954) to elicit participant accounts of prior and current practices relevant to their identity work. Since this study is part of my dissertation (Kitzie, 2017), here I focus on responses to questions examining online identity work [12].

The average interview lasted one hour. I audio-recorded and transcribed the interviews, importing them into the qualitative data analysis software NVivo for emic/etic analysis. This analysis uses both deductive (i.e., imposed by preexisting concepts, models, theories, etcetera) and inductive (i.e., generated from the data) reasoning. Specifically, the conceptual framework informed deductive etic codes, while participant accounts informed inductive emic codes (Miles and Huberman, 1994). I performed an inter-coder reliability (ICR) check with a second coder, yielding a kappa value of 0.93, indicative of excellent agreement. An ICR check establishes credibility (Guba and Lincoln, 1994) by incorporating peer scrutiny of the study’s emic and etic codes. If multiple people apply the same codes to the interview transcripts, as was the case in this study, the study receives a higher ICR value. I also employed member-checking (Cresswell, 2014) by sending participants an initial write-up of findings and asking them to comment on how well it reflected their lived experiences.

 

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Findings

I organize my findings into three themes: identity expression, visibility, and anonymity. These themes function both as affordances and constraints. Under each, I apply the tripartite analytical frame of stigma, authenticity, and tactics to analyze the data, illustrated by thick description of participant accounts.

Identity expression

Identity expression represents the process by which an individual can make an identity claim and have this claim legitimized by others (Goffman, 1959). Material features can also legitimize certain identity claims, such as Facebook’s account creation form only allowing the creation of one identity (Cirucci, 2017; Haimson and Hoffmann, 2016; Lingel and Golub, 2015). Participants envision identity expression as affording and constraining embodiment, i.e., knowledge obtained through people’s physical bodies and personal experiences (Lloyd, 2010). Jamie perceives identity expression as affording what he refers to as “catfishing.” This term describes “a person who sets up a false personal profile on a social networking site for fraudulent or deceptive purposes.” [13] Per Jamie:

[When] I was catfishing using male pictures, I would wake up and be like, “That’s not me. I can’t go to school and act the same way as at home [when catfishing].” It was a lot of self-exploring and finding out what [practicing a male identity] was like.

Jamie’s account supports cyberqueer scholars’ arguments for the potential of online technologies to reshape embodied practices (Haraway, 1990; Wakeford, 2000). Jamie recognizes that social groups and larger culture determine the authenticity of people’s identities based on their physical appearance. Since many SNS offer picture uploads that serve as surrogates for the body, Jamie tactically leveraged both sociocultural context and material features to be read by others as male. Off-line contexts where Jamie’s body was visible did not afford similar opportunities for embodiment.

The term “catfishing” stigmatizes those whose online identities do not match their physical bodies as “fraudulent” and “deceptive.” Jamie’s use of “catfishing” to describe embodiment signifies his internalization of this stigma. Stefan experienced this stigma from others after making the following disclosure:

I was two people on the same forum. When I outed myself, there was a lot of drama. Some people were like, “We’re never talking to you again.” I got scared and completely backed off [of my forum participation].

Here, authenticity functions as a social demand made by the forum community. Stefan belied this demand by inhabiting two identities, one of which did not align with how Stefan’s body presented. Like Jamie’s use of catfishing to pejoratively describe his embodiment, Stefan questions the authenticity of their male identity when stating: “I pretended to be a boy on the Internet.” The community deemed Stefan’s use of multiple identities as deceptive and responded with negative social sanctions. These sanctions constrained Stefan’s embodiment by motivating them to stop participating on the platform.

These accounts suggest that affordances for LGBTQ+ identity expression are neither socially nor materially sanctioned in SNS. As a result, Jamie and Stefan tactically utilize both material features and community assumptions of SNS to have others recognize their profiles as authentic. Designers can counter these material and sociocultural constraints by creating features that accommodate fluid uses for identity expression, such as an SNS where it is both socially and materially normative to have more than one identity (Cirucci, 2017; Haimson and Hoffmann, 2016).

Visibility

Within the field of organizational studies, visibility represents how easily an individual can locate meaningful and relevant information (Treem and Leonardi, 2013). Per queer theory, visibility signifies how LGBTQ+ individuals share discourses countering hetero and gender normativity to facilitate new, more nuanced understandings of gender and sexuality (Berlant and Warner, 1995). Prior studies demonstrate that technologies and their expectations for use shape what LGBTQ+ visibilities are acceptable (Duguay, 2016a) with most favoring assimilative visibilities (Raun, 2015a, 2015b). In this study, visibility signifies how easily an individual can locate multifaceted and heterogeneous LGBTQ+ identity expressions.

Visibility affords participants’ connection with those sharing their LGBTQ+ identities. Mark explains why he uses Instagram and YouTube to connect with other transgender men:

I enjoy being able to go on social media and having 400 people going through the same thing to use as resources. Having that video and visual evidence is much better. [Using] social media, I’ve met up [in person] with a bunch of different trans guys. One of them is becoming my best friend. He’s my resource. We can bounce stories off each other. It’s like, “Oh my gosh that’s happened to my body, has it happened to yours?”

Since SNS are not necessarily geographically bound, their use circumvents some of the off-line physical barriers to connecting with LGBTQ+ individuals. Mark tactically appropriates features such as the ability to “follow” someone and recommendation algorithms to identify other transgender men: “Once you follow one person, [the site] comes up with more people you can follow that [lead] to more information.” However, Mark’s engagement with other transgender men is not bound to online contexts, as he reports connecting with others off-line (Gray, 2009).

Mark uses “video and visual evidence” to determine who is authentically transgender. This evidence informs Mark of shared embodied experiences among transgender men that he has yet to experience himself. Mark’s account highlights a tension between authenticity as a tactic that can engender LGBTQ+ visibility, while also restricting identity expression. This finding suggests that affordances and constraints are contextual; their meanings and uses vary based on individual situation and sociocultural context. Therefore, designers should not only accommodate varied applications but also clarify expectations for use. Such clarification will help individuals decide when to use specific online technologies depending on their purposes and goals for identity work.

While visibility affords connections to similar others, it also constrains people’s privacy, or ability to control their self-presentation within varied contexts (Altman, 1975; Marwick and boyd, 2011; Nissenbaum, 2004). As Amina recalls:

I was the executive director for an organization funded by Catholics. I gave a workshop at a gender and sexuality conference. That’s public online. If you Google my name you’ll find that. The watchdog of this Catholic group and conservative bloggers wrote about me and how I was this homosexual activist and took screenshots of this conference. My job found out and told me [to] not be super visible as queer because [I] represent the organization.

Like Mark, Amina experienced a blurring of online and off-line contexts. The visibility of Amina’s queer identity online had consequences in an off-line space, her workplace, which stigmatized queerness. Material features of both search engines and SNS produce this constraint. Google indexes the conference program and makes it a prominent search result for Amina’s name. I easily located the blog Amina mentioned when Googling her name. Along with screenshots of the conference program, the blog also contains screenshots of LGBTQ+ content Amina “liked” and events she was “attending” on Facebook. Amina may not have been aware that this metadata was visible, per Facebook’s ever-changing privacy policy. Alternatively, she may have known of its visibility, but assumed that only her Facebook friends would care to see this content.

Facebook features such as “People You May Know” [14] and “Ticker” [15] also could have made Amina’s queer identity visible to people not in her immediate social network. These material features make it difficult for Amina to have a sense of her audience, which limits how informed her tactics can be for queer visibility. A consequence of this limitation is that people may abstain from tactics giving visibility to their LGBTQ+ identities in online spaces with limited context cues because they perceive these spaces as heteronormative by default (Fox and Warber, 2015). It is essential for designers to clarify expectations for visibility by communicating the anticipated audience and degree to which the user can control this audience.

Online technologies often make visible stigmatized depictions of LGBTQ+ identities. Such stigmatization is produced, in part, by non-diverse designers [16] who create algorithms that do not complement LGBTQ+ relevancies or meanings. Joanna’s description of how “Queer Google” would differ from its commercial counterpart illustrates this argument:

It would be exactly what I see on Google except everything related to identity would not [be] centered around a certain kind of identity, but everyone. It would be amazing if the first results [were] queer people. It would be nice if you could put a blocker onto any violent things or hate speech. In Queer Google, you’d put in “swimsuit,” and just see images of swimsuits, rather than images of women wearing them.

There is no way to know precisely how Google’s search algorithm works since it makes decisions based on millions of heterogeneous and dynamic variables (LaFrance, 2015). However, it is not essential for individuals to understand technical black boxes to engage meaningfully with technologies in fulfilling a specific purpose or goal. Of importance is the ability to understand the main logics guiding the algorithm’s decisions (Bucher, 2012; Chun, 2011; Wardrip-Fruin, 2009). Joanna’s account illustrates a fundamental logic — popularity, determined by the number of clicks a link receives (Gillespie, et al., 2014). Thus, algorithms (re)produce dominant sociocultural discourses that stigmatize marginalized groups in the algorithmic minority (Noble, 2013). Participants like Joanna are cognizant of this logic and can make tactical decisions whether and how to use Google based on this knowledge.

Joanna’s account demonstrates the imbrication (Leonardi, 2011) of the sociocultural and material. What information accurately represents LGBTQ+ identities depends on the individual reading the content. However, search engines like Google leave the determination of relevance to system designers, the search algorithm, and user data. Designers should give people more control over which logics they wish to employ when using search engines, allowing them to alter material features, like how search results are weighted and presented.

Anonymity

Anonymity signifies the degree to which an individual can keep a desired element of their identity unknown or unspecified (Scott, 1998). LGBTQ+ individuals are motivated to be anonymous in online spaces where their identities might be stigmatized (Fox and Warber, 2015). Like visibility, anonymity affords participants’ information seeking and connecting with similar others. Eva uses Craigslist, instead of OkCupid, to meet women based on this affordance:

I was too afraid to put myself on OkCupid. The idea of putting my photo up terrified me. I would more comfortably look at Craigslist “Women seeking women” [advertisements] because I was so scared of revealing myself. When in reality, Craigslist is much more terrifying.

By linking her identity to her picture, Eva expresses concern over her visual anonymity (Scott, 2004). Craigslist does not require pictures, whereas, for OkCupid, they are a required site feature. These material features reify community expectations of OkCupid users, who assume that everyone on the site uses a profile picture depicting their bodies. Eva’s judgment of anonymity as an affordance within Craigslist informs her tactical decision to use this platform to avoid coupling her picture with her gay identity.

Eva’s account also conveys an assumption, shared by Jamie and Mark (see earlier “Identity expression” and “Visibility” sections in this paper), that people’s physical bodies constitute their authentic identities and that online image and video surrogates represent their bodies. As illustrated by Sierra’s account, this online representation of embodiment acts as the primary means to assess an individual’s trustworthiness:

I hate 4Chan; they’re this misogynistic hellhole. They have an LGBT board that was useful but problematic. Since everyone’s posting anonymously, you could have people who aren’t trans posting whatever it is they wanna say. You also have people who use tripcodes, which [are] usernames with passwords so the person has an identity on the site. [It] is weird for an anonymous site. But on that board and for the trans girls, there’s more people with names than anonymous.

4Chan’s anonymity constrains Sierra’s ability to locate trustworthy and relevant information since many individuals use this anonymity to post vitriolic content stigmatizing LGBTQ+ identities. For instance, it is a community norm among 4Chan users to employ the pejorative slang, “fag,” as a suffix. Community members use the term “tripfag” to stigmatize tripcode users, who contest community norms of anonymity (Trammell, 2014). Despite this constraint, Sierra tactically appropriates material features like image upload and tripcodes to produce collective conceptions with other “trans girls” of transgender identity work. These meanings hinge on the group’s ability to determine members’ authenticity via these material features.

Eva and Sierra’s accounts illustrate two different levels at which participants deem anonymity as affordance or constraint. At the individual level, anonymity affords exploration of LGBTQ+ identities in hetero and gender normative contexts. At the sociocultural level, anonymity constrains participants’ ability to evaluate identity-related information. The tension between these two conflicting expectations produces an environment where anonymity is both avoided and desired.

As participant accounts demonstrate, LGBTQ+ individuals are often aware of how affordances and constraints function in a specific context and make tactical decisions for their identity work based on this information. Therefore, LGBTQ+ individuals are neither helpless or passive when using online technologies. They are active agents navigating material and sociocultural affordances and constraints to engage in identity work.

 

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Discussion

I have interwoven several design implications throughout the findings. Informed by participant accounts, these implications consider the material, sociocultural, and individual contexts shaping affordances and constraints. Designers should identify critical affordances for LGBTQ+ identity work and create material features that accommodate them. Since sociocultural and individual contexts shape which affordances and constraints are salient, designers should communicate a platform’s underlying logics to help LGBTQ+ people make informed judgments of which platforms to use based on their purposes and goals. Designers should consistently assess material, sociocultural, and individual contexts, modifying their design and communication strategies to match online technologies’ changing uses and meanings.

These implications center on a design ethic within human-computer interaction (HCI): stress cases (Meyer and Wachter-Boettcher, 2016). They represent material features, designed to fulfill specific functions, which have uses and meanings deviating from the creators’ intent. For instance, Facebook’s “People You May Know” feature ostensibly expands an individual’s social network by displaying their acquaintances. Since material features imbricate with sociocultural and individual contexts, this same feature may be used to surveil and stigmatize queer identity expressions. Stress cases illustrate how material features disseminate dominant sociocultural discourses to the detriment of those existing outside of them.

Designing for stress cases requires identifying them, which can be difficult when designers share similar experiences and uniform ideas of the way things are. For instance, cisgender male designers might not consider offering gender identity options beyond male and female within the platforms they create. But put a non-binary individual on the team or involve a group of non-binary individuals in the participatory design process, and it becomes a stress case [17].

As a critical design ethic, stress cases address some of the constraints experienced by participants when using SNS and search engines for identity work. Under the identity expression theme, I found that SNS instantiate authenticity via material features that do not allow for multiple or linked profiles and at the sociocultural level via site policies and design. Designers could make material changes like allowing for linked profiles and changing site policies to give individuals control over how these features are communicated, such as customizing their profile page to minimize or even remove their profile pictures.

Under the visibility theme, SNS and search engines stigmatize LGBTQ+ identities. Participants have limited control of their audience, leaving them vulnerable to audiences that stigmatize LGBTQ+ identities. To address this issue, designers could make material changes like allowing individuals to decide what information about them is visible in others’ search results. Participants like Joanna also cited search engines as making visible discourses that stigmatize LGBTQ+ identities. To respond to this challenge, designers could provide more options for individuals to curate their results display. For example, rather than present results vertically, search engines could instead present them horizontally, clustered around topical themes. This presentation would allow individuals to see discourses centered around search terms and select those that are identity-affirming.

The final theme, anonymity, affords information seeking but inhibits an individual’s ability to evaluate information and perform identity work in an affirming space. By offering material features, such as tripcodes, SNS can balance people’s need to be anonymous in specific contexts but specify desired elements of their identities in others. By having a clear statement of community norms and expectations for anonymity, designers can clarify when anonymity is desired, by whom, and under which conditions. Designers should develop this statement with the participation of LGBTQ+ and other marginalized users. It needs to be frequently updated, perhaps by community moderators, inclusive of LGBTQ+ stakeholders, to reflect shifting sociocultural, material, and individual interrelationships and the outcomes they produce.

 

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Conclusion

This research examines how the interrelationship between material features of SNS and search engines, and sociocultural and individual contexts, affords and constrains the identity work of LGBTQ+ individuals. Limitations of this research relate to its methodology. Those interviewed had stable access to technological devices and infrastructure, which does not reflect the realities of many LGBTQ+ individuals (Daniels and Gray, 2014). Further, I did not collect other identities intersecting with LGBTQ+ ones including race, class, and disability. Future work may apply the study’s coding scheme (for the full coding scheme, see Kitzie, 2017) to capture intersectional perspectives.

While I used semi-structured interviews as my primary means of data collection, another way to capture the materiality of technological artifacts is via participant observation. For instance, Duguay (2016b) studied how LGBTQ+ individuals from the U.K. manage context collapse using both methods. Participant observation adds transferability to the study design by supporting the coding scheme across two data sources and represents an area for future research.

Findings reveal the imbrication of sociocultural, individual, and material contexts in shaping the meanings participants assigned to their technology use. Participant accounts from this project contribute important findings that can inform design ethics and practices supporting the identity work of LGBTQ+ individuals. End of article

 

About the author

Vanessa Kitzie is an Assistant Professor of Library and Information Science at the University of South Carolina. Her research interests focus on positioning the library as central in the lives of marginalized communities, particularly LGBTQ+ ones.
E-mail: kitzie [at] mailbox [dot] sc [dot] edu

 

Acknowledgements

Special thanks to Marie Radford, Ross Todd, Melissa Aronczyk, and Gary Burnett for their feedback on earlier versions of this analysis. Additional thanks to the editors of this special edition for clarifying the ideas and arguments in this paper. Finally, I would like to express gratitude to those who participated in this study. Your insights and candor have elevated my thinking, which I hope does justice to framing your accounts and your agency in this work.

 

Notes

1. All participant names are chosen pseudonyms.

2. I refer to participants by their preferred pronouns.

3. Labels are contested and problematic (Gamson, 1995). The plus sign denotes the inability of labels to capture all identity expressions.

4. Schwalbe and Mason-Schrock, 1996, p. 115.

5. Goffman, 1963, p. 13.

6. Goffman, 1963, p. 12.

7. Goffman, 1963, p. 132.

8. Ibid.

9. There exists significant debate among scholars as to what constitutes materiality. Traditionally, scholars envisioned technology as material in the sense of its physical components, such as hardware, but materiality has also come to represent digital materials, such as software (Leonardi, 2014; 2010; Orlikowski, 2000; Orlikowski and Scott, 2015; 2014).

10. Sometimes these labels overlapped, but in other cases, they differed. For instance, Sebastian uses “bisexual” when communicating her sexuality to others, but considers “queer,” “pansexual,” and “polysexual” as meaningful to her.

11. Almost half of participant locations overlap (n=13, 43 percent), which represents the impact of convenience and snowball sampling methods on data collection. For instance, six participants from Minneapolis, Minn. know one another via an online meet-up group.

12. An example of an interview question is: “In what ways do you use online technologies to explore your LGBTQ+ identity or identities?”

13. “Catfish,” n.d. Merriam-Webster Dictionary, at https://merriam-webster.com/dictionary/catfish, accessed 28 December 2017.

14. https://www.facebook.com/help/501283333222485.

15. https://www.facebook.com/help/ticker.

16. https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/statistics/reports/hightech/.

17. While I highlight gender and sexuality as examples here, this critique also applies to other marginalized identities such as race (McPherson, 2012).

 

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Editorial history

Received 1 June 2018; accepted 5 June 2018.


Creative Commons License
This paper is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

“I pretended to be a boy on the Internet”: Navigating affordances and constraints of social networking sites and search engines for LGBTQ+ identity work
by Vanessa Kitzie.
First Monday, Volume 23, Number 7 - 2 July 2018
http://firstmonday.org/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/9264/7466
doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.5210/fm.v23i7.9264





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