Huffaker, D. A., and Calvert, S. L. (2005). Gender, identity, and language use in
Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 10
This study examines issues of online identity and language use among male
and female teenagers who created and maintained weblogs, personal
journals made publicly accessible on the World Wide Web. Online identity
and language use were examined in terms of the disclosure of personal
information, sexual identity, emotive features, and semantic themes. Male
and female teenagers presented themselves similarly in their blogs, often
revealing personal information such as their real names, ages, and locations.
Males more so than females used emoticons, employed an active and
resolute style of language, and were more likely to present themselves as
gay. The results suggest that teenagers stay closer to reality in their online
expressions of self than has previously been suggested, and that these
explorations involve issues, such as learning about their sexuality, that
commonly occur during the adolescent years.
Identity is a central task that begins in infancy and ends with the culmination of
one's life. Its role in adolescent development has been particularly important as
youth come to know and define themselves in ways that were not possible during
their childhood (Calvert, 2002). More specifically, the ability to reflect on one's own
thoughts, and hence on one's self, adds a new dimension to self-discovery,
particularly of one's sexual identity.
As adolescents seek to define who they are near the beginning of the 21st century,
their forums for self-discovery have expanded. One place that adolescents now
spend a considerable amount of time is in online settings, and these online venues,
such as multi-user domains (MUDs), have been linked to identity exploration
(Turkle, 1995). One of the newest venues for exploration is the weblog, a reversed-
chronological online journal, which is used in a variety of ways, but often as a
Wright, 2004a; Huffaker, 2004a). Our purpose here is to examine how adolescents
use weblogs to explore their identity. In particular, we examine the language and
emotional codes that adolescents use to express themselves in weblogs.
Background: Identity, Adolescent Development, and Online Discourse
Identity is often characterized in terms of one's interpersonal characteristics, such
as self-definition or personality traits, the roles and relationships one takes on in
various interactions, and one's personal values or moral beliefs (Calvert, 2002).
Identity also involves a sense of continuity of self images over time (Grotevant,
1998), a continuity that may be disrupted when puberty creates radical alterations
in one's physical appearance. With sexual maturation comes changes in the roles