We’ve researched and explored this subject from a number of perspectives. Our graduate team has spent hundreds – possibly thousands - of hours combing social media sites, watching GIFs, decoding hashtags and generally documenting the trajectories of young people’s social identity exploration.
We’ve also read the scholarly debate, tracking blog discussions, twitter feeds and published writing on teen’s and adolescent’s use of social media, following researchers like Henry Jenkins, Dana Boyd, Jean Twenge, Alice Marwick, Meryl Alper, Laura Portwood- Stacer and more. While we were researching this project, public broadcaster PBS jumped into the ring with a brilliant documentary called “Generation Like” and CBC profiled youth’s fascination with fame in a series by Pauline Dakin called “Re-Wiring our Kids”. Highlights from these publications and productions can be found in our Literature Review on this site.
We held three exploratory groups in Toronto (n = 24) with middle and secondary youth, probing trends, attitudes and social media usage patterns. Using a variety of visual and image‐based stimulus exercises, we explored cultural trends, gender differences around selfie production, and social context and influences driving fame building and selfie curation.
Experts added their voice to the discussion. Nora Young, host of CBC’s national radio show Spark and author of The Virtual Self: How Our Digital Lives are Altering the World Around Us has been documenting the intersection of culture and technology for over 10 years. Writers and co-executive producers Sarah Glinski and Matt Huether of teen drama – Degrassi: The Next Generation – have been mining issues around teen identity and teen angst since 1987 and share the messages and storylines they’re exploring around social media. Finally, Dr. Dan Siegel, psychiatrist and an educator at UCLA is author of Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain. Dr Siegel and many others in this field are trying to tease out the larger impact of social media and technology culture on the developing brain.
It’s a complicated web of influences and outcomes and we’re only beginning to research the impact of these trends on youth identity formation. We share our hypotheses and thoughts on this site and along the way ask a lot of questions.