Date Approved

2014

Degree Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Communication, Media and Theatre Arts

Committee Member

Jeannette Kindred

Committee Member

Kathleen Stacey

Committee Member

Dennis Patrick

Abstract

The purpose of this study is to see, through a raw collection of data, how the family is currently being portrayed on social networking sites. Twitter is used to examine the social construction of family based upon observing tweets that contain #family. This paper argues that the family is best understood as being constructed through interactions with others, using symbolic interaction theory for theoretical grounding. Through examining over 1,000 tweets using a grounded theory methodological approach, three main themes emerged: family types, statements of family, and the esoteric family. The emergent themes suggest several implications, including that the family is portrayed on Twitter with utopian and fantasized characteristics. Furthermore, people, with the help of social networking sites such as Twitter, are now taking an observable role in defining family, where the layperson--in addition to the scholar--visibly influences what society is learning about the family. Therefore, the interactional nature of Twitter will continue to contribute to the meanings and definitions society holds on the term family. The full extent of these implications is discussed, along with limitations and suggestions for future research.

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