Date Approved


Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department or School

Leadership and Counseling

Committee Member

Ronald Flowers, EdD, Chair

Committee Member

David Anderson, EdD

Committee Member

Elizabeth Broughton, EdD

Committee Member

Geoffrey Hammill, PhD


The purpose of this research was to understand how female college students make use of social networks, specifically how they use the medium to connect with others. Researching socialnetworking use pertaining to the phenomenon of connection will give a richer understanding of female students’ lived experience of social networking. Many quantitative studies have been conducted about social networking, but more qualitative measures are needed to explore social networking. With the continuously changing social-networking platforms, there is little research that sheds light on social-networking use among female college students. My goal was to conduct a qualitative research study that examined female college students’ use of socialnetworking platforms, specifically how they use the medium to connect, by conducting an exploratory instrumental case study, using experience sampling and the VisionsLive qualitative software platform for data collection. My unit of analysis was six female college students attending a comprehensive Midwestern university. I sought to answer five research questions through my research:

1. What social-networking platforms are female college students using?
a. Which social-networking platforms are female college students using most often?

2. How do female college students describe their social-networking use?

3. In what ways do college women describe connecting through social networks?
a. Who are female college students connecting with through social-networking platforms?

4. How do female college students describe their needs, and how is social networking related to those needs?

5. How do female college students describe their feelings about the use of social-networking platforms and connecting?

After synthesis of the data and development of the emergent themes, the core of how female college students are experiencing social networking to connect with others materialized. The emergent themes were:

• Connection happens on multiple levels and is used to maintain existing relationships;
• Construction of shared meaning through virtual symbols;
• Shapes self-value/self-worth;
• Evokes feelings, both good and bad;
• And wanting to be heard and understood.

The essence of social-networking connection for these female participants was as a tool that evoked feelings and met needs, which is understood through the construction of shared meaning through virtual symbols.