Document Type

Honors Paper


Ana Campos-Holland

Publication Date



In the midst of a social panic over youth’s social media use, little attention has been given to youth’s voices and perspectives. Adult perspectives on gendered issues of cyberbullying and sexualized performance have completely ignored youth’s agency in constructing and performing gender on social media. While a body of literature on how youth construct femininity on social media has emerged, little qualitative work has been done addressing masculinity, looking at the comparatively at the construction of both masculinity and femininity or looking at how youth critically evaluate gendered performances. This study explores how youth both construct and evaluate gendered performances within peer cultures on social media. More specifically, taking the sociology of childhood approach, it explores how youth construct masculine and feminine social media performances, and how these performances are reinforced through negative and positive feedback. To capture the complexity of youth’s social worlds from multiple angles, this study uses an innovative youth-driven social media tour to enhance the traditional semi-structured interview (N=22; 11 girls & 11 boys). Across performance of the consumer, romantic relationship and friendship roles, gendered patterns of social media usage emerge. Feminine usage on social media is constructed as relational performance, where youth actively perform relationships in pursuit of social capital. Masculine usage is constructed as instrumental usage, where social media is used as a tool to achieve specific outcomes. As youth evaluate each other’s social media performances, a gendered double standard emerges, with critiques of feminine social media performance being directed at girls as a whole, whereas critiques of masculine social media performance are directed at individual boys. Youth construct and reinforce gendered performances within vibrant and complex peer cultures on social media.



The views expressed in this paper are solely those of the author.