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Author ORCID Identifier


Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Chrystal A. George Mwangi

Subject Categories

Higher Education Administration


Social media continues to change global society, while providing the opportunity to access information, but also build and sustain relationships with others. These online tools have become a part of everyday life (Greenwood et al., 2016) and have an impact on the way people interact, connect, and learn from one another. College students today have been surrounded by social media since elementary school (Alquist, 2017). Therefore, college administrators and faculty need to understand the impact of these online tools on students’ learning and development to ensure their success. All foundational student development theories were created when digital environments were non-existent. As a result, there is a gap in understanding the student experience.

This study examines the impact of Facebook, on cisgender women and their navigation towards self-authorship, as well as the gendered lens which participants use to explore digital spaces and their digital identities. Self-authorship was situated as the central identity development theory as it is tied to understanding self in relationship to others (Baxter Magolda, 1992), which was a natural link to the digital connections and exchanges college students have with one another on and offline.

Through a generic qualitative approach, I used digital observations, interviews, coding, and memo writing to observe and understand the experiences and reflections from eight cisgender undergraduate women. The findings in this study demonstrate that social media does impact how cisgender women view themselves in relationship to others and that their use over time evolves and shifts based on external and internal motivations and expectations. Key findings include four centralized themes (strategies for self-portrayal, social media’s impact on self, evolution of self, and connectedness and representation of self). While there was overlap between these themes, distinct ways in that they showed how cisgender women in college employ strategies for social media use, and how their perception of gender aids in the construction of their digital identity came forward. The study adds to the literature in understanding the impact social media has on cisgender women and calls for changes to practice and areas of research focus to support student success.


Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License