College Students Use Facebook to Portray A Particular Image of Themselves

Male college students are much more likely to report having a “sexually appealing, wild, or offensive” Facebook profile than female college students, according to research published in the Journal of Education for Business.

The research was conducted by Joy Peluchette of the University of Southern Indiana and Katherine Karl of Marshall University and was published in 2010.

In their study, Peluchette and Karl investigated why college students display information and pictures on their profile that others may find inappropriate or offensive.

Peluchette and Karl surveyed 346 undergraduate students enrolled in management and economics courses. Students were questioned on how likely they would be to include alcohol or drug use, provocative photographs, comments regarding sexual activities, and similar things on their Facebook profile. They were also asked to rate whether they thought their profile portrayed an image of them being sexual appealing, wild, fun, offensive, hardworking, and intelligent.

“Those who were most likely to post inappropriate information were those who felt they portrayed an image that was sexually appealing, wild, or offensive, whereas those who believed they portrayed a hardworking image were unlikely to post inappropriate information,” according to Peluchette and Karl.

“It appears that many students make a conscious attempt to portray a particular image and those who post problematic information do so to impress a particular audience, their peers.”

Although their profile may impression their college aged peers, as Peluchette and Karl note, inappropriate or offensive content probably will have a quite different effect on their prospective employers. After discussing the subject with lawyers, Peluchette and Karl found that information on a person’s Facebook profile could be used as a reason not to hire them, because “employers are free to make unfair and arbitrary decisions as long as they do not violate specific laws” such as sexual or racial discrimination.

Reference:

Peluchette, J. & Karl, K. (2010). Examining students intended image on facebook: “What were they thinking?” Journal of Education for Business, Vol 85: 30-37.