Category Archives: Themes

Building the Syllabus

On January 19 at 5pm, our TA Natasha downloaded the data from the Journal Article Evaluation survey. There were 103 complete entries, each with two journal articles summarized and recommended (definitely, maybe, or not) with explanations. The first thing I did was remove all identifying information to ensure the final article selections were not influenced by the people who endorsed them (or didn’t).

Then the sorting began! There were 196 article recommendations to sift through, including some that were evaluated by one person, many by two people and one article that ended up being evaluated six times! Turns out there were 110 unique articles, but choosing them was complicated by some disagreement about which course theme the article did or did not exemplify, and whether the article would be a suitable read for our class.

Most students were very thoughtful in their recommendations. I’d like to code these entries for evidence of critical thinking… because there seemed to be a lot of that going on! People dug into the methods, considered the complexity of the article, considered its relationship to our shared overall mission of developing a Psychology of Self in Social Media, and so on and so on. (So that this awesomeness doesn’t sit idle in a file on my computer, on Tuesday Jan 19, our class agreed to work on a way to share/publish these reviews online for others’ benefit. More to come.)

After skimming through the whole list, I identified how many people had rated the articles and whether they endorsed them or not (2 points for a yes, 1 point for a maybe, 0 points for a no), which allowed me to create an index of consensus. For example, if two people rated an article and both thought it should go on the syllabus, that article got a score of 4. It was a rough guide that showed a few standout articles that became easy choices, and also cut out the articles that were squarely not recommended.

From there, I considered articles identified as relating to each course theme, and I read through the recommendations to select a shortlist of 21 articles. I considered some other things like particular journals, and whether the article’s message overlapped too much with another article more strongly endorsed. Sometimes articles that didn’t have complete consensus have made it through — in part to spur discussion, and sometimes because the arguments in favour were stronger than the arguments against. One thing I noticed was that the recommendations were uneven across topics, so we might see that some topics are explored with more readings than others are. For example, Development was identified as a theme of interest, but as a class we didn’t find too many articles to review that made it on the list, and those that were reviewed weren’t highly endorsed for the most part.

Here’s the shortlist of article titles, by theme. Overall, it took me about 4 hours to get to here from the raw data.


  • Having Responsive Facebook Friends Affects the Satisfaction of Psychological Needs More Than Having Many Facebook Friends
  • Experimental evidence of massive-scale emotional contagion through social networks
  • Romantic Relationship Stages and Social Networking Sites: Uncertainty Reduction Strategies and Perceived Relational Norms on Facebook
  • Relevant Hermida #TellEveryone readings: Chapter 1 The News Now; Chapter 2 Why We Share

Self-Concept and Self-Presentation

  • Can You Guess Who I Am? Real, Ideal, and False Self-Presentation on Facebook Among Emerging Adults
  • Identity Shift in Computer-Mediated Environments
  • Extended Self in a Digital World
  • Relevant Hermida #TellEveryone readings: Chapter 3 OMG! I have to tell you (see also Chapter 7 When consumers strike back)


  • Online self-presentation on Facebook and self development during the college transition.

Self-Esteem and Social Comparison

  • Social Comparisons on Social Media: The Impact of Facebook on Young Women’s Body Image Concerns and Mood
  • Why Following Friends Can Hurt You: An Exploratory Investigation of the Effects of Envy on Social Networking Sites among College-Age Users
  • When Social Networking Is Not Working: Individuals With Low Self-Esteem Recognize but Do Not Reap the Benefits of Self-Disclosure on Facebook
  • “Exercise to be fit, not skinny”: The effect of fitspiration imagery on women’s body image
  • Social Comparison, Social Media, Self-esteem
  • Relevant Hermida #TellEveryone readings: Chapter 4 The Daily We


  • College students’ academic motivation, media engagement and fear of missing out
  • Social Media Users Have Different Experiences, Motivations, and Quality of Life
  • Instagram: Motives for its use and relationship to narcissism and contextual age
  • Self-determination theory, social media and charitable causes: An in-depth analysis of autonomous motivation
  • Relevant Hermida #TellEveryone reading: Chapter 5 Voices that rise above the noise (see also Chapter 6 A nervous system for the planet; Chapter 9 The political power of a shared story)


  • Manifestations of Personality in Online Social Networks: Self-Reported Facebook-Related Behaviors and Observable Profile Information
  • Facebook Profiles Reflect Actual Personality, Not Self-Idealization
  • Automatic Personality Assessment Through Social Media Language
  • Who’s Posting Facebook Faux Pas? A cross-cultural Examination of Personality Differences
  • Trolls just want to have fun
  • Relevant Hermida #TellEveryone readings: Chapter 8 Truths, Lies, and Rumours

End-of-Term Integration

  • Relevant Hermida #TellEveryone readings: Chapter 10 The Way Ahead
  • And because it was so highly endorsed as being thoughtfully done and just a fun read, even though it’s not 100% totally on theme, I might just have to keep this for the end of term, or possibly as a “reading break” option on Reading Break: Emotion regulation, procrastination, and watching cat videos online: Who watches Internet cats, why, and to what effect?


Draft Course Themes

Since the beginning of the course, we’ve been brainstorming potential themes. Thank you for your contributions! Here is the list of 8 that we’ll use for now. The list will be finalized along with the reading list after you have completed your Journal Article Evaluations.

Common Themes that have Emerged

1.Self-concept and self-presentation (e.g., what is the authentic self? how “real” or accurate is what people put online?)

2.Self-esteem and social comparison (e.g., how does other’s feedback affect the Self? how does what others put online affect how people feel about themselves?)

3.Motivation (e.g., what motivates people to use social media? how does social media promote/affect collective action?)

4.Personality (e.g., what are the personality traits of different social media users? can social media use influence people’s personality?)

5.Development (e.g., how does what people “author” about themselves on social media impact their Self over time? How might social media impact the Self of people who are growing up with it from birth?)

6.Relationships (e.g., does social media such as Tindr change or mirror dating culture? how does broadcasting aspects of relationships on social media affect the Self-actors in that relationship? does the ubiquity of social media change the way we interact with each other? if online vs face to face first impressions differ, does that impact the relationship? what aspects of Self lead to/affected by one-sided relationships like following celebrities on Twitter?)

Big Topics that may continue to come up (so let’s keep them in play)

7.Public/Private self with respect to ethics and privacy (e.g., does engaging in social media blur the line between public (self) and private (self)? should everything online be considered public behaviour? privacy issues? — could also bring in careers/professionalism here) 

8.Culture (e.g., is social media changing cultural narratives? if there are cross-cultural differences between social media users/engagement patterns, does that reflect different Self or lead to changes in Self or both?)