An Analysis of Skinhead Websites and Social Networks, A Decade Later

By Valeri, Robin Maria; Sweazy, Nicole E. et al. | Michigan Sociological Review, Fall 2017 | Go to article overview

An Analysis of Skinhead Websites and Social Networks, A Decade Later


Valeri, Robin Maria, Sweazy, Nicole E., Borgeson, Kevin, Michigan Sociological Review


INTRODUCTION

The present research replicates and extends the 2005 research on Skinhead ideology and culture as presented on Skinhead websites (Borgeson and Valeri 2005). In 2005 there were approximately 1.3 billion internet users, or 15.8% of the world's population accessing the internet (Internet Live Stats, n.d.). Today just under 3.5 billion people (3,424,971,237) or 46.1% of the world's population have access to the internet. Social networking is the most popular online activity and Facebook is the most popular online network, with Facebook users making up approximately half of the internet users worldwide (Statista, n.d). In fact, there are more than 1.86 billion active monthly Facebook users (Zephoria April 3, 2017). Given the increase in internet use, coupled with the fact that social networking is the most popular online activity, the current research not only compares Skinhead's use of webpages today with that of 2005 but also examines Skinhead's use of social networks.

SELF-PRESENTATION ON THE INTERNET

The internet, in the form of webpages and social network pages, provides individuals with the opportunity to create and actively manage an image of themselves or their organization. Researchers (Goffman, 1959 Jones, 1990; Leary 1995) have been studying the active efforts of individuals to manage their image, referred to as self-presentation or impression management, for decades. People engage in selfpresentation for several reasons, to obtain resources or minimize costs (Hendricks and Brickman 1974; Jones and Pittman 1982), to influence how others view and evaluate them (Leary and Kowalski 1990), and even to influence how they see themselves (Baumeister 1982). The internet offers individuals the ability to control and manipulate their image because the information presented on one's own webpage or social network page is consciously controlled. This control allows individuals to balance their desire to appear likeable, competent, and powerful (Arkin 1981; Higgins and Judge 2004) with their desire for others to see them as they see themselves (Swann and Bosson 2010; Swann and Hill 1981). Although the internet offers people the opportunity to present an idealized view of themselves, research on Facebook users, which revealed a strong correlation between an individual's Facebook profile, objective personality tests, and assessments by close friends (Back, et al. 2010), suggests that people tend to present relatively accurate images of themselves.

Individuals, including those who are marginalized, also use the internet and social networks to find similar others, establish communities, and share information (Downing 2013; Garnar 2000; Hamer 2003; Lingel and Golub 2015; Lingel, Trammell, Sanchez, and Naaman 2012; Thoreau 2006). For example, Hamer discusses how gay teens use personal webpages, chat rooms, and listservs to connect with other gay teens and Lingel and colleagues (2012) discuss how punk rock fans used Facebook and Myspace to find and share information about basement concerts. While some of the drag queens interviewed by Lingel and Golub (2015) suggested that they used social media to share their own stories as a means of helping others who are questioning or struggling with their own identity.

While the internet provides individuals with many opportunities to communicate and share information with like-minded individuals, the anonymity afforded by the internet, allows individuals and organizations to misrepresent themselves, as in the case of hate groups posing as unbiased news sources (Borgeson and Valeri 2004) or in the case of individuals creating fake social network identities (Eckholm and Zezima March 29, 2010; UPI, November 25, 2008; Valeri and Borgeson forthcoming). Therefore, the possible motivations of individuals and organizations must be taken into account when evaluating webpages and social network pages. The current analysis of Skinhead webpages and social network pages, in addition to examining the selfpresentation tactics of Skinhead groups through the expressions of political beliefs and ideology as well as through cultural elements, also examines the extent to which the Skinhead groups and individuals are motivated to create a community, through recruitment and links to other groups, as well as the extent to which they are motivated by profits. …

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