City Research Online

The Experience of the Self in Cyberspace: An Experiential Perspective on Social Networking Sites

Jammal, D (2020). The Experience of the Self in Cyberspace: An Experiential Perspective on Social Networking Sites. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City, University of London)


The growth of social networking sites (SNSs) has led to significant alterations in the dynamics of our interpersonal relationships as well as how we present and experience ourselves (Alloway, Runac, Quershi, & Kemp, 2014). These transformations have important implications for researchers and practitioners in the field of counselling psychology. SNSs have become an integral aspect of many people’s lives and have grown faster and changed more than any other Internet activity over the last decade (Lup, Trub, & Rosenthal, 2015). The primary aim of this study was to explore the experience of the self on SNSs with a focus on understanding online interpersonal interactions and how participants experience their relationship to social media (SM) from an experiential perspective.

Eight participants were recruited for this study between the ages of 20 – 41. Semi-structured interviews were conducted in order to explore participants’ experiences on these platforms. An experiential inductive thematic analysis was utilised to analyse participants’ accounts. The epistemological position adopted was phenomenology and the ontological position was critical realism. Analysis generated five themes and seven sub-themes representing patterned meaning throughout their accounts with a central theme ‘double- edged sword’. The themes were the following: ‘active versus passive use’ (sub-themes: ‘numbing versus stimulating - positive versus negative stimulation’, ‘recognition – social comparison’, ‘perception of oversharing’), ‘perception of control versus loss of control’ (sub-theme: ‘more control in the presentation of the self’, ‘addictive’), ‘virtual versus physical presence’ (sub-theme: ‘virtual versus sensory connectedness’), ‘bridge versus loss of connection’ (sub-theme: ‘surface-level platform’).

Findings indicated that participants’ experience of and their relationship to SNSs can be described as a ‘double-edged sword’. Although they experienced positive aspects to SM, including positive ways of connecting to others, all their narratives of their lived experiences included negative consequences of engaging in the use of SM. The findings of the study offer some important insights into the role of SM within these participants’ lives, providing a potential guideline for other therapists and researchers to build upon. The results bring to light the vast complexity of individual and relational experiences that are taking place on SNSs and thus, highlight the potential value in exploring the experiences of clients’ who utilise these sites within a therapeutic setting (Gowen, Deschaine, Gruttadara, & Markey, 2012).

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Departments: Doctoral Theses
School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
School of Health & Psychological Sciences > School of Health & Psychological Sciences Doctoral Theses
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