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BEYOND BARS AND INTO SOCIAL MEDIA: RELATIONAL STIGMA MANAGEMENT, PRIVACY MANAGEMENT, AND OUTCOMES ON PRISON TALK ONLINE AND INSTAGRAM

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Abstract

Relational stigma is a discrediting attribute that questions the moral status of that individual based on maintaining a relationship with someone who holds a discrediting mark. Significant others of incarcerated persons often experience relational stigma through social and structural discrimination in their daily lives. Considering the growing centrality of social media in everyday life, social media sites offer opportunities to manage their relational stigma; however, different social media sites create different opportunities and privacy concerns such as seeking support and blurred audiences. In this dissertation, I examined the role of two social media sites, Instagram and Prison Talk Online, for individuals who experience relational stigma based on having a significant other who is incarcerated. I conducted field observations on these two sites and interviewed 13 significant others of incarcerated persons who use either Instagram or Prison Talk Online. Respondents were asked to recall moments when they experienced relational stigma, how they used social media to discuss their incarcerated relationship, what privacy concerns and management strategies they used on social media, and how social media has affected them and their incarcerated relationship over time. I used a grounded theory approach and identified several connections between social media use and relational stigma management, privacy management strategies, and self-concept outcomes. Findings suggest that respondents’ social media use is dependent on their perceptions of the extent of support and ability to build friendships within the social media sites. Respondents’ privacy concerns stemmed from concerns of community privacy violations and whether or not people within the support groups could be trusted. Participants stated that they felt more validated with their identity and relationship and a greater sense of emotional well-being occurred for those who used social media sites to talk about their incarcerated relationship. These findings suggest that social media sites can be helpful for managing relational stigma when relationally stigmatized individuals create a supportive network that they trust and that does not overlap with individuals who might judge the relationship.

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129 pages

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Date Issued

2020-08

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Keywords

Instagram; Prison Relationships; Prison Talk Online; Privacy Behaviors; Relational Stigma Management; Well-Being

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Committee Chair

Fussell, Susan R.

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Committee Member

Bazarova, Natalie
Duffy, Brooke Erin
Levy, Karen

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Communication

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Ph. D., Communication

Degree Level

Doctor of Philosophy

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Government Document

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dissertation or thesis

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