Teen Identity, Social Comparison and Voyeurism in Social Media: An investigation of UK Millennial Consumption Behaviours in Facebook

Leigh Doster

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Social media interests marketers because of its influence on consumption behaviour. It has sparked much consumer research, most focusing on: motivations, identity, impression formation and online/offline interactions. Fewer studies have investigated social comparison, voyeurism or consumers under 18. This thesis addresses the gap, providing insights into teenage self-presentation, social comparison and voyeurism in Facebook and the resultant effect on teen identity consumption behaviour.
Millennial teens were the earliest and heaviest users of social media and have established practices for subsequent adopter groups. Furthermore many concerns around safety, privacy, addiction and risky behaviours have been expressed regarding social media use, so it is also important to understand the phenomena for societal reasons.
A phenomenological interpretivist approach was adopted using in-depth qualitative interviews, diaries and observational analysis to gain an understanding of UK millennial teen (16-18 years) behaviours in Facebook. The study produced a holistic model detailing the strategies and resources employed to present digital identities. Moreover it revealed how external influences, Facebook’s incentive structures and ‘unwritten rules’ have combined to generate defensive and inhibited teen identity behaviours.
The study found that teens watched others in social media for identity, relationship development, entertainment and darker purposes e.g. criticism. It discovered increased and elaborated social comparison and voyeuristic behaviours, which were theorised, so extending the social comparison literature in the social media context. A new mediated voyeurism category was defined; social media voyeurism and five teen ‘stalker’ profiles with differing primary motives were conceptualised: Gossip Stalker, Relationship Stalker, Shy Aspirer, FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) Stalker and Anti-Stalker.
This research makes several important theoretical contributions to the identity and social comparison literature in digital contexts and to mediated voyeurism theory (Calvert, 2004). In addition it makes several empirical contributions, increasing our understanding of the millennials and their consumption behaviours as they emerge as the next great generational cohort of consumers.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Maclaran, Pauline, Supervisor
  • Reppel, Alex, Supervisor
Thesis sponsors
Award date1 Jun 2018
Publication statusUnpublished - 2018


  • Social Media
  • Facebook
  • Millannials
  • consumer behaviour
  • Teenage Identity
  • Social Media Voyeurism
  • social comparison

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