Fred Stutzman and Woodrow Hartzog, UNC-Chapel Hill
This research explore the creations and use of multiple profiles on a social media site as a communication boundary regulation mechanism. Utilizing grounded methods to analyze twenty theoretically-derived, semi-structured interviews, we identified three methods of boundary regulation: Two or more profiles on one site, use of privacy mechanisms to create functionally different audience zones, and the use of different social media tools for different audiences. Three types of boundary regulation in social media were identified. The first type, pseudonymity, was comprised of individuals who kept their identities private and unlinked. Practical obscurity, the second type, covered a majority of individuals studied. Individuals who utilize practical obscurity did not necessarily engage in concealment of identity, but they did not actively link between identities. Finally, those utilizing transparent separations created multiple, interlined identities largely for utility purposes. Our analysis of boundary regulation behavior identified four motives: Privacy, identity, utility and propriety. We hypothesize that individual motivational emphasis may predict the type of boundary regulation adopted. Finally, we evaluate boundary regulation for self-reported measures of efficacy and burden. We find mixed results; Level of technical skill or understanding may mediate efficacy, and size of friend network may mediate perceptions of burden.