Date of Conferral







Abbie Brown


Technological advancements continue to increase online accessibility and the virtual population. As students engage with these advancements, their lives and identities will be on a worldwide platform. The realities of online identities present a challenge for educators to teach students how to manage those online identities. Researchers have studied the after-effects of online identities, but there is a gap in understanding the individual's thought process during the creation of online identities. The purpose of this interpretative phenomenological analysis was to understand the perspectives of working high school graduates regarding the creation of online identities. The research questions were designed to elicit recent high school graduates' perceptions or viewpoints about creating online identities. The conceptual framework for this study included social identity theory and computer-mediated communication theory. Data were collected from 9 face-to-face interviews, including the creation of summary sheets, and were analyzed via member checking and extensive manual coding. Eight themes emerged, revealing that online identities were created to support social connections. The participants' responses generated 4 types of online identities: real, desired, enhanced, and deceptive. Participants did not place consideration into the idea that they were creating an identity. Recommendations included an application for educators to model online behavior and to help students manage their online identities. Further studies could include a data gathering tool that uses an anonymous platform. These findings can inform curriculum and expand the landscape of the literature toward the social change goal of helping students grow and thrive in the online world in a safe, effective, and ethical manner.