Mobile Technology and Social Identity

Mobile Technology and Social Identity

Virginia Yonkers (University at Albany (SUNY), USA)
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 13
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8239-9.ch059
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Cell phones and mobile technology allow an individual to create a new level of social identity in which a person does not have to be physically present to identify with or be part of an in-group. Research on mobile technology and social identity can be grouped into three categories of findings. The mobile phone is an extension of the individual. Mobile technology is used to create and maintain social networks and a feeling of belonging with reference groups, social networks, and aspired social networks. Mobile technology crosses temporal, physical, cultural, and power boundaries to create status (or lack thereof) within a community.
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Cell phones and mobile technology has created a new level of social identity in which a person does not have to physically be present to categorize themselves or play a role expected when they perceive themselves as part of a group. In addition, group norms, values, and communication can influence an individual that may not be physically present; or, conversely, individuals can influence group norms, values, and communication (Campbell & Park, 2008; Sugiyama, 2011) from a distance. Mobile technology can also blur lines between groups or create new group boundaries through influence from outside of the physical community or group (Fortunati, 2002; Sugiyama). This access to other groups within non-physical social spaces also allows individuals to construct a potential social identity to become part of a group to which an individual might aspire. In other words, mobile technology allows for a constructed social identity based on social asperations rather than physical social inclusion.

When discussing social identity, it is important to understand the two leading theories of identity in groups. The first, Social Identity Theory, focuses on the self-placement or self-categorization of an individual which leads to self-identity (Stets & Burke, 2000). The focus of Social Identity Theory is for an individual and perceived group members to establish the boundaries between groups (intergroup relationships) in order to create a sense of identity in relationship to those perceived as the in-group (Hogg & Terry, 2000; Hogg, Terry, & White, 1995; Stets & Burke). In other words, individuals accept and take on the values, beliefs, behaviors, norms, communication styles, appearance, and knowledge (epistemology) of the group with whom the individual would like to identify (Stets & Burke; Skitka, 2003). Depending on the field of research, the terms used to identify the group with which individuals want to identify may be a reference group (consumer behavior), the in-group (sociology, education), a community (sociology, human development), a profession (education, business), or a community of practice (education).

The second theory, Identity Theory, comes from the perspective of the individual and the perceived role the individual has within a group (Stets & Burke, 2000). This theory addresses the intragroup relationships and the behavior of an individual to maintain status within a group (Hogg, Terry, & White, 1995). In analyzing social structures within a group, Identity Theory tries to explain the “complex interrelatedness” (Stets & Burke, 2000, p. 227) of group member perceived roles and status.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Mobile Mediated Communication: Any interaction between at least two people using a mobile devise.

Apparatgeist Theory: This is a theory in which the mobile devise becomes more than the technology and affordances of the apparatus. The devise becomes an extension of both the individual and the group, a symbol of the group’s social and behavioral norms.

Social Network: Social group loosely connected to an individual through media, shared interests, and/or shared resources.

Reference Groups: A group of people in which a person either is a member or aspires to be a member. This group influences communication and behavioral norms.

Social Identity: The social self an individual presents in a given context or environment.

Social Identity Theory: Social theory which contends that individuals self-categorize or place themselves with a group which then affects the individual’s behavior and communication norms.

Identity Theory: Group theory in which an individual’s role within a group will affect his or her behavior and communication in order to maintain status in that group.

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