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Youth, sexuality and social media : reporting on digital intimacy

Burcu Korkmazer (UGent) , Sander De Ridder (UGent) and Sofie Van Bauwel (UGent)
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Organization
Abstract
In contemporary Western societies, young people are growing up in digital media contexts with easily accessible digital platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat. This is making their everyday life heavily mediated as these social media facilitate the way young people connect with their peers, but also perform and experience their sexual and intimate identities online (Gabriel, 2014; Mediaraven & LINC, 2016). As a result, concerns about online reputation and profiling are coming to the forefront, making the controlling of a reputation an important form of immaterial labour. Moreover, this digitization of youth’s everyday life world has become a site of increasing public interest. Especially since 2015, there is a significant rise in the number of news articles published on youth, sexuality and social media (Korkmazer, De Ridder & Van Bauwel, 2018). This created a particular language to talk about young people’s digital intimacy, specifically on the sharing of self-produced sexual content online. As we find it crucial to understand the broader digitization of youth culture, there is a need for more knowledge on the cultural discourses surrounding youth, sexuality and social media. With this presentation, we question the moral and social values on digital intimacy present in our contemporary society. Therefore we examine the dominant discourses in both the public debate as within digital youth cultures. First, we analyze the print media discourses in Northern Belgian newspapers and magazines (N=232) on youth, sexuality and social media, more specifically on youth sexting, by using a textual analysis. The results of our study show that the public discourse consists of a deviancy discourse where sexting is presented as a risky practice and youth as ‘passive victims’. Second, we look at how this deviancy discourse is structured. We use a Foucauldian Feminist approach and conduct a discourse theoretical analysis on these news articles. Our findings show that the discourse in newspapers reporting on youth, sexuality and social media consists of three recurring discursive practices. Namely, the problematization of social media, the legitimization by authoritative voices and the gendered categorization o young people. Young girls in particular are extensively included in the debate. Third, we studied the specific understandings young people themselves have on digital intimacy. We conduct a discourse theoretical analysis of the discursive statements common within digital youth cultures, based on an ethnographic observation of 6 different groups of young people (14-18 years old). Our findings reveal that there is a common sense discourse within youth cultures regarding digital intimacy. This is strengthened by the use of rationalizations and hetero-patriarchal ideals of gender and sexuality. Finally, this presentation concludes that discourses are regulating the (moral) boundaries of the digital intimacy young people experience through social media.

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Chicago
Korkmazer, Burcu, Sander De Ridder, and Sofie Van Bauwel. 2019. “Youth, Sexuality and Social Media : Reporting on Digital Intimacy.” In Children’s Online Worlds, Digital Media and Digital Literacy Conference.
APA
Korkmazer, B., De Ridder, S., & Van Bauwel, S. (2019). Youth, sexuality and social media : reporting on digital intimacy. Children’s Online Worlds, Digital Media and Digital Literacy Conference. Presented at the Children’s Online Worlds, Digital Media and Digital Literacy Conference.
Vancouver
1.
Korkmazer B, De Ridder S, Van Bauwel S. Youth, sexuality and social media : reporting on digital intimacy. Children’s Online Worlds, Digital Media and Digital Literacy Conference. 2019.
MLA
Korkmazer, Burcu, Sander De Ridder, and Sofie Van Bauwel. “Youth, Sexuality and Social Media : Reporting on Digital Intimacy.” Children’s Online Worlds, Digital Media and Digital Literacy Conference. 2019. Print.
@inproceedings{8605769,
  abstract     = {In contemporary Western societies, young people are growing up in digital media contexts
with easily accessible digital platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat. This is
making their everyday life heavily mediated as these social media facilitate the way young
people connect with their peers, but also perform and experience their sexual and intimate
identities online (Gabriel, 2014; Mediaraven & LINC, 2016). As a result, concerns about online
reputation and profiling are coming to the forefront, making the controlling of a reputation
an important form of immaterial labour. Moreover, this digitization of youth’s everyday life
world has become a site of increasing public interest. Especially since 2015, there is a
significant rise in the number of news articles published on youth, sexuality and social media
(Korkmazer, De Ridder & Van Bauwel, 2018). This created a particular language to talk about
young people’s digital intimacy, specifically on the sharing of self-produced sexual content
online. As we find it crucial to understand the broader digitization of youth culture, there is a
need for more knowledge on the cultural discourses surrounding youth, sexuality and social
media.
With this presentation, we question the moral and social values on digital intimacy present in
our contemporary society. Therefore we examine the dominant discourses in both the public
debate as within digital youth cultures. First, we analyze the print media discourses in
Northern Belgian newspapers and magazines (N=232) on youth, sexuality and social media,
more specifically on youth sexting, by using a textual analysis. The results of our study show
that the public discourse consists of a deviancy discourse where sexting is presented as a risky
practice and youth as ‘passive victims’. Second, we look at how this deviancy discourse is
structured. We use a Foucauldian Feminist approach and conduct a discourse theoretical
analysis on these news articles. Our findings show that the discourse in newspapers reporting
on youth, sexuality and social media consists of three recurring discursive practices. Namely,
the problematization of social media, the legitimization by authoritative voices and the
gendered categorization o young people. Young girls in particular are extensively included in
the debate. Third, we studied the specific understandings young people themselves have on
digital intimacy. We conduct a discourse theoretical analysis of the discursive statements 
common within digital youth cultures, based on an ethnographic observation of 6 different
groups of young people (14-18 years old). Our findings reveal that there is a common sense
discourse within youth cultures regarding digital intimacy. This is strengthened by the use of
rationalizations and hetero-patriarchal ideals of gender and sexuality. Finally, this
presentation concludes that discourses are regulating the (moral) boundaries of the digital
intimacy young people experience through social media. },
  author       = {Korkmazer, Burcu and De Ridder, Sander and Van Bauwel, Sofie},
  booktitle    = {Children's Online Worlds, Digital Media and Digital Literacy Conference},
  language     = {eng},
  location     = {Athens},
  title        = {Youth, sexuality and social media : reporting on digital intimacy},
  year         = {2019},
}