Now You See Me, Now You Don’t: Sexual Stigma and Alternative Identities in Twitter’s Alter Community


San Mateo, M.R. (2017). Now you see me, now you don’t: Sexual stigma and alternative identities in Twitter’s alter community, Unpublished Undergraduate Thesis, University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication.

This study looks into the potential of anonymity in virtual communities for self-expression and interaction. Specifically, I ask: how is Twitter utilized by the alter community to anonymously explore and express their sexuality?

Through an online ethnographic approach, I describe the alter community and detail how the members of the community participate and interact with each other, specifically observing the cultural regularities and emergent patterns that arise among them. In order to do this, I conducted semi-structured, face-to-face interviews and observed the Twitter posts of my interviewees.

Using thematic analysis, guided by a symbolic interactionist lens, I analyze the Twitter posts and the interviews to discover and understand the meanings attached to the alter community by its members. In doing so, I relate their motivations for participating to their social and cultural milieu. Finally, I connect my analyses of the community to broader discussions on sexuality and social stigma.

Through this study, I discuss anonymity in virtuality and theorize how this influences the participation of people in a particular online community. On a deeper level, I highlight and critique the dominant societal ideologies and expectations that motivate the alter community’s use of anonymity to express their sexuality.

Keywords: Twitter, anonymity, sexual stigma, online community, online ethnography

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