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Follow the rules and no one will get hurt: performing boundary work to avoid negative interactions when using social network sites

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Social network sites (SNSs), like Facebook, have widespread appeal among emerging adults, yet they also present the potential for negative interactions. Interviews (N = 227) with emerging adults from Wave 3 of the National Study of Youth and Religion reveal the boundary work emerging adults undergo to limit negative SNS interactions and how they navigate the dynamic and permeable boundaries between positive and negative interactions. This work includes following three informal rules meant to limit negative interactions: do not share excessive personal information, do not spy on or stalk other users, and make online friendships with people one already knows. Several important implications result from this boundary work: crossing boundaries can have negative offline and online consequences, following the informal rules helps stabilize SNS communities by limiting the potential and severity of harmful interactions, and SNS may be popular among emerging adults but some disenchantment is not uncommon and some emerging adults may not use SNS as a result.
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Keywords: boundary work; emerging adults; social interaction; social network sites; symbolic boundaries

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Wheaton College, 501 College Avenue, Wheaton, IL, 60187, USA 2: Department of Sociology, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN, 46556, USA

Publication date: February 1, 2015

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