Because social networks are an important aspect of the lived realities of those who participate in them, this study examined the way racial identity was signified, indicated, or displayed on social networks. A survey was distributed to 347 college students from a medium sized Midwestern university to assess ways in which participants depicted their racial identity on social media. The study looked at the use of photos, textual communication, concealment of racial identity, and interactions with race related content to assess how participants projected racial identity on social networks. Results suggested that racial identity is not intentionally projected on social networks, and participants do not attempt to hide or filter out their racial identities on social networks. Despite the finding that participants tended not to intentionally project racial identity, non-Caucasian participants used photos, text, and interactions to convey racial identity more than Caucasian participants. Findings suggesting that participants expect their racial identities are assumed through photos and visual appearance (i.e., skin color, appearance, and/or faces). Furthermore, participants expect that their racial identities can be inferred from written discussions, bios, and/or text; interests, interactions, and/or "friends" or network connections; as well as from heritage, culture, nationality, and/or holidays. In addition, culture and nationality affected the way African and African American respondents interacted with race-related content on social networks. Implications of the findings are also provided.


Laura Jacobi

Committee Member

Christopher Brown

Committee Member

Diane Coursol

Date of Degree




Document Type



Master of Arts (MA)


Arts and Humanities



Rights Statement

In Copyright