Graduation Year


Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

Jennifer Ma

Reader 2

Sheila Walker

Rights Information

© 2018 Ellen Thompson



1,000,000,000,000 people use Instagram and many use it on a daily basis, yet surprisingly few studies have been conducted to better understand how this social media platform affects our lives. This study is proposed to better understand how people use specific functions within the application for relationship maintenance. Participants will complete an online survey in which they will be randomly assigned to a hypothetical Instagram post. They will be told to imagine that it is either posted by a close friend or by an acquaintance in order to better understand how people treat in-group or out-group members. Their liking, commenting and unfollowing behaviors will be assessed, followed by various open-ended questions asking them about their reasoning for why they would like or not like the post, and so on. The results are expected to show that participants are more lenient and accepting of their friend’s offensive posts. They will also like and comment more on their friend’s post than on the acquaintance’s post, and will only unfollow an acquaintance. The severity of offensiveness will not matter as much for friend posts as it will for acquaintances. In the open-ended response section, their reasoning for why these findings are true will relate to Social Identity Theory because they will want to support their in-group members more, showing preferential treatment. It will also support Social Exchange Theory as they will run a cost-benefit analysis, evaluating whether or not it would be more harmful to the relationship if they did not interact, or more harmful to their reputation if they interact.

This thesis is restricted to the Claremont Colleges current faculty, students, and staff.