Testing Optimal Distinctiveness Theory in the Virtual Word: Let'S Get Digital! Digital!




Soler, Jasmine

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Optimal Distinctiveness Theory (ODT) is a well-established theory that predicts and explains individual's identity expression (Leonardelli et al., 2010). There have been several studies that show support for ODT; however, these studies only examine identity expression offline. As social media becomes a more salient part of our everyday lives, it becomes increasingly important to understand how individuals are expressing themselves online. In this study, I aimed to show that the predictions derived from ODT translate to how individuals express themselves through social media. In turn, this study tested the effect of manipulating one's need to belong and need to be distinct on how they virtually express their identities as well as test the relationship between social needs and audience diversity on identity expression. The results of this study did not support the hypotheses; however, this may be indicative of multiple pathways to social needs satisfaction and a better approach to experimentally combining the theoretical perspectives of ODT and audience diversity.


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Optimal Distinctiveness Theory, Social, Social Media