Influence of the Media on the Possible Selves of African American Adolescent Girls
Reynolds, Akilah Aisha
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Possible selves represent individuals’ thoughts about who they can become in their future and are particularly salient during adolescence (Oyserman, 2006). These future focused selves include hoped for possible selves-- the desirable selves that one wishes to become and feared possible selves-- the selves one dreads and wishes to avoid becoming (Markus & Nurius, 1986). Literature indicates that possible selves are influenced by expectations associated with social identities, such as race and gender (Oyserman & Fryberg, 2006), and that media provides images of what is possible (Marcus & Nurius, 1986). However, there is a dearth of literature that explicitly explores media and possible selves among African American adolescent girls. Given these girls are a unique population who consume significant amounts of media (The Nielsen Company, 2013) and may be influenced by Black media images (Martin, 2008), the current study explored the influence of the media on the possible selves of this population. Participants included 176 African American adolescent girls (Mage = 15.64 years; SD = 1.52). Girls completed questionnaires assessing: demographics, possible selves (Oyserman & Markus, 1990; Zhu, Tse, Cheung, & Oyserman, 2014), Black-oriented television exposure (Calzo & Ward, 2009), viewing motivations (Ward & Friedman, 2006), and social networking use. In addition to exploring African American girls’ media use habits, hoped for and feared possible selves, a series of twelve bivariate logistic regressions were conducted to explore Black-oriented television consumption and viewing motivations as predictors of possible selves. Almost seventy-three percent of girls in this sample watched 30 minutes to 10 hours of television, primarily Black-oriented television (86%). Almost all (98.3%) reported daily social networking use, including Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. The most frequent hoped for and feared possible selves that were endorsed by the sample were within the educational, occupational, and lifestyle domains. Statistical analyses revealed that viewing to learn predicted participants’ endorsement of hoped for possible selves in the occupational domain. The implications of these findings include a discussion of this sample as relatively well-adjusted, critical media users, who have positive possible selves for which they are striving to achieve.