First Advisor

Michele Ruth Gamburd

Term of Graduation

Winter 2024

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in Anthropology






Digital Ethnography, Queer Theory, Rurality, Social Capital, Social Media

Physical Description

1 online resource (vi, 135 pages)


This thesis is based on digital ethnographic fieldwork conducted in 2023 within Queer subcommunities on the social media sites Reddit and Twitter (now known as X) and data collected from interviews with Queer rural youth members of these communities. The data reveal that social media use directly influences the lives and actions of Queer rural youth, who use the space to build social connections, shape their personal identities, and seek advice pertaining to their in-person lives and decisions. By using these spaces, Queer rural youth build both bonding and bridging social capital, learn to subvert restrictions to their Internet access, and express their identity by conforming to the norms of the broader Queer community. Often, this conformity involves changing their lifestyle to meet the ideal standards that social media influencers, advertisers, and users set. In particular, many Queer rural youth consume suggested media, change their behavior, and even migrate to coastal urban centers in order to fulfill their perceived ideal of Queer life. Although the Internet serves as a haven for many youth, it exposes them to dangers as well, many of which will shift and change with future technological advancements in AI. This research enhances anthropological understanding of the significance of virtual spaces in contemporary society and their potential to both empower and endanger minority communities.


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