School of Communication and the Arts


Doctor of Philosophy in Communication (PhD)


Jessica D. Ptomey


Facebook, motherhood, phenomenology, presentation of self, sharenting




The purpose of this phenomenological study was to describe and interpret the sharenting of moms who post to Facebook. Sharenting is a term to describe the practice of parents sharing about their children on social media. The theory that guided this study was Erving Goffman’s presentation of self. More specifically, the phenomenon was analyzed to understand how moms use their appearance, setting, and mannerisms to construct motherhood with their performance team on social media. This study used a scroll back interview method to gather data to co-create the essence of sharenting and interpret its meaning. Twenty moms who had elementary-aged children and regularly posted to a personal Facebook account were selected from a mom’s group on Facebook named Mom Service. In-depth interviews were conducted at a local coffee shop. The interviews were transcribed, and the essence of sharenting was developed. The description of sharenting revealed that moms intentionally construct posts to establish an appearance that is either reflective or other-focused. The analysis of the setting revealed that for a performance to be believable, the performance team must conform to the expectations of the star performer and director—the mom. The analysis also showed that moms develop an etiquette for their social media mannerisms that are based on their beliefs, expectations, and interactions. These insights further the understanding of the ideal self, deviance, and authenticity, which advise practical tools for stakeholders. This interpretation informed three conversation starters for moms to use to engage their children in dialogue about social media literacy and sharenting. Future studies should investigate social media lurkers, children with their own accounts, and video sharing through stories.

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