Psychosocial Stages of Symbolic Action in Social Media

27 Pages Posted: 19 Apr 2012

Date Written: April 18, 2012


Social media provides new capabilities for engaging in symbolic action through digital content and network structure. Most social media research assumes that people engage in similar symbolic actions regardless of their developmental maturity. Developmental psychology, however, argues that people are capable of different symbolic engagement and exhibit predictable social needs during different stages of life, suggesting that they may use social media in very different ways at different stages. This research note explores the implications of Erikson’s psychosocial theory on symbolic action using social media, and concludes that people are likely to use social media in fundamentally different ways, depending on their stage of psychosocial development. These conclusions have numerous implications for social media theory, research methodology, and practice.

Keywords: social media, social networks, psychosocial theory

Suggested Citation

Kane, Gerald C., Psychosocial Stages of Symbolic Action in Social Media (April 18, 2012). Available at SSRN: or

Gerald C. Kane (Contact Author)

Boston College ( email )

140 Commonwealth Avenue
Chestnut Hill, MA 02467
United States


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