ABSTRACT

The online setting is full of expressional and interactional benefits and risks. Identifying their effects and the reasons behind those effects requires an understanding of behaviour, one that can be sharpened by theoretical tools. These tools, when combined with how participants interact and express themselves, can aid in finding gaps in theoretical understanding. As there are areas of behaviour that theory has thus far been unable to explain in terms of the unique characteristics of the online environment, past theory needs to be re-examined and even updated. The dynamics of online hate prevalent today can be mapped by taking a closer look at social media with the theoretical explanations of Social Identity Theory (SIT) and its implications for group dynamics in reinforcing behaviours and attitudes. The framework both provides a helpful explanation of popular forms of expression and social connections online and also pinpoints dynamics that can foster a great deal of online behavioural patterns popular today, opening the door to further investigation through new points of view. The online setting presents some new dynamics that allow users to shape who they are, how they are perceived and who they can access. Together, these changes represent an evolved social space that can be modelled in new ways.