Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law

Sociology and Social Policy

Research Student: Gillian Mooney

Staying Classy On Facebook: performing class virtual social networks

The purpose of this research is to explore the ways in which individuals may perform social class identities through the use of social media services, specifically Facebook. The project will address how people not only use the platform as a site for performing their own classed identities, for others to view, but also use class indicators to interpret and understand the classed performances of others to identify and understand their own position in relation to others, and make sense of the social hierarchies in which they sit.


Prior to returning to education as a mature student, I worked as a project co-ordinator for a young people’s sexual health charity in Hull, East Yorkshire. After completing a part-time teaching qualification, and the first two years of a part-time undergraduate degree, I completed a full-time undergraduate degree course in Sociology at the University of Hull, graduating with first class honours. 

What motivated me to undertake PhD study?

As something of a latecomer to higher education, I hadn’t initially considered postgraduate education as something I would ever have access to, or be capable of pursuing. However, having been given the opportunity to study for a PhD, I feel strongly that gaining greater understandings of the workings of the world around us can only help to improve society and hopefully in some small way contribute to addressing inequality and oppression. 

What makes me passionate about my subject?

My experiences working with young people in deprived areas, and observing the effect social class had on their lives and life chances led me to consider social class as a central dividing factor in contemporary society. It can mean the potential difference between a life of considerable privilege and one of struggle. Popular debates on class often frame working class people as feckless or lazy, when in reality they are victims of circumstance and poor government policy. Class pervades almost all areas of life, and I wish to contribute to the understanding of how class is understood and performed as the way we interact and communicate with one another changes through the development of new technology that connects us.

What are my plans once I have completed my PhD?

I plan to pursue a career in research, my interests laying both in academic and social policy contexts. I would also like to teach within a university setting. The lecturers I was fortunate enough to have inspired me enormously, and I would relish the opportunity to attempt to do the same for others.

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