Gang-associated youth avoid violence by acting tough online, Stanford sociologist finds
Stanford sociologist Forrest Stuart examines how gang-associated youth on Chicago’s South Side use social media to challenge rivals. He finds that, contrary to common belief, most of these confrontations do not escalate to offline violence and, in some instances, deter it.
The menacing photos that Tevin, a young man affiliated with a Chicago street gang, posted on social media were dramatically different from the 20-year-old whom Stanford sociologist Forrest Stuart got to know during his two years of field work studying gang culture on the city’s South Side.
Several posts show Tevin posing with a large pistol. But as Stuart knew, there was a disingenuous story behind the posts. Tevin didn’t own a gun. The pistol Tevin brandished was borrowed and he didn’t plan to use it – except for posing with it for a series of photos, he told Stuart.
Stories like Tevin’s – whose full name, like others, Stuart disguises to protect him from harm – were some of the many reports about fabricated displays of bravado that he documented during an in-depth, qualitative field work project researching how gang-associated youth use social media in gang conflict. His findings were recently published in the social research journal Social Problems.