Document Type


Version Deposited

Published Version

Publication Date


Publication Title

Social Media + Society




While how to engage students in online settings is a popular topic of study, largely left out are the ways in which virtual learning environments (VLEs) have implications for identity performance (and subsequently learning quality). This case study pairs a walkthrough analysis of Zoom with an open-ended survey (n = 250, M = 21.5) to investigate how VLE affordances impact student identifications. Findings indicate that students prefer Zoom because it is “user-friendly,” forgoing wordy options and instead presenting a more “appified” user interface. Students were concerned about their classmates and professors seeing their physical backgrounds, particularly those who reported family incomes below $50,000. Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) who identify as women feared being judged based on physical appearance. Overall, Zoom seems to discourage identity performance norms that are common via popular social media apps, and thus, students rarely perceive any possible identity affordances. Instead, Zoom feels different, and users are led to perceive turning on cameras, showing their live faces, and revealing their physical backgrounds as uncomfortable and not connected to their course-related needs.


© The Author(s) 2023. This Open Access article has a CC-BY-NC 4.0 license.

Publication of this article was supported by the 2022-23 Rowan University Libraries Open Access Publishing Fund.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License