Institute of Art Design + Technology
Dún Laoghaire

Meabh O Looney 

BSc [Hons] Applied Psychology

I am a student in BSc Applied Psychology in IADT (Practice path). I have a particular interest in Cyber and Social Psychology, researching into online culture and the unique relationships the internet cultivates. I hope to complete a MSc in Digital Marketing and use my research skills and creativity honed from this degree to contribute to my career in the future

Project Description

This project focused on the niche online groups of real-person shipping within fandoms. Real-person shipping involves the belief and desire for two real celebrities to be in a relationship. This project investigates the role of social identity and hyperpersonal communication enables real person shipping. By analysing comments under YouTube compilation videos under the lens of these psychological theories, further understanding of these under-researched online groups.
Comments were analysed between two fandoms of popular Western ships. The ships investigated were ‘Larry Stylinson’ a ship between Louis Tomlinson and Harry Styles of One Direction fame and ‘Kaylor’, a ship between singer Taylor Swift and model Karlie Kloss.

Project Objectives

My thesis aimed to examine the motivations behind the real-person shipping community in online fandoms. There is limited research on this groups, although all research focuses on Asian fandoms, specifically Korean and Chinese pop media. I wanted to centre this project on Western pop culture as well as have a strong theoretical framework. This research project aimed to fill these gaps in the literature.

Project Outcomes

This project used Braun and Clarke’s (2021) thematic analysis methods to analyse 1,900 comments. This method resulted in four themes and seven subthemes. The four themes were 1) Social Comparison 2) Social Identification, with subthemes of emotional significance and group mindset 3) Conspiratorial Thinking, with subthemes of assurance and ideology 4) Coping Mechanisms, with subthemes of escapism, projection, and support-seeking. The study found that social identity (Tajfel & Turner, 1979) was a significant motivator for real-person shipping. As well this, interactions in this community showed signs of being more intense due to the facilitation of hyperpersonal communication (Walther, 2021).

Thesis Title

A Thematic Analysis of the Role of Social Identity and Hyper-Personal Communication in Real-Person Fandom Shipping Communities Online.