When I was younger, I loved hearing about how my Mum and Dad met. It was as though the universe planned for them to cross paths. Sorry – Mum and Dad, you aren’t THAT old but back in those days, everything was different.
With no PCs, mobile phones and definitely no social media, it was normal for people to meet their friends and partners out at parties, dancing, out on the street, work, etc.
Psychiatrist, Fredric Neuman shared a story about a single girl in his workplace. He explained that the woman appeared reserved when she was around the man, she was interested in. This stand-offish behaviour resulted in the man never making the first move. He says, “women…are embarrassed by the idea of admitting openly that they would like to find someone to date” (2013).
This got me thinking, I wonder what this girl’s Instagram and Facebook page was like? She may depict herself as a fun-loving and confident girl.
Smith and Watson (2014) explain online identities as being “constructed and situated, and not identical with its flesh-and-blood maker”.
With access to face-tuning, editing and filtering software, can we all really be “authentic in virtual environments”? (See: Shameless Podcast for unpacking of face-tuning/editing etc.)
Additionally, with the flexibility of the information, we share… our authenticity is bound to be “manufactured”.
Speak for yourself…
On the note of online identities, I wanted to explore how I truly present myself on social media platforms, specifically Instagram. You may have heard influencers or individuals say that “Instagram is just a highlight reel” (Liang, 2018). Yes, Instagram is a highly performative podium, so I thought I’d look deeper into my choice of images, comments and descriptions.
Let’s first look at my Instagram profile picture.
As I touched base on my recent blog, an enticing and happy image will assist in luring individuals to my profile. I don’t mean to sound cocky here but it’s true. Instagram is similar to a stage show. Marshall (2010) suggests that our profile pictures, images, etc. act as ‘props’ and assist in conveying messages about our personalities. This image was on my 21st birthday party and I am clearly done up. Being the main image of my profile, this implies I am always happy and done up.
Scrolling through my profile, my following lifestyle is betrayed as:
Having a busy social life
Can afford new outfits for events
Let’s unpack these myths:
- You will find me probably with my friends from work. I will catch up with them whilst I’m on shift. If not, you’ll find me catching up with close friends over a coffee. I also spend 80% of my time with my family.
- If I go to parties, it is generally straight after a shift at work and I arrive late.
- I usually hire outfits or borrow other friends or dig deep in my closet and re-wear clothes.
- I have only been overseas twice! I only just travelled to Europe last year for 1 month, but I made sure everyone knew about it.
So why do I do this?
From an individual sexualising themselves, portraying a completely different identity or even putting on a happy face on their social media images – this is some form of altering your online identity. We all do it in some form.
“when life is captured, captioned and shared, young people are subject to increased scrutiny of self and others” (2014, pg. 104). So maybe it’s because we care what others think about us?
There are so many ideas behind why social media (particularly Instagram) makes us reveal different online identities.
Our online identities differ from our offline selves because the world is impacted by particular ideologies. We are expected to fit into a particular class, the definition of ‘beauty’, age, sexuality, etc (Brown, 2019).
Guta and Karolak (2015) suggest that individuals introduce new identities in the online world to avoid “rejection in the online community”. Inventing someone who is potentially better looking, more fun, skinnier, etc. increases reachability and engagement (pg. 118).
Essentially, maybe sharing images that are performative and present me as a happier person assists in vicariously believing I am a happier person? Or is it just because Instagram has turned into a highlight reel? I don’t know but I can’t deny that I will continue to present myself in a different frame online. Even if individuals believe they are real and raw online – we will never be able to tell the layers of themselves they reveal online.
Adam Brown, ‘Online Identity 3’, April 2 2019, Available at: https://makingsocialmedia101.wordpress.com/2019/04/02/week-6/
Brenda Liang, September 16 2018, ‘Instagram is just a highlight reel’ Available at: https://brendaliang.com/2018/09/16/instagram-is-just-a-highlight-reel/
Fredric Neuman, January 11 2013, ‘Dating: Then and Now’ Retrieved from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/fighting-fear/201301/dating-then-and-now. Accessed 10 December 2019.
Gabriel, F 2014, ‘Sexting, selfies and self-harm: young people, social media and the
performance of self-development’, Media International Australia, no. 151, pp. 104-12
Guta, H and Karolak, M 2015, ‘Veiling and blogging: social media as sites of identity
negotiation and expression among Saudi women’, Journal of International Women’s
Studies, vol. 16, no. 2, pp. 115-127.
Marshall, PD 2010, ‘The promotion and presentation of the self: celebrity as marker of presentational media’, Celebrity Studies, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 35-48
Smith, S and Watson, J 2014, ‘Virtually Me: A Toolbox about Online Self Presentation’, in Poletti, A and Rak, J, Identity Technologies: Constructing the Self Online, The University of Wisconsin Press, Madison, pp. 70-95.
All images were taken by Madeleine Buruma unless specified otherwise.