Identity in Social Media

Young people in modern Australia no longer perceive popularity based on how many actual friends they have but instead seek affirmation and accomplishment from statistics of a high followers list. Generation Y grew up with internet being a normal part of every day life, from crappy nokia phones with snake to high powered iPhones we have watched technology rapidly advance. Generation I (the current generation) don’t actually know what the world was like before social media, iPhones and wi-fi. When we get bored of the current ‘real’ world we live in we turn to our mobile phones and immediately find a false alternate reality in our social media apps. Instagram isn’t just a feed of photos it has its own culture of people living to impress, prove something, communicate something. “It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens” – Danah Boyd looks at teenagers quality of lives being affected by social media. How the current world we live in paternalism and protectionism haven’t allowed young people to become informed, thoughtful and engaged citizens through their online interactions. Instagram users have shared over 30 billion photos to date, and now share an average of 70 million photos per day.

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A podcast I watched by Judah Smith titled “Instagram Isn’t Real” talks about how our Instagram isn’t actually real life, its a highlight real of our lives where we only display what we want others to see. When did we begin to link our understanding of identity with a piece of technology. We have understanding of self, through some online coded data and numbers that don’t actually mean anything in this world.

For my cybercultures research project I will be looking at how modern people find their identity through social media, specifically looking at Instagram and young people. I want to understand more about how cyberculture looks at human interaction with technology and how we have become online citizens that depend on social media to gain an understanding of self.  A case study I will look at will be Essena O’Neill and her expose on “Instagram isn’t real.”

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Boyd, Danah. It’s Complicated. Print.

Gauntlett, David. Media, Gender, And Identity. London: Routledge, 2002. Print.

LePage, Evan. “A Long List Of Instagram Statistics And Facts That Prove Its Importance”. Hootsuite Social Media Management. N.p., 2015. Web. 31 Mar. 2016.

Saul, Heather. “The Instagram Star Who Quit The Internet Is Now One Of Most Influential People Online”. The Independent. N.p., 2016. Web. 31 Mar. 2016.

Mandiberg, M 2012, The Social Media Reader, NYU Press, New York.

10 thoughts on “Identity in Social Media”

  1. What you are looking at seems to be analysing the idea of always on connectivity in relation to personal branding, and how one chooses to present themselves. As someone who is analysing branding, I have some thoughts on it, in relation to my own cyberculture research (, and I happened to create a video touching on the idea of always on connectivity for BCM112 (, and also a video for CAOS203 which addresses ‘FOMO’, the fear of missing out, which is something that has emerged through social media ( I must point out, I’m not trying to just direct traffic back to my own work, I just think that some of these sources may provide useful links for understanding to help you with further research.

    My question to you is this: is Instagram not real, or is it a small part of our real selves? Do different social media networks map out different areas of ourselves, and when combined together as a whole digital presence, does that create a more ‘real’ understanding of who we are? Or are we forever caught in the idea that we only show the best parts of ourselves?
    If we only show the best parts of ourselves, then what happens when we no longer like the things we posted online from years ago? I know I personally have a YouTube channel I started in 2009, and let me tell you, some of those videos are shocking; but I refuse to take them down, simply because that is who I was at that point in time, regardless of whether it is the ‘best aspect of myself’ in any time. My boyfriend on the flip side, has chosen to delete all of his posts on Facebook before a certain date, because he didn’t like the way he interacted with the platform during that time. Does deleting this data make our representation less real, or more real to who we are in the present time?

    Perhaps it is also worth exploring the relationship people have not just with these social media platforms itself, but the attention they gain from it. The younger generation constantly ask for likes on their photo, just to make themselves appear more popular in these digital realms, to the point where I have a friend who has blatantly told me “If the post has less than 10 likes after 24 hours, I will delete it.” Curation of this content in the younger generation seems to focus less on themselves and what they want to display, and more on others and what the poster thinks they want to see.


  2. People say that we are engrossed in our phones, but then it photos go around of older generations being engrossed in newspapers back in the day. It’s like we are constantly looking to get away to somewhere else, look what else is going on, but the way we go about it changes and develops.
    There was rumors going around about Instagram changing it’s newsfeed structure from chronological to showing the most interacted posts at the top. A lot of people went nuts over this, announcing for followers to turn on their post notifications so no one misses out of their updates. It’s crazy how we fight for this attention and hope we don’t lose it if a feature changes on an app.

    There’s videos that go viral about social media obsessions, below is the video to “I Forgot my Phone” which reflects on how disengaged we are in what’s really happening around us.

    There is another video that shows both sides of social media: the highlight reel and the reality.

    The idea of people using social media to create their identity is very complicated, it is like creating a virtual extension of yourself, except with technology, there’s cloning of information, identities, data, etc. Anyone can be anyone, literally. So are you really you online?


  3. Hey, very relevant topic, I’m interested in the interaction between technology and identity. I’m glad you mentioned Essena O’Neill…I found it interesting how much backlash she got from people, especially other online personalities ( I felt a lot of these responses were unfair and missed her point, so I’d be interested to see where your research goes with that case study.
    Another interesting aspect to look into is the ‘like generators’ you can get for social media platforms, including instagram (, which, as the name implies, generate ways to get you likes/followers. It’s especially interesting when payments are involved in using these generators:


  4. Last year I explored this topic a little and it was so interesting, I also read Boyd’s text on the topic, a good read and am a fan of Judah Smith loved all the sources you were brining up. I think using Essena O’Neil as a case study is a perfect example as its relevant and timely. I totally agree that we struggle to disconnect, despite our notion that by being connected online means that it is quantified similarly to offline connections. There is some debate about this so you might want to explore it. In regards to the topic I wrote a blog post about it so you might want to explore some of my links and sources.

    I focused on the home being the centre of social interactions as its often where we communicate offline and online. As well as exploring how online communication and offline communication from a psychological and sociological stand point might be different or similar. This might be a useful area for you to explore. Also exploring the concept of the quantified self in regards to social media and likes, and the concept of like being tied to self worth might also be a resourceful avenue.

    Some sources on the like and self worth aspect.

    Overall love the concept and keen to see where you go with this.


  5. I really like your topic! I was in a media class the other day and someone said they would contemplate taking down a Facebook status or Instagram post if it didn’t get around 40 likes… To me, that’s the perfect example of who we are today when it comes to social media status.I think it’s really easy to get lost in the world of social media and create our own little personas. A lot of people also use different platforms to convey different parts of themselves. Facebook seems to be the diary of the average teen where Instagram is where we go to see everyone’s ‘perfect’ little lives.

    We live in a day and age where people are coined ‘Social Media Stars’. They post photos of themselves and some product they’re getting paid to promote and that’s them done for the day? It’s still so weird to me that people can create this whole other version of themselves just to get popular online.


  6. You’ve chosen a really interesting and oftentimes controversial topic to research and I’m glad you did. It seems to be a sort of moral panic these days regarding people and how they interact with the internet, their devices and particularly social media. Whether or not we’re all communicating face-to-face enough. Whether we use enough eye contact. A general sense of panic in regards to all of our social abilities. And I get it. I even agree with it to a certain extent. However I try not to get too caught up in the criticism of it all. I don’t like to spend the majority of my day looking at screens, but I also accept that it is a part of our lives now. I like to see kids playing outside, but I’m also completely understanding that sometimes an iPad is the best way to keep them amused and well-behaved at an airport or restaurant. I’m also super interested in the whole perception vs reality when it comes to our social media profiles. And how calculated a person can be about their posts – our Instagrams are our avenues for personal branding. Perhaps that’s something to look at – whether or not engaging in social media is detrimental to us or not? In terms of gaining employment etc.


  7. Maybe we shouldn’t dismiss social media and our portrayal of ourselves there as totally false. In my experience, my friends’ biggest fears, passions and moments are expressed on social media. Often I have been able to express features of my identity via message or sharing content which I would otherwise not have felt comfortable discussing in what we call ‘real life’. Yes social media displays the best of ourselves, but I fear that your argument also dismisses the opportunity for us to reveal ourselves at our most vulnerable. Social media isn’t necessarily just about what we post. It isn’t a one-way communication channel, it’s a two way feedback loop, an aspect of computer systems and cyberculture which is absolutely essential in understanding why the internet has been so successful. When we interact with and respond to stimuli, such as when a person tweets or posts a picture or makes a video.


  8. I think its a little sad, how others can reminisce about the days when there was no internet or social media yet I was born too late to experience that. If I wanted to, then its my choice to refrain from technology and abstain from social media but the world is different know and it seems a necessity to be on social media in order to “keep up”, Information flow and personal updates is likely to keep up this fast pace and all we can do is embrace it. By choice, I spent a year away from using Facebook as much as it was reinvigorating as well as empowering to not feel that all my time + energy was being devoted to social media yet there was something socially missing and a sense of disconnection from my peers during this time.


  9. Along with the thought that social media and mainly Instagram has become and tool in the affirmation and reassuring users that their life is worthwhile, that it is #goals, that they are attractive and people want to be like them, it also gives rise to a greater level of societal narcissism. It is driven by not only physical appearance such as their face and body but has also become a means to show of wealth, class and status, relationships…all things people use to leverage themselves above others.
    We also now live in a time where ‘social media influencer’ is now a job description and these people are actively sought after by PR agencies and paid to post on social media. Whilst it seems easy to amass such a large following – just take aesthetic photos with popular brands or products, just take a few bikini or shirtless shots, take photos at the beach or of your lunch with an inspiring caption – it is deceptive because with over 300 million active users online it is hard to stand out. Everyday users are chasing this almost unattainable dream of becoming Insta-famous because it is such a normal thing these days and it’s actually quite sad that for some people, this is where they invest their energy and time.
    It is definitely a worth-while topic you are looking at because in recent years it has become so engrained in people’s lives to the point where for some, it is now a subconscious thought.


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