| WE ARE WHAT WE POST
An analysis of the affects social media has on adolescent females by investigating the contents
BA (Hons) Fashion Promotion and Imaging
Word Count: 7200
26th January 2018
Literature Review …………………………………………………………………………………………………….4
Chapter 1: Self-presentation ……………………………………………………………………………………10
Chapter 2: …………………………..
Chapter 3: ………………………………….
List of Illustrations …………………………
“We humans have carved, painted, drawn, sculpted and written about ourselves since we first found ways of making marks in the world.” J.W. Rettburg (2014).
In todays digital culture, adolescents have been identified as the generations “digital natives” (Pensky, 2001), resulting in the highest consumptions of internet use. Since the development of new technology and the rise of digital culture it is easier to create and share content online of our self-representation. Especially within Western society it has been proposed that the evolution of social media has evolved tremendously as a major influence in todays digital culture.
Valkenburg & Peter (2007) states that the effects of social networking sites upon adolescent adults varies according to the age, gender and degree of maturation.
With this generations effortless accessibility to modern digital technology, it is easier to create and share content online of our self-representation. The majority of content shared through social media sites (SNSs) consist usually of visual images, hyperlinks, and textual information that these online users post to project an online self. Self-presentation is generally the expression of ‘audience-pleasing’ motivated by a desire to make an ‘impression’ on others individuals that corresponds to one’s ideals. As such, “self-presentation is centrally involved in impression management and the projection of an online identity” (cf. Schlenker, 1980; Naughton, 2000; Lanier, 2010).
To be able to investigate the construction of online or social identity on social platforms, it is imperative to first comprehend the definition of identity and consider the different methods of self-presentation in todays digitally driven culture.
The most basic function of self-presentation is to define the nature of a social situation (Goffman, 1959). From Erving Goffman point of view, identity is understood through interaction and performance. Supporting this, emphasised by George J. McCall and J. L. Simmons’ theory on role identity, “the character and the role that an individual devises for himself (herself as well) as an occupant of a particular social position” (McCall and Simmons, 1987). This is typically improvised as individuals seek an imaginative perspective of oneself in a position, often a rather idealised view of oneself. Arguably however Tajfel (1979) proposes that social categorisation give a sense of social identity, a source of pride and self-esteem.
The Power of Social Media
The Internet has profoundly changed the human experience. Born into a digital culture of mass media,”we use the mediation of technology to help us see ourselves better, to understand ourselves or to improve ourselves” (JW Rettberg, 2014) . Social media is about communication with others. Many social media sites not only grant users to generate virtual profiles but to visually display direct links to their social networks (boyd and Ellison, 2007; Kaplan and Haenlein, 2010; Lenhart et al., 2010)
Jensens (2003) theory proposes that “adolescents use the Internet in an attempt to further elucidate their identities” and may be able to explore their ideal identities, expand their knowledge of the world, or find new role models or attachment figures (Jensen, 2003). Social media is used as a platform offering an opportunity for teenagers to become connected to a wide array of individuals. It allows unparalleled breadth of social exposure, while at the same time limiting communication through nonverbal cues such as body language and facial expression.
It is of great importance to examine the affects that social media has on adolescent developmental processes and generate plausible hypotheses in the Digital Age. Despite many social changes, adolescence remains a critical period for development in terms of biological changes, cognitive development, social learning and formation of a consolidated self. The end point of development may be defined as successful adult functioning within society (Rutter & Sroufe, 2000) but should be equally aware of how social media is used to reflect upon ourselves.
Having observed several themes around identity and representation, one key theoretical approach linked within them is the sociological approach. A topic I would like to focus on throughout this dissertation is how an individual may choose to visually project oneself online through the use of language and images. Theorist John Berger (1972) highlights the premise that the way we visualise certain things is determined by our beliefs and experiences of the world we know differently.
Online interactions are progressively expanding their content in involving images as an effective way of self-presentation rather than the use of text. Selfies, which usually consist of an image containing a face is considered an effective medium for grabbing a viewers attention as a face signifies ones identity. Comparing to other online content, selfies generate more likes and comments then content containing text. Today’s online culture use selfies as a prominent tool as a means of communication (Gunn Enli and Nancy Thumin 2012). A selfie also exists in a social context, once shared. But just as importantly, creating and sharing a selfie or a stream of selfies is a form of self-reflection and self- creation.
Many young women often aspire to be flawless and perfect when it comes to their physical appearance. and describe the perfect ideal as tall, extremely thin, and blonde (Parker et al., 1995). Unortunately, this ideal is unattainable to the vast majority of women, contributing to depression, low self-esteem, and eating disorders (e.g., Denniston, Roth, & Gilroy, 1992).
Micro-celebrities & Self Branding (250)
Evidently emerging from the literature is notions of interpretation of impression and the projection of identity on the internet as well as the assessment of the impacts online social networking sites. Academics approach these concerns from various perspectives such as writing on the negative effects mainstream media has on our own self identity and the body image aiming to conform to social norms. Other theories include exploring identity experiments, self-objectification and gender politics. Nevertheless how these visual representations of shared content is emulated by young adolescents. Subsequently, this thesis will aim to scrutinise authenticity online, self-representation and analyse the negative effects social media sites have on young adults.
Chapter One seeks to address the authenticity of online content on social media platforms by examining the profiles of Instagram’s public figures. By applying Goffman’s theory on impression and the conceptualisation of identity construction in the study of human interaction from his book, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (1965), as well as examining the affects of online culture user-generated trend the ‘selfie’ or digital self-portrait through Walkers (2005) theory of how an individuals image is represented online. Also with the support of Susan Sontag’s discussion on the power of photography in relation to the idealistic notions of Capitalist societies in her book On Photography (1979). These theories will be applied to public figure and make up guru Gina Shkeda’ verified Instagram profile to investigate self-exploration within her photographers and how social value are represented.
Chapter Two touches on the importance of race targeted towards Black Women in western society particularly within mainstream media such as YouTube, comparing stereotypical social ideologies to cultural body ideals and femininity. I will be and how the idealistic body image should be and online shaming. (200)
Chapter Three brings together the power of advertising and branding by using ‘micro-celebrities’ to endorsements beauty products using social media. (200)
Chapter One: (2000)
As mentioned in my Methodology, within this chapter I will attempt to analyse examples of visual content shared across online profiles on social media sites. I will be applying Goffman’s theory of impression management on the roles individuals portray by discussing the various affects and influences these images and use of language had on adolescent females. My research will consider how adolescent females view these representation of femininity and project the ideology of beauty ideals in todays society whilst also examining how they use content to influence their self-presentation online.
Instagram is a modern form of online communication which unveiled as a free mobile photo app by Kevin Systrom and Mike Kreiger in October 2010. Since the launch it has seen rapid growth and quickly emerged as one of todays generations most popular mediums used to easily create and share content. Figure. 1. displays a screenshot image of public figure and make-up guru Gina Shkeda from her ‘verified’ Instagram profile. The image presents a framed mid shot selfie of her face photographed in a slight angle. Within the close-up it is clear that Gina Shkeda is in a layindown position holding the camera outstretched above her head looking directly up into the lens of the camera. The direct eye contact creates a connection between the object – here being Gina Shkeda – and the viewer, enticing them…… Depending on how the viewer sees the image, it can be portrayed as flirty and/or in a seductive manner (looking up or sideways at the viewer) however not in a sexualising way. And although her body is not presented in the shot (figure 1) her left shoulder is bare and visible to the viewers. With the screenshot only showing her face as the focal point, the rest of her body neck down shown is covered up leaving little room to show an extension of her neck and shoulder. As Katie Warwick points out, the outstretched arm is like a (forced) embrace, placing the viewer between the face of the person photographed and the camera (Warfield 2014).
There has been numerous questions surrounding the topic of identity regarding day-to-day life on social media and how individuals choose to project themselves. Hoffman believed that With social media platforms becoming vastly more popular it has been highlighted that narcissism and self-esteem hold important consideration to the shift of ‘selfie culture’ (e.g., Martino, 2014; Walker, 2013).
It is only appropriate that I include the definition of the term ‘selfie’ within this chapter. Urban Dictionary’s definition of the term selfie says:
“A symptom of the current narcissistic epidemic whereby the subject takes a filtered, highly polished (often completely over-exposed) photograph of themselves and uploads it to Instagram, Facebook, or some other social media outlet. It’s often motivated by a need for adulation, attention, or validation…” (Urban Dictionary).
The selfie illustrated in figure. 1 and Urban Dictionary’s definition supports Walker’s point of the ‘selfie’ as “digital cameras certainly make taking self-portraits easier than conventional cameras did” (Walker 2005:1). In earlier environments self- portraits were taken by professional artists’ using the camera as a protection from the audience. These self-portraits became fashionable collectors’ items, and towards the end of the twentieth century, artists have increasingly used their own bodies in their art. Walker further implies that self-portraiture todays acts as tool of self-revelation, “in which the digital eye is turned inward” (Walker, 2005). Arguably, Susan Sontag’s theory shows concerns that “photography has become almost as widely practiced an amusement as sex and dancing – which means that, like every mass art form, photography is not practiced by most people as an art. It is mainly a social rite, a defence against anxiety, and a tool of power” (Sontag, 1979). Sontag is implying that the use of photography here is not as authentic and genuine and that the photoghapers of todays generation
From further analysing Figure. 1, Gina Shkeda is pictured with a fresh clean face showing no trace of make up on her skin. Her hair is loosely tied back away from her face granting exposure of an accentuated jaw line with a slight tilt of her head, as she peers into the camera with her eyes open and visible but not fully enlarged this gives the viewers an innocent perspective of her as she’s laying down. According to Susan Bordo’s these are the “mechanisms by which the subject at times becomes enmeshed in collusion with forces that sustain her own oppression” (Bordo, 1995:167). It is believed and taught that to capture the right selfie portrait the object needs to conform to a set of rules in order to create the perfect image.
In 2014, a unrehearsed trend circulated the internet of women posting self- portraits of themselves online with no make up on with the hashtag: #Nomakeupselfie. The phenomenon attracted many females world-wide to participate in the social movement especially targeting adolescent females to partake in this user-generated trend. However in many ways the selfie is not entirely new, it is rather new media; the selfie being a mirror and a camera.
Public figures idolised as
Youtube Beauty Vlogger, over 480,000 subscribers
Certified on Instagram, 808,000 followers
22 Years Old, Canada
Twitter Fan: “If I could wake up as beautiful as @Ginashkeda i’d be the happiest girl alive #naturalbeauty”
Gina: “Girl I have micro bladed brows, last extensions in and lip injections – I don’t even look like this…You’re flawless”
Figure Two: Essena O’Neill
Certified Instagram Model, followers unknown – inactive
‘LetsBeGameChangers’ – questioning social media and encouraging followers to think about the way they use social media
20 Years Old, Australia
Chapter Two (1250)
Many young women often aspire to be flawless and perfect when it comes to their physical appearance. and describe the perfect ideal as tall, extremely thin, and blonde (Parker et al., 1995). Un- fortunately, this ideal is unattainable to the vast majority of women, contributing to depression, low self-esteem, and eating disorders (e.g., Denniston, Roth, & Gilroy, 1992).
Many Black individuals, exceptionally Black women use online platforms and social
networking sites (SNSs) as a method to gather and connect more Black women into sharing their experiences of social oppression and Misogyny. In todays Western society,
It is extremely critical
Yoga Teacher, Body Positivity Advocate
“How do I feel? Rather than “How do I look?”
Youtube Influencer, ‘Internets Big Sister’
Plus Size and Supports body positivity
Chapter Three (1250)
List of Illustrations
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