The Art of Crafting My Digital Self
The online self or “digital self” as many people call it nowadays, can be completely different from the actual self. From using a filter for an Instagram photo, to posting a picture that is actually out of context — it all reflects the digital, not actual self. Until a few days ago when I searched through my Instagram account, I never realized how different my images appear to be, compared to what my actual thought process was selecting the photos to post. Although my images have completely different contexts and reasons for choosing to represent them on Instagram, they all hold my Internet self-identification and are apart of my self-brand in an online environment. After browsing through my Instagram, I had a realization regarding what each image hides, what each image shows, and the fact that I have crafted my own digital public face.
The image to the left may not seem like it to the average viewer of my Instagram page, but it hides something pretty significant in my life.
The other girl in the picture next to me is my “little sister” in my sorority, Lauren. This image was taken about two years ago the night Lauren became my little sister.
Coincidentally, this was also the same time my skin flared up with acne. I never had acne before and I was self-conscious about it because it was embarrassing. Lauren has probably the best skin that a person can have; so it was always frustrating taking pictures with her because of our skin differences.
During that period two years ago, every time I took a picture with her and put it on social media, I had to find the perfect effect to brighten my skin so the acne would not show. In addition, I also added a blemish corrector. This continued for about six months. On the outside of this image, the viewer sees a girl (me) who is excited as can be to get her sorority little sister, yet on the inside I spent probably a good forty-five minutes trying to figure out an effect that would block-out and make my acne unnoticeable.
So, when this image was taken, it definitely differed from my actual physical appearance at the time. I tried to craft a public face for this image by filtering and blemish correcting it to appear that I had the perfect skin I once had. Though. I did not just craft any public face, I crafted a digital public face. A public face is the face you put on for the public. According to Beth Coleman, “This crafting of a public face is happening at a global scale today with the support of social network platforms” (Jenkins). So, thanks to social media I almost felt pressured to edit this photo in the way I did and put on a “mask” to hide my actual self —I put on a digital public face.
The next image screams “sorority photo.” The photo represents a family tree in my sorority. It starts at the top (with me) the “biggest,” and oldest in the family, then trickles down to my two “littlests” (the youngest in the family).
Throughout college, sorority photos have become increasingly popular on social media; mainly Instagram. These images portray women who show off what it is like to be a sister of insert sorority name here. However, these types of images are “annoying” to people who do not understand, and are often a topic that gets made fun of quite frequently.
To the average college student, this image screams, “Look I am in a sorority, and these are the perfect members of my family.” It is a stereotypical sorority girl photo. Whenever there is some type of sorority event (this image was taken at our big/little reveal) the sorority sister is almost inclined to post an Instagram.
This image does represent my affection for the girls in the photo — I am not trying to hide that. But on the other hand, what this image fails to portray is that I am definitely not a stereotypical sorority girl who lives and breathes sisterhood.
According to urban dictionary, “Sorority girls are typically high maintenance and very uppity. Most are white middle and upper middle class girls that are spoiled and extremely materialistic. These bleach blondes are extremely loud and spend most of their time shopping and partying with frat boys. Often confused to be sluts, sorority girls are most often cock teases” (Urban Dictionary).
The definition above is what the outside world sees, but I do not believe I possess any of those qualities and characteristics mentioned. I am not a blonde who likes to wear Chanel, nor do I love to party with “frat boys” and I am most definitely not a slut. Yet, to a viewer of my Instagram page this my reputation can be easily misconstrued just because of one photo. So, my online followers who might not really know me personally, might think I am obsessed with my sorority and live and breathe it. However, that is not the case. Yes, I do love the girls in the photo and in my respective chapter. Additionally, being in a sorority is a part of my identity, but that does not necessarily mean I am a stereotypical sorority girl even though my digital self might lead people to believe that I am.
The image to the left was an image that was taken last week, while I was in Cancun, with what felt like was my whole grade.
The first thought my friends and I talked about (when waking up in a different country with 100 of our closest peers) was “how am I going to ‘show off’ my experience to the public” or “what Instagram am I going to take today.” All to just make it seem like the trip was the best and most exciting experience.
Through social media, people who were not on this trip assumed that the group had the most amazing experience ever, but honestly, as I talked to my friends in the days after trip, we all agreed it was exhausting and overrated.
To be honest, I do not even like this photo that much. I just felt obligated to Instagram on my trip because if I did not Instagram, was I really even in Cancun having the “best time” of my life? It was all for show.
This photo was more so based on reputation than anything. Coleman mentions, “I talk about the concept of ‘persona’ in ancient Rome, where one’s reputation as citizen was based on how one crafted a public face” (Jenkins). I think this applies to my situation because I (again) put on my own digital public face when I posted this image. Yes, it is of me and my two best friends, but there are also a ton of people partying in the background. This gives the illusion that we are and having a better time then we actually did have.
The audience for this photo I had in mind were just people who were in general, not on my trip.
In addition, I think photo is also misleading in the way that when people view it, they might say to themselves “oh there is a bunch of rich Saint Joe’s kids partying in Cancun for spring break thanks to a trip their parents paid for.” But the truth of the matter is, most of my friends, including myself, paid for the trip ourselves. So, it does not do a good job of demonstrating class, even though it might seem like it does.
It is almost as if users can create a whole different trip/experience through one image.
The image to the left is one of my favorites that I have ever posted on Instagram.
This is an image that was taken the day my brother had his senior prom — about two years ago. Anthony, my brother looked really handsome that day so I wanted to take a funny, yet serious image. Thus, came this photo.
Typically, I would never post something like this on Instagram, but with the way it turned out, it almost reminded me of an image that might appear in GQ magazine.
After my mother shot the photo, I thought to myself “this in no way represents me or Anthony, I wonder what kind of controversy I can stir up if I post it to Instagram?” Honestly, the whole thing was a ploy to see what kind of reaction I could get from my Instagram followers.
“A large portion of the Internet audience enjoys edgy content,” (Pao) and edgy is exactly where I was going with this image. I wanted to give my followers what they wanted — something to talk about. This image was definitely more provocative and mysterious than anything I had ever posted previously.
So, I searched for the perfect filter, to make is seem more like a “legit” edgy photo from GQ. I did not want the filter to be fully black and white, but very close to black and white. I had a certain way of how I wanted to design the photo in my head. As I crafted the photo, I continuously laughed.
I assumed we would get a range of comment reactions such as “this is hilarious” from people who actually knew us to “is this really in GQ?” from people who do not know us all that well. (I believed I did a great job with the editing).
I thought this photo did a great job of disguising our class. Because of the effect, the way we are posed, the faces we are making, the background and Anthony’s tuxedo, it seems as though we are high-class or high-society — aside from what I am wearing.
With that said, this image also crafts a digital public face for both me and my brother by disguising our actual fun-loving personalities into almost seductive identities.
My main goal of this photo was to see if the public would take it seriously or not — based off of comments such as “Wow!,” “OMG hot,” “Is this serious?” and three of those emoji flames, my plan to create controversary worked. Also, we both did a good job of disguising ourselves and crafting a digital public face.
Since this image was take about two years ago, it has remained my Instagram icon (the picture next to my username). So now, in a sense, it represents my Instagram brand.
“In conducting autoethnographic research ‘you come to understand yourself in different ways,’” (Liao 32) which is exactly what happened to me when browsing through my Instagram photos. I realized I am someone completely different online than I am in real life. It was definitely shocking because I had never before thought of myself in that way. However, recalling all of the choices I made regarding matters such as filters, and reasons why I actually posted a photo to Instagram, I can firmly say that I do put on a digital public face for viewers of my account. I do not think it is good nor bad, it is just different than who I actually am. I almost think the reasons why I made the choices I did to my photos on Instagram was to subconsciously enhance my online environment and transform my actual self into my digital self.
Jenkins, Henry. ““It’s 2012. Do You Know Where Your Avatar Is?”: An Interview with Beth Coleman (Part One).” Web blog post. Confession of an Aca-Fan. 13 Apr 2012. Web. 21. Mar. 2016.
Liao, Christine. “My Metamorphic Avatar Journey.” Visual Culture and Gender 3 (2008): 32. EMITTO. Web. 21 Mar. 2016.
Pao, Ellen. “Former Reddit CEO Ellen Pao: The trolls are winning the battle for the Internet.” Washington Post. Washington Post,
16 July. 2015. Web. 21 Mar. 2016.
“Sorority Girl.” Def. 1. Urban Dictionary. Urban-Dictionary, n.d. Web. 24 Mar. 2016.