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Friday, October 12 • 2:00pm - 3:30pm
The Work of Identity on Social Media Platforms

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Evie Psarras, Nicole Nesmith
Our work aims to bridge the gap in research concerning reality television series, The Bachelor, by analyzing contestants on the newer, visually oriented social media platform of Instagram. In a general sense Instagram affords former contestants the opportunity to extend, maintain, and/or re-shape their identity apart from the show. Our research is based on visual analysis of select women who have starred in the Bachelor offshoot, the Bachelorette, and builds on Dubrofsky’s (2011) important earlier research addressing the concept of "postfeminist nirvana" on the Bachelor franchise. Using Goffman’s (1959) dramaturgical perspective and Marwick’s (2015) collection methods, we conducted a visual analysis of six former Bachelorette’s Instagram accounts. We analyzed these women’s posts via the following categories: 1) family/relationships 2) work-life 3) insta-labor 4) promotions and 5) self-love. Our critical analysis revealed a new layer to the definition of the concept of postfeminist nirvana. We found that these varied posts work to compose a gestalt image of the women’s online persona that is grounded in the postfeminist ideal put forth by Dubrofsky (2011). Our findings build on this concept in two important ways: 1) we look at the women on a newer, visually-oriented platform and 2) we found that the more recent Bachelorette contestants’ online personas have evolved from the original Bachelorette contestants. This research will add to the larger field of communication because it analyzes this reality series using a new approach that is focused on TV contestant’s online personas on a newer, visually-oriented, digitally mediated platform.

Anthony McCosker, Ysabel Gerrard
Social media platforms make important decisions about what counts as ‘problematic’ content and how it should be recognized. This paper examines the conditions surrounding engagement with #depression on Instagram, and user practices of (in)visibility as they confront and circumvent platform restrictions. We use a tailored content analysis method to analyse a data set of 200 Instagram users who tag posts with #depression, and an additional 1,200 posts by those users, as a way of also examining non-tagged posts.We uncovered a range of communicative strategies involving ‘#depressed’ including: the prevalence of pseudonymity practices, alongside identified, but circumscribed engagement with #depression, and tag bombing practices ('tags for likes') and proxy tags. We situate these findings within broader and ongoing debates around hashtags and networked visibilities, social media content moderation, and the currently fraught relationship between Instagram and its users’ mental health. And we argue that these practices implicitly navigate Instagram's moderation and framing of #depression and other mental health tags as problematic, offering a rich space for engagement with the materiality of mental health and emotion.

Jacquelyn Burkell, Chandell Enid Gosse
Photographs are among the most commonly shared content on social media sites, with users posting millions of photos a day to a wide variety of platforms. In tandem with the growing and shifting landscape of social media, styles of photography, modes of interaction, and photo-sharing practices have changed dramatically over the past decade. These changes have implications for what photographs reveal about us as social media users. Even with activating security settings or limiting access to one’s profile, these photos are visible to a wide variety of people and very often reveal a great deal of information about a person’s life. To date, scholarly literature about the privacy implications of photo-sharing practices is underdeveloped. With this gap in literature in mind, our research asks: What types of photographs are social media users comfortable sharing? And what factors contribute to their level of comfort? To address these questions our project employs a two-prong approach. First, we used two complementary methods, concept mapping and q-methodology, with 70 participants to identify the different types of photographs that they are comfortable or uncomfortable sharing as well as the differences among individual participants. Secondly, beginning March 2018, we will conduct semi structured interviews to contextualize these varying levels of comfort by investigating, among other things, the conditions under which people decide to share photographs, the role of specific platforms in those decisions, and whether people share different types of photographs with different audiences. This research is expected to be complete by Summer 2018.

Michelle Gorea
According to dominant theorizations of contemporary society, many people’s daily practices now occur within, and reproduce, a social world where media are the fundamental reference and resource for the development of the self (Couldry and Hepp 2017:15). Although previous research has revealed the mutual shaping of technologies, interaction, and identity in the broader contexts of economic and social change related to ‘millennials’, we know little about the precise ways in which these practices occur and how the self is being differently constructed over time. Using a multi-method qualitative approach, this work in progress paper explores three key questions:

1) What happens when visuality becomes a part of youth’s everyday practices of interaction?

2) What roles are images playing in routine interaction among youth?

3) How and in what ways does the maintenance of a visually ‘mediated presence’ in social media shape youths’ views of the self?

This paper elaborates on findings within three categories that illustrate youth’s visual practices and how they are differently understood over time: (1) images of the self in the moment; (2) images of the self over time; and (3) images of the self under surveillance.

The preliminary findings of this research suggest that although youth’s technological practices may not all be new, there are significant aspects of visuality that alters some of the key factors shaping young people’s use and understandings of new media technologies.

Friday October 12, 2018 2:00pm - 3:30pm EDT
Sheraton - Drummond East