Selfies as expressively authentic identity performance

Linh Nguyen, Kim Barbour


This paper explores whether or not our online social media persona is viewed as authentic. The selfie is a fundamental part of the structure of the online identity for young people in today’s digital world. The relationship between an individual’s self-identity in the physical face-to-face environment was analysed and compared to a carefully constructed, modified virtual representation in a selfie posted on social media platforms. Data was obtained through four focus groups at the University of Adelaide. Two key theoretical frameworks provide a basis for this study: Erving Goffman’s concept of the self as a performance, and Charles Horton Cooley’s concept of the looking glass self. In examining the focus group discussions in light of these two frameworks as well as associated literature, we conclude that the authenticity of the selfie as a way of visualising a social media persona is subjective and dependent on the individual posting a selfie. Ultimately, authenticity involves a degree of subjectivity. It was on this basis that focus group participants argued that selfies could be considered authentic expressions of identity.


selfies; expressive authenticity; online identity; social media; performance of self

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