Identity in Communities and Networks

You no longer need to go to Europe to “find yourself”: Youth and forming identity using social media communities


The rise and popularity of social media platforms has become a significant part of young adults’ social and emotional development. These social media networks (SNS) provide adolescents with new opportunities to perform, practice, and explore diverse individual identity expressions online. All while forming influential and supportive connections within these virtual communities. This paper defines a social media site as a website that allows social interaction and investigates adolescent SNS use from a sociological viewpoint. It explores sources focusing on the positive and negative aspects of youth’s identity performance online. Case studies of Emma Chamberlain, TikTok and LGBTQ youth are discussed. The sources were taken from journal articles, a thesis, readings, SNS, and news articles. The findings of the paper show that identity is always evolving, online communities have a strong influence on youth, SNS enables connections, and provides them with a supportive stage on which to practice identity. Young adults’ identity emerges through a process of performing diverse self-expressions within online communities, demonstrating that there is no authentic identity.

Key words: Identity, adolescent, social media, online communities


Social Network Sites (SNS) have had a substantial rise in recent years with youth as they have a significant cultural resonance within younger communities. This is because participation in online culture has become compulsory among young people, reshaping their lives and having an incredible influence on them. Studies show that “22% of teenagers log on to their favorite social media site more than 10 times a day, and more than half of adolescents log on to a social media site more than once a day” (Shabir, Hameed, Safdar, & Gilani, 2014). This leads to adolescents developing their identity through participation and performance in online communities. These communities enable youth to explore new ideas with less adult influence and regulations. Dr Amy Guy, in The Presentation of Self on a Decentralised Web (2017) argues that there is no such thing as authentic identity, as young adults’ identity are constructed from both physical and virtual experiences. Online communities are changing young adults’ lives, exposing them to diverse ideas and lifestyles, and helping them become people they would not be without technology. Although it is claimed that authenticity is necessary online, social media platforms provide adolescents with opportunities to perform diverse identities and form strong and supportive communities.

Social media platforms provide adolescents with exclusive opportunities to perform diverse identities. Performance, when used regarding actions online, means the user depicts their self doing certain things to appear a certain way. Youth control what they present about themselves online, most likely to perform in ways they believe are popular (Boyd, 2008). Through this, they can establish themselves and their identities virtually. Each individual creates an online and offline identity, directly influenced by their online community. This is because of the new ideas and media presented to them through these communities (Boase, 2008). They try on these different skins to see what they like and don’t like, exploring their identity and shaping their attitude. Digital media enables adolescents to access resources and connect with other likeminded people in online communities, as well as practice identity performance.

Adolescent online identity performances are carefully curated and controlled (Boyd, 2008), as it is seen as a reflection on their personality and social standing. Evidence of this is seen in the popularity of having two Instagram profiles: One account for professional, serious posting for the public’s consumption and one private account, affectionately nicknamed a “spam” account only for close friends, where the user posts constant photographs ranging from memes to strangely angled selfies. In a study conducted by Joanne Orlando, a professor from Western Sydney University (2018), she interviews 118 Australian adolescents about this practice. She describes the use of the two accounts in the following quote: “Private, less visible accounts allow teens the opportunity to move away from the carefully cultivated, public persona on their… [main] Instagram account – and present a rawer… personality to a smaller group of closer friends.” (Orlando, 2018). The private account is viewed as a safe space for individual identity expression, where the youth can practice performance away from a parent’s watchful eye and gives them “more control over their digital identity” (Orlando, 2018). This connects to Guy’s argument that when we use digital technology, we are pushing ourselves through a filter on the communities we use (Guy, 2017) which relates to how adolescents filter themselves for the different identity expressions on both accounts. One is more of a professional identity presentation, and the other is much more intimate. These accounts both present an authentic person but performing for a certain community in differing contexts. To promote a certain identity, youth choose different language and image use when communicating on each profile.

Online communities on SNS provide an outlet where adolescents can explore individual identity expressions freely whilst making connections and forming friendships (Boyd, 2006). For youth, SNS are an avenue of spending time with friends without restrictions. In offline public spaces such as shopping centers and schools, their actions are constantly watched and patrolled by authority figures. This is the same with private offline spaces in homes with many regulations being controlled by adults. Both offline spaces have real-life consequences with how young adults choose to act in those spaces, such as being grounded at home or being expelled from school. Certain online spaces are an escape because they aren’t patrolled as frequently by adults, letting the youth have a sense of freedom and motivation to explore different communities and develop their identity without parental pressure (O’Keeffe & Clarke-Pearson, 2011). These sites give the opportunity to have more chance for social interactions, learn more about their peers, and make connections they would not have made otherwise. Youth have limited time in public spaces, but they can be online 24/7. Adolescents can connect with others and practice, rehearse, and perform their unique identity expressions to their chosen virtual community.

The lack of moderation in online communities demonstrates that adolescents are more vulnerable to negative content influencing their identity performances. Within these virtual communities, youth are enabled to explore freely with less adult influence and moderation. Evidence shows they are even likely to fabricate key information about themselves like their name, age, and location, to protect themselves from predators and/or parents online (Boyd, 2008). Youth see SNS as an easy place to escape from everyday life, rather than having to face offline problems. However, there is a real danger within these sites, as content being under little to no moderation means that dangerous influences arise. A model of this would be challenges within the TikTok community. A “challenge” is defined as an activity to complete within a short video (Alfonso, 2020), with users’ completion videos often going viral. Young adults observe others becoming famous from these challenges and in spite of the risks, endanger themselves in the pursuit of online prominence. Examples of the challenges would be the skull breaker challenge, the Coronavirus challenge, and the salt challenge. Each one of these are popular among youth but incredibly dangerous. The skull breaker challenge involves two people kicking the legs out of a third person, causing them to fall. The Coronavirus challenge involves licking public toilets and door handles. And the salt challenge involves pouring large amounts of salt directly down your throat. These challenges have been reported to cause serious injuries, with the skull breaker challenge leading to hospitalization (Rolfe, 2020), the Coronavirus challenge allegedly causing a young male to be diagnosed with Coronavirus (O’Neill, 2020), and the salt challenge being reported to cause nausea, seizures, and possibly even a coma (Alfonso, 2020). The identity performance of adolescents seeks popularity and social validation by their peers (Stern, 2004), allowing them to be vulnerable to dangerous influences from their community.

Young adults’ performances online are modelled to their preferred audience, with the intention of creating connections (Guy, 2017). Users have more control online with this presentation of their digital body than they do with their physical body. They use identity markers to communicate themselves both online and offline (Guy, 2017). An example of an online identity marker would be seeing a friend post about an interest that another friend shares: this way they make a connection, whereas they may have never known the other person shared their interest. The only way for those people to have that connection is through digital media. The idea of an “instant bond” over shared experience online is explicit evidence of the strong connections made through communities every day. Online communities provide a way for youth to discover new content, express identity, and find others with similar opinions. This curation and control enables the formation of supportive communities around different aspects of identity.

There is no authentic identity of a young adult, as their identities online and offline are constructed of physical and virtual experiences (Guy, 2017) in addition to being susceptible to identity influence. Youth are arguably the most vulnerable age group to new influences due to their developing identities and bodies (Stern, 2004). Online, identity is more fluid changing depending on the situation and the audience, as evidenced with the popular two Instagram profiles practice. Caroline Calloway, a well-known Internet personality and writer, asks “If you build a life around an identity that springs from your own imagination, is it ever inauthentic?” (Calloway, 2020, as cited in Greenspan et al., 2020, para. 1). Youth adjust their identity to encourage positive feedback from their desired community. Their individual identity performance is strongly influenced by observation of and feedback from their online communities, as well as the offline culture they live in. “Identity is socially constructed” (Guy, 2017), and for young adults, it is a complex mix of physical and virtual experiences within their communities. The experiences they have in these spaces shape them into who they end up becoming. The performance of diverse identities demonstrates that identity is fluid and complex, especially in online communities.

In modern society today, youth have more options of what they can choose to represent with new ideas presented to them through online communities. Not only do they have more decisions to make regarding performances for virtual audiences and friendships online and offline; they also must decide who they are and what they want when it comes to factors like gender, sexuality and romance. As it is now more socially acceptable to explore your identity, youth can now construct an identity narrative of their own. Online communities adolescents choose to join can have a direct effect on their decisions online and offline. Guy (2017) discusses how communication technologies are extensions of our bodies, which changes the way we construct our identities. Nancy Fraser (1992, as cited in Boyd et al., 2008, p. 137) further corroborates this view, saying that publics “are arenas for the formation and enactment of social identities”. These statements agree that a significant part of their social and emotional development happens online. When youth interact with strangers and friends online, they practice their social skills with a wide range of people who have the possibility of influencing their individual identity performance. They learn how to more accurately perform their preferred identity, observing role models and studying the reactions to each performance to understand how to communicate effectively. Adolescents consciously perform and present their developing identity online, while learning more about themselves in the context of community.

Online communities also provide new kinds of role models for young adults to mimic their identity performance. Youth discover these role models online, admiring and respecting their virtual performance, and begin to emulate them physically. An example of this would be the concept of a ‘VSCO girl’. When Googling VSCO girl, the search bar suggests ‘VSCO girl starter pack’ and ‘VSCO girl checklist’ ( implicitly demonstrating that it is a popular Google search. A young woman wanting to imitate a ‘VSCO girl’ would most likely follow Emma Chamberlain’s performance on Instagram, TikTok or YouTube. An Internet personality, Emma Chamberlain is eighteen years old and has eight million followers on YouTube as of 2019 (Bromwich, 2019). She first started online by making craft videos on YouTube. When asked why she started with crafts, she said “I don’t know what I was thinking, I was honestly just trying to imitate what was popular at the time” (Chamberlain, 2018, as cited in Ward et al., 2018, para. 10). Her words tie back in with the previously mentioned idea of copying a popular performance of identity. The yearning to be famous, appealing, and admired is part of a deeper need to be validated and liked. Young adults particularly thrive on attention and positive interactions, which is what Chamberlain was aiming for through her craft videos and then later, with documenting her daily life. Young women see Chamberlain being adored and want that, so they adjust their identity to emulate her performance with how they dress, what they post online, and how they act.  SNS gives youth the opportunity to study other identity performances within a community.

As previously mentioned, a critical matter young adults deal with is their individual identity development. Online communities are incredibly valuable in aiding youth who may struggle to find the right identity for them. A case study of this statement would be the facilitation of LGBTQ individuals within online communities, as discussed in an University of Toronto research paper by Shelley Craig and Lauren McInroy (2014). Digital media allows LGBTQ youth access to a more thorough exploration of their identity, discovering LGBTQ content, and engaging with others who identify similarly. The surveyed youth agreed that they felt more comfortable with their own identity after viewing content made by LGBTQ individuals about their journeys, which influenced them to be more honest with others about their identity (Craig & McInroy, 2014). The online communities they find empowers them to express their identity publicly and privately or at least gives them a safe space to exist in while performing as heteronormative offline. This online access of LGBTQ information and virtual communities are often more secure, supportive, and more relevant than offline assistance (Craig & McInroy, 2014). These LGBTQ adolescents can freely explore new identities and try them on, knowing that they belong with the support of their online peers. For adolescents, having this connection with likeminded people is extremely valuable. They develop their identity through connecting with others, feeling validated, supported, and understanding more about who they are as a person. This case study emphasizes how online communities can become support groups with an incredibly positive impact on its participants and their individual identity exploration.


The individual identity of adolescents changes frequently, to reflect them and their growth throughout this vulnerable time in their life. Online communities grant them the freedom to explore and learn. Young adults perform online, rehearsing and practicing for the offline stage, seeking for positive validation from their peers while controlling the information they disclose. This process of performing diverse identity expression clearly displays that there is no one authentic identity for a young person, but rather that it is still evolving. Social media platforms provide youth with valuable opportunities to perform different identities and form lasting, supportive connections within their communities.


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54 replies on “You no longer need to go to Europe to “find yourself”: Youth and forming identity using social media communities”

Hi Anne Marie,

Your title caught my attention, and then your mention of exploration of Emma Chamberlain and the LGBTQIA+ community kept me reading!

The first thing that I agreed on was your quote “participation in online culture has become compulsory among young people”, whilst obviously not a literal statement it has a great truth, these days if you’re not on Facebook you’re missing out on half of your social life: relationship/pregnancy announcements, travel photos, and even getting invited to physical events.
I also agreed with your opinion that social media now plays a great role in shaping identity, however I do question if this reality is necessarily a good thing? I know from a queer perspective, online communities tend to pigeonhole identity into a very specific ideal (like your example of VSCO girls) – could this make people feel pressured to abandon aspects of their identity that doesn’t meet the standard in order to more easily identify with a community?

Hey Lachlan!
Thank you for commenting, I’m glad you liked my paper. Are you a big Emma Chamberlain fan? I watched a few of her videos for research and she’s really interesting.
Yes, it’s a mix of both a literal and figurative statement – you’re judged and under the radar if you don’t participate in social media at school. With the compulsory statement I was aiming more for “everyone is online and if you aren’t, you suffer real life consequences”. There’s two groups – the large group of people with profiles online, and the smaller group of people offline. I know some friends who don’t have social media do get forgotten when it comes to invites for physical events (I have forgotten a few times, I’m terrible), as well as not being included in Facebook group chats, or being complained about because they’re harder to contact. Online participation is such a large part of youth culture and identity.
YES definitely! I had so much research, the word count was a struggle for me to put it all in. Additionally, I wasn’t able to touch on so many different factors, I didn’t mention body image, sexting or cyberbullying among adolescents.
I agree that online communities each have their own ‘ideal’ eg a stereotypical parent’s ideals would be a perfect parent showing off their skills at raising kids. The erasure of different parts of identity negatively impacts young adults, for example, internalised homophobia from growing up conservatively. I tried to address this implictly with my authentic identity questioning – that there is no authentic ONE identity for someone, but rather, that an individual is made up of all these diverse parts.
You could also see this in posts made in certain communities. Posts made that are more in line with the community’s interest will gain a lot of attention, whereas a post that doesn’t fit in will be ignored (such as on Facebook).
Thank you for your comments! I really appreciate them and I hope my answer makes sense.

Yes, your answer makes complete sense! I suppose your perspective is true, in the ‘real’ world we belong to several different communities so it is only fair we can do the same (if not more) in the virtual world.
“Posts made that are more in line with the community’s interest will gain a lot more attention”.. I like this, and it made me wonder if we as writers for this project have unconsciously gravitated towards themes and thesis statements that we know will garner a bit more involvement from the community?

Hey again Lachlan,
I’m glad to hear it makes sense.
Personally my few ideas for the conference were mainly from what interested me as I find it much easier to write about what I’m passionate about. The words just flow! With this topic in particular, I wanted to focus more on things less written about. I feel that we have all read lots of content about cyber bullying and self-worth, so I thought identity formation but focused more on the implicit parts of it.
However when it comes to posting on a professional real-world level, I would definitely take more time to think about what would interest the audience I wanted to enrapture.
What about you and your Twitter Terroism?

Yes, I think even on a professional level we hopefully will find a way to bring in something that is of personal interest to us – makes writing that little bit more enjoyable!
My intent with my piece was presenting a view that the idea of ‘community’ is not necessarily always being a positive asset to online. Just to spark everyone’s view whilst also giving me a bit of a challenge, as I initially had the theme before settling on the specific topic of ISIL. I also wasn’t too familiar with Twitter but this has helped me in understanding its functions!

Sorry Lachlan, I’m not able to directly reply to your comment below on the 08/05, so I hope you still get this!
It definitely does, I think writing about something you’re passionate about also helps you to be productive and research sources that give you a different viewpoint – which can be so important when constructing an argument.
I really enjoyed how you contructed yours – with the approach that community isn’t always positive. I feel with mine I approached it saying online communities are vital to youth but it does have a significant amount of positive and negative factors.
Would you say that you personally think communities are mainly a positive influence? Or do you think that we, as a society, should be more educated on the positive/negative influences?

Hi Anne-Marie

I also loved the title of your paper! It’s true, there was a time when kids would leave Year 12 and rush off overseas, perhaps to Europe, become an au pair, or just holiday instead of jumping straight into a University degree. But these days social media seems to be the way to ‘find oneself’.

Those challenges you mentioned just make me shake my head in disbelief and hope that our future is in safe hands! I could be wrong but I feel these might be the same types of people that say ‘ok boomer’ or think of the Caronavirus as a ‘boomer remover’ and that this is a good thing (do they want their parents/grandparents dead?) – yet licking a public toilet seat is perfectly ok is it? Hmmmm… There have been times when I have had to take my father to the emergency ward and he’s been waiting, writhing on the FLOOR in pain, suddenly some young people arrive with some injury, one is holding an arm up or has been wheeled in but they’re jovial and laughing – and they get seen before my father. They no doubt got themselves drunk and did some challenge of some sort and sustained an injury… and got seen before my father. This is what also makes me mad about these challenges. Ahhh anyway rant over!

I liked reading your outlook on how social media helps people build relationships and gain confidence as they’re able to express who they are and develop their own identity, and they can also interact with other like-minded individuals which may help them in further developing themselves. If they are feeling unsure of who they are (eg: while coming out), they have a support base with the many networks and communities they can join.

Hey again Indre!

Thank you for the praise of my title. I like to write long winded funny ones that also relate to the topic – I find they pull readers in more! Definitely agree with your point about kids going straight to uni. Do you think youth are too engrossed with social media and technology that they are less likely to go explore the world outside? I believe that social media can prevent them from further exploring their identity outside of the virtual world.

Haha I know right – it honestly makes you wonder why ANYONE would do them. I actually watched a really interesting video recently about “clout culture” also known as doing anything for the fame and attention, not caring about the costs. It makes you scared how far youth will go for fame, as it keeps escalating.
Here’s the link if you’re interested:
I agree with your point as well about youth not fully considering the consequences. I wrote in an earlier draft of my essay about how being so engrossed in the virtual world can make real life problems not seem as bad (eg getting suspended – who cares when you can still use your phone). I know a lot of adolescents use the online world as a place to escape, and this really negatively impacts them as they don’t fully explore their emotions.
I’m sorry to hear about your father! That is really horrible and apologies for you having to experience that.

Yes there are definitely benefits (as well as the negatives I’ve already mentioned)! As a youth, having these online communities to connect with others really helped me. I found that being able to find like-minded people aided me through high school, especially since I didn’t find my group till the end of year 9. I always knew no matter what happened I could always rant to my virtual friends at the end of the day. Do you have any similar experiences with this?

Hi Anne-Marie

Thanks for the video on clout culture, I will have to take a closer look. There is another new TikTok challenge going about apparently, called the epilepsy challenge (or seizure challenge) where people pretend to have a seizure in public. This is by far one of the most disgusting ones I’ve ever heard about! What on earth is it that makes people want to do this?

I’m thinking for some of the youth of today social media could entice them to travel, if they’ve joined particular travel related groups or have TripAdvisor it might inspire them.

I graduated from high school JUST before the Internet took off, year 9 was the worst year of high school for me (I was bullied a fair bit) and I just feel extremely grateful that I wasn’t in school during social media because I can imagine the bullying would have been far worse. I would just hang about with whoever during my breaks but mostly keep to myself. But I do know what you mean about coming home and chatting/venting to people! I would do the same with my friends in chat rooms or on MSN, IRC, ICQ after Uni or work. 😛 Did you ever use any of those?


Hey again Indre,
Yes, Leanne actually mentioned it below! She said this:
“For example, the ‘challenges’ you have written about on Tik Tok have come under fire recently, particularly the ‘Seizure Challenge’ which prompts participants to fake a seizure to the song Ludic Dreams by Juice WRLD. The artist actually died of a seizure not long after the challenge was introduced – that SM facilitates these type of dangerous and mocking events is one of the many unfortunate ‘flipsides’ of the (otherwise great) freedoms afforded by SM platforms.”
It’s so terrible that people would mock the death of someone else. But I feel like the influences from peers – acting like it’s funny and cool to do this – would make someone else copy their actions to feel connected to their group! This plays into my copycat identity argument in my paper above.
I would say many, many people have travelling on their bucket list but some will never get around to it. Social media is a great place to brag about a holiday, or to elevate your status by showing off some amazing pictures. It reminds me of the popular slang saying: “pics or didn’t happen” where if you don’t post about something, did it even really happen? Do you agree with this?
Yes definitely, I feel the same. I escaped high school before TikTok and I’m glad I did! Social media’s popularity rises every year. My mother actually didn’t let me have MSN until I was a certain age and when I reached that age it wasn’t popular any more. I used a lot of Tumblr, Snapchat, Deviant Art, Instagram, Twitter and also had two Facebook accounts (one for my nerdy, cosplay friends and one for everyone else that I barely used) during high school years. Now I just use Instagram (A LOT) and Facebook (a little bit).
Thanks again for the reply!

Hi AnneMarie

I’ve had the “pics or it didn’t happen” comment thrown at me when I made a comment on Facebook about a popular world DJ and remembering something they did when they came to Adelaide. This was still before the days of smartphones so people weren’t taking photos of everything left right and centre. I had other people back me up saying why should it matter to have a photo to back up my comment. Anyway, the the icing on the cake was when the DJ HIMSELF ‘liked’ my post! HA! You should have seen the comments section then LOL… 😛


Hey Indre!
I’m having the same issue replying to your post that I did with Lachlan’s above – there’s no reply button? I’ll reply to my comment above yours and hope you see this!
Yes, it is very interesting to think of life before we were under this constant surveillance. Great evidence of this would be how posts with photographs get more attention than posts with just normal text on Facebook. Visual information is a valuable currency these days!
Would you agree that placing so much important on visual currency – having to take pictures of things to prove you did them or you were there – can be a dangerous negative thing? E.g. taking photographs of everything and becoming more engrossed in the visual, fake world than experiencing life with the camera down
Good work, glad that the DJ himself could shut that troll down lol. People can be eggs!

Hi AnneMarie,

First just a quick apology— on my answer to you on my paper I hyphenated your name and now realise that it is actually joined, i.e., no gap and no hyphen, so sorry for that😊.

Your paper made good reading and was thought provoking. I can’t decide from it whether such heavy involvement in SNS, without boundaries, is a good thing or not for adolescents trying to form their identities. I can see the value in one aspect; that they can experiment with trying to achieve the person they hope to be by emulating those seen as popular but only if they are popular for good reasons—not for how many toilet seats they can lick before falling prey to Coronavirus or how much salt they can ingest before they are extremely ill 😊. Crazy stuff! I guess in some ways you could argue that not that much different to how people used to dare someone to do something stupid, other than it never used to be filmed and so they did all that ‘daring’ for a small audience. However, I think therein lies the problem; with the want to create something that will go viral and make them ‘famous’ definitely pushes the person to more extremes than they might ordinarily go to.

But then I recognise the logic in what you pointed out and Lachlan agreed, in the ‘real’ world, we all do act, talk, dress differently according to the situation/environs we are in; but the consequences are that they are associated to your offline persona which isn’t as readily interchanged as it can be online. So in that way it does give youth more scope to explore other people’s reactions without too much (or any) impact on their offline identity.

I also think you make a valid point with regards to what used to be considered as minority or ‘not-the-norm’ groups; that SNS give youth the opportunity to share how they feel amongst like-minded people in a space where they might feel more able to express themselves, feel more supported, valued and a sense of belonging instead of maybe otherwise feeling isolated and confused.

Good job AnneMarie, I enjoyed reading and learning.

Hey Lee!

No need for an apology – WordPress doesn’t like hyphens. My name is actually spelt Anne-Marie, so you were right the first time!

It is a real dilemma, isn’t it? Right above your comment, with Indre, I mention that there are so many significant positive and negative parts of social media networks. It’s hard to take a real stance. As someone who eventually wants to have children someday, my husband and I are going to have a tough time regulating social media usage.
I loved your point about how the “filming” aspect plays into the challenges/dares. It has the potential to escalate things to such a high level. The increased surveillance also causes increased emotions in the public e.g. problematic influencers having a platform to spread their actions (that we love to dislike) or jealousy over someone’s possessions (like an expensive house tour).

Would you mind further clarifying what you mean by “we all do act, talk, dress differently according to the situation/environs we are in; but the consequences are that they are associated to your offline persona which isn’t as readily interchanged as it can be online”?
I would love to hear more about this point! It was interesting.

Thank you for agreeing with my argument about minority groups. Without revealing too much about myself, I had a part of my identity that I was able to explore online and then bring to my offline identity presentation. If I wasn’t able to access resources and help online, I might not have been able to recognize what was going on. I brought a large amount of my personal bias to the paper, so I’m glad you agree with my belief.

Thanks Lee!

Hi Anne-Marie, (with a hyphen 😊)

To answer your question, what I meant by how we act etc differently depending on the situation is if you think about how you differ the way you talk to someone you meet for the first time, or an older person, your doctor, bank manager (if you’re lucky to have a physical branch haha) etc compared to a family member or a good friend. In those former contacts you are probably more conscious of the way you phrase your words or even the way you deliver them as opposed to how you can express yourself more naturally with the latter group. Same as you dress differently if just relaxing around the house against going out shopping, and differently again to if you were going for a job interview, out to a special function/occasion. So in some ways you are presenting varied aspects of yourself that form as part of who the person(s) you are interacting with might see you as. However in the offline presentations they are anchored to your physical being which is harder to change than online where you could just delete and start again under another username.

Hope that makes sense! Thanks Anne-Marie.

Hey again Lee!
I definitely understand that. My workspace is right near the lunch room, and my persona changes so much when I have lunch. It’s like I can breathe and just chat with my workmates! However whenever someone higher up addresses me I’m incredibly professional and rigid. Still myself, just more professional. So I agree with your point! I think another part of being able to delete and start again can help people who catfish and/or harass people online (being able to create multiple accounts to bully someone after being blocked each time). That’s why I argue there’s no authentic identity on the Internet – there are parts of ourselves we emphasise, and parts we hide (that we can’t as easily hide in real life, like you said). It’s a lot harder to move somewhere and start again than it is to create a new account.
Do you think that this ease of changing identity on the Internet is something valuable or is it something that has more negative connotations?
It does make sense, thank you again for commenting!

Hi there Anne-Marie,

Your question “Do you think that this ease of changing identity on the Internet is something valuable or is it something that has more negative connotations?” is not that easy to answer but I shall put my opinion though not claiming it to be right.

After reading many of the papers in this conference, I can see the value for people who find anonymity online liberating in that they can create the person they hope to be (a sentiment that has many scholarly references) but I still don’t see why they can’t do that under their own name. There is nothing wrong with aspiring to be a better self is there? So why the need to hide behind a pseudonym?

There are the scholarly opinions that have been cited on various papers throughout this conference that claim it allows a person to interact without bias of gender, religion, colour, size, shape or form etc but again although I agree I think that those people who reject you because of any of those biases aren’t worth knowing anyway so why bother to hide behind a false identity?

(At this point I must declare why my FB page has a picture of Annie Lenox, and I use Leone – which is my official name but not one that many people outside of Uni know me as. I did that because I didn’t want any friends haha. My daughter set it up for me about 10 years ago when she first went overseas so we could keep in contact. Later I used it as a way of setting up a FB page for our Butcher Shop without having to pay for a business page).

I think if true identities were used then might it help lessen the “darker” side of the Internet? Or at least maybe make people think twice before they put up hateful comments?
Trouble is, because that element of distrust is now so wide spread would anyone believe that it is a person’s true identity? Haha

Back to you Anne-Marie
Cheers Lee

Hello again Lee!
Apologies for the difficult question, I’m really enjoying hearing others’ opinions in this conference and seeing things from different viewpoints.
I believe that people feel certain societal pressures to be what others want them to be – a good daughter, a good mother, a good teacher or a good worker for example. A daughter who would want to be good for her parents might post “wholesome” content on her Facebook, but then have a private Instagram to express her real thoughts and be who she wants to be, away from the pressures and judgements of others. Sometimes it’s easier to hide than express something that you’re embarrassed about.
Then with how the Internet lets others regardless of race, gender, shape etc interact, it’s because these people wouldn’t normally interact with each other if they saw them on the street. They’re united via virtual connections and similarities they wouldn’t have known about the other (as I mention in my essay with virtual identity markers). The same with video games as you don’t see the faces of your guild – you love them before you even know these people’s names and faces and so on. This could be compared to Love is Blind (disclaimer: haven’t seen it but know the concept), you fall in love with someone based off their personality instead of their physical attributes. Obviously physical attributes are an important thing, but they’re also what so many people feel judged on (and are judged on!). The Internet’s communities allows others to interact before they judge or realise that they have similar traits to those they would usually judge.
Thanks for your disclaimer! I do totally understand that.
All of this including your example highlights that the Internet provides new ways to connect that physical life isn’t able to. It’s constrained to the barrier of location.
I agree that people will always question someone’s identity no matter how “authentic” they are. But can anyone really use a true identity on the Internet? Won’t we always be more inclined to post holiday photos than tell everyone our mental health problems?
Let me know what you think.
Honestly, great response to my question! It really made me think.
Back to you again Lee!

Hi AnneMarrie,

I really enjoyed reading your paper. The title of the article is captivating because it talks about contemporary issues in youth communication systems. In particular, the topic of social media is one that excites the mind because social media platforms play an important role in shaping young adults’ economic and social development. I agree with your quote that “social media networks (SNS) provide adolescents with new opportunities to perform, practice, and explore diverse individual identity expressions online.” The statement is correct because the current crop of youths is entangled in social media platforms where they develop interaction patterns with each other, express themselves freely, and access diverse information that can be essential in development.

Furthermore, I agree with your analysis of the social media usage patterns amongst youth, citing how these platforms influence their identity and exploring new ideas without adults interfering.

Concurrently, social media platforms serve as sources of ideas and life skills that influence the growth of the youth. However, I have a bit of conflict with the statement that youths control the kind of information they share on social. It should be noted that most youths in social media share virtually everything, including information to do with their private life, which makes them susceptible to all forms of social media crimes while also creating negative identities. Conversely, you should consider the negative implications of social media on the life of the users. In particular, consider cyber-bullying that is on the rise targeting our youths on social media.

The overall scope of the paper is well-integrated and provides a clear overview of the impacts of social media on youths, especially regarding shaping social identity and growth.

Hello Cynthiana,

Thank you for your comment and praise on the title! I liked writing this paper too, so I’m glad you enjoyed reading it.
You picked out my thesis as your quote – so good spot! The use of the word “entanglement” when it comes to social media was really interesting.

Do you have an example that comes to mind when you talk about the social media patterns of youth influencing their identity? I wrote about a few case studies in my paper, so I’d be interested to know what you thought of when you read my essay.

Apologies, I found your second last paragraph confusing so I will try my best to answer it.
When I said that “youth control what information they share”, I meant as in they choose what to post. I am not sure what you mean by “they share virtually everything” as that backs up my statement you refer to, so I don’t understand the conflict you found. I outlined in my essay the use of two Instagram accounts – a public one with six posts and a private one with an endless amount of posts. The youth choose what they post on these accounts – whether it be virtually everything or close to nothing. Something I implicitly touched on in my essay was the fact that youth are constantly revising their online identity. My twelve year old cousin, as well as a few of her friends I follow, are constantly changing their names, their profiles, deleting and adding photos, and uploading, uploading, uploading. They like to make their profile look the way they want – controlling their online identity presentation. Another example of revising identity with youth would be the Archive option on Instagram. Instagram introduced the Archive feature in 2017, that let you hide posts. Adolescents take full advantage of this, hiding and re-showing past posts.
A link explaining its use can be found here:
I disagree with your statement about that I did not explore the negative implications of social media on the adolescent users. I mentioned that youth change their identity to fit in, leaving out parts that are not as appealing to their desired audience (also known as identity erasure). I also gave evidence for the negative effects with my mention of TikTok challenges being incredibly dangerous AND popular. I did not write explicitly about cyber bullying due to the word limit, and also because I find cyber bullying is a topic often mentioned. I wanted to highlight less talked about aspects of identity formation. If you comb my essay looking for an implicit mention, you would find that I talked about identity pressure – peer pressure to fit in, and also the fact that LGBTQ youth face a lot of harassment if they express their identity in the wrong place. Cyber bullying is a horrible, horrible thing and if I was given the chance to extend the essay, I would dedicate a whole section about how it impacts youth significantly. I will take the chance to write about it in this comment section.
Cyberbullying and online harassment affects adolescents’ feelings of a certain platform being a safe space. For example, if they feel they are being judged harshly on Facebook, they will stop using Facebook as much. Or if they find their posts are positively reacted to on Instagram, they feel safe and will keep using it. (I personally believe the block button is not used as frequently as it should be.) It is so prevalent on social media as bullies find it easier to hide behind a screen. Many, many children experience this horrid thing. It can impact them in so many ways. It stunts their identity development, as they are ridiculed for enjoying their interests or posting what they want to post. They can experience it as blackmail, or as rude comments on posts. It really affects their actions, changing how they dress or act. The Internet sadly gives online harassment a platform to continue, as harassers can create multiple accounts after being blocked to continue their tirade. I could go on and on but I’ll leave you a link to an article I really found interesting on the topic.
My background research on cyberbullying can be found here:
Do you have any experience with online harassment?

Thank you for your comment, and I look forward to reading your reply.

Hi AnneMarie

I also loved your title – it drew me right in.

You’ve constructed an excellent paper and argued successfully that “Digital media enables adolescents to access resources and connect with other likeminded people in online communities, as well as practice identity performance.”

I like your example of the LGBTQIA communities offering a safe space for identity performance and exploration, I’m interested too in Lachlan’s response that “I know from a queer perspective, online communities tend to pigeonhole identity into a very specific ideal” it’s a valid argument. No matter where identity performance is practiced (offline, online, at work, at home etc) human beings will often impose bias and boundaries on identity and their expectations for others to concur. Your explanation that there is no single identity for anyone, that identity is made up of many parts, is an important consideration and one many older generations could think more broadly about.

Social media is here to stay, so it is important that future generations work out better ways to navigate its strengths and its weaknesses. For example, the ‘challenges’ you have written about on Tik Tok have come under fire recently, particularly the ‘Seizure Challenge’ which prompts participants to fake a seizure to the song Ludic Dreams by Juice WRLD. The artist actually died of a seizure not long after the challenge was introduced – that SM facilitates these type of dangerous and mocking events is one of the many unfortunate ‘flipsides’ of the (otherwise great) freedoms afforded by SM platforms.

I have to admit though – I still like the idea of “running off to Europe” to find oneself – once this Coronavirus situation has calmed, it remains a pretty decent option 🙂

Hey Leanne!

Thank you for your comment! I enjoyed reading your reply.

Each online community has its own ideal. Sadly, this is inescapable, and possibly part of the human condition. Even communities that say “you’re perfect the way you are” still idealise something – which is people who are being themselves (lol). I like that you reiterated my “no one true identity”. We can see this in our offline life – I change my identity slightly depending on who I’m around. Other people do this quite significantly, but I would like to think I am less likely to tinker with my personality and interests. Some of the changes can be subconscious however (an example of change offline would be knowing NOT to mention that you trespassed to your parents, and it is something both subconscious and conscious). Would you agree with this point about how we change ourselves – whether subconsciously or not?

Oh my goodness! I hadn’t heard of the seizure challenge and I do not like knowing about it either. Thank you for furthering my point though. That sounds incredibly problematic. I tried to keep my essay as contemporary as possible, mentioning things that have happened recently, so I like that you pointed this example out and added to it. I think almost every application has given a platform to problematic voices with this “clout culture” – would you agree?
I mentioned this earlier with Indre, but I watched a really informative video about how this has been escalating if you would like to also watch it:
An example that got me so annoyed was the brothers who claimed they were dying, and proceeded to then say “we’re doing a giveaway out of the goodness of our hearts as we are dying, please subscribe to win”.

I also admit I agree with you completely about running away – it’s my dream to go to Europe. I’ve already thought of a post I want to make there: a photo of me in a mirror in Europe with the caption “I found myself in Europe”. Get it? Because I found myself in a mirror? #lifegoals #canonlydream #horriblejoke
Thanks again! Hope you have a good weekend!


Hi Anne-Marie

To answer your questions – yes, I definately agree with your suggestion that we change our identity to suit our surroundings and our objectives. I think this can very often be so subtle that it is quite a sub conscious move. Often I will have a conversation (whether that be online or offline) with a person where I may reflect someone quite different to my persona at home among close family and friends, and sometimes we don’t actually even realise we’ve done that until AFTER the event, and we read over something we’ve written or think over that meeting/conversation again in our minds.

I learned a new term from your response – ‘clout culture’ and wow, isn’t it EVERYWHERE in online platforms. My friend (not a social media fan) calls it the ‘Love Me.. Please Love Me…’ syndrome. The video you linked was quite interesting – arrghh the two dying ‘giveaway’ guys! Sometimes it feels to me as though young people are no longer allowed to just ‘be’ in today’s world. It’s like you have to be ‘someone’ – so being yourself just doesn’t cut it.

I hope one day you get to just ‘be’ in Europe (albeit with your mirror post of course because we can’t forget we have to show everyone where we are!). Love it.


Hello again Leanne!
Haha I just replied to a comment and mentioned the idea of subconscious identity management, so it’s good we agree on that point. This concept could also be why I feel so nervous when friend groups meet or parents are near while I’m with friends (or maybe that’s just my anxiety…).
Exactly! Any attention is good attention for certain Instagram “influencers”. (I wonder where both the word “influencers” and “clout” came from??) I’m glad you enjoyed the video as much as I did, it’s so fascinating to see who thrives on Internet attention and what they do to make sure they keep it. Your point of “young people having to BE SOMEONE” makes perfect sense in correlation to clout culture, it feels sometimes like they’re trying to outdo each other with personal issues (even though all suffering is still valid even if someone’s got it worse). You can see the pressure in how many adolescents post perfectly posed and curated photographs with an intention or want to be famous and adored. The Internet is affecting the need for attention and sometimes makes it worse!
Can you think of any examples – personal or scholarly – where someone shows the wanting to BE someone not just themselves as they already are?

Haha thank you for the support with the mirror post! It plays into this visual currency (as I mentioned in Indre’s reply on this paper) where you HAVE to post about where you are or otherwise it didn’t happen in people’s minds.

Thanks for the great reply!

Hi Anne-Marie
Congratulations on a very insightful paper, I was drawn to the context of not having to run away to Europe as my daughters European trip was cancelled due to COVID, as was her 21st and her job ! but the accessibility to interact with others anywhere and still have a window into the worlds places is something we could never have dreamed of a generation ago.

I also have a teenage son who lives on line, so when I read “When youth interact with strangers and friends online, they practice their social skills with a wide range of people who have the possibility of influencing their individual identity performance.” I am not so positive about this.
I have seen first hand the bullying, the body shaming and other very negative elements that can destroy a young person rather than the positive benefits described here, yes they definitely can have good experiences but they really don’t know if the stranger is a young person like them or a predator.
The other statement “youths control the kind of information they share on social” also worries me as having done my paper on the issues on Facebook, I see the lack on censorship and controls can make this into to open a playing field that some young people will use to share things that will come back to bite them in later years.
What are your thoughts on how SM platforms can provide a safety net of sorts or some sort of agreed moderation within the communities?
In a previous work life I was involved in health care and set up a network for people in isolation, what you have covered here is perfect for those in long term iso due to limited mobility, health factors and physical location, it definitely offers a connection that so many need especially for mental health.



Hey Gerard!
Sorry to hear about your daughter! Oh my goodness – sounds like she would have to be a trooper to get through all of that. So sorry.
I agree, it’s good that we are experiencing the Coronavirus now, and not 15 years ago. It’s almost like we were preparing for this with all these digital media improvements. Because we are so connected, we’re able to still talk and play games and work and go to university whereas if it had happened earlier in history we wouldn’t. I think about this a lot – imagine if it had happened earlier, would people who don’t have internet, newspapers or television actually know when it was over? Would some humans who were already isolated end up isolating for weeks longer than they had to, just because they had no media to tell them otherwise? Do you agree with this possibly, as you have experience with networks in isolation?

I think that social media networks give some teenagers the confidence to be able to engage more socially. They can talk to people they otherwise wouldn’t have, forming connections online and offline. For example, if your son saw a post a distant friend had made about a band he liked, he might comment and start a conversation with someone he wouldn’t have connected with if he was never online. This also plays into offline identity markers as well. If a teenager is really into webcomics, and sees someone he doesn’t know well wearing a shirt with a symbol from the webcomic on it, they form a connection over shared interest and experience. I know that personally, social media helped me form stronger friendships offline and gave me more confidence among peers. Digital media itself, like television and movies, also gives an opportunity for connection: e.g. Tiger King and discussing that with your peers. Even if the love for tigers and murders fade away, that connection still remains. But I also see your point about how social media can prevent teenagers from making connections. If they’re on their devices constantly, they’re unable to have conversations with real life people, and feel that connection with a person in front of them. With the second part of the quote from my essay, “practice their social skills with.. people.. who… [can] influence their individual identity performance”, I meant that adolescents have a chance to learn what is acceptable and not acceptable. They observe that certain comments get certain reactions (bragging gets awed responses, compliments get positive responses and can lead to conversations). Through this, they practice their social skills. This is especially helpful for kids who are isolated or rejected by their peers, as they are able to form connections. However, obviously this has a downside, with adolescents viewing problematic behavior as “normal” and emulating that behavior (thus the influence of their identity performance). If you wanted to read more: most of these points are reiterated in Danah Boyd’s Why Youth Heart Social Network Sites: The Role of Networked Publics in Teenage Social Life

I definitely agree with you about the dangers of being online. In my paper I highlighted the positives and the negatives – this is a debate that could go on for the ages. Are there any particular methods when it comes to the regulation of adolescent social media use that you agree with?
Yes, I agree so deeply again with the control of information! When I was younger, they always warned us not to use certain information about our self online. I used fake names and information. I find more recently, adolescents and adults are disclosing sensitive personal information about themselves left and right! Like house addresses, full names, workplaces, just general things that can be used by either a hacker or a future employer to affect their futures. A good example of this would be the posting of photographs in school uniforms online. This gives the viewer knowledge of what school you go to, and then they can narrow down what grade you are, your class timetable, what bus route you take and so on… This is evidenced in the popular Netflix show You, where the predator uses the victim’s Instagram to find her house and then stalks her. We really don’t stress online safety enough!
And then on your note that the things we post online will come back to bite us – there is so much evidence within our lives and within overnight viral sensations’ lives that this is true. Something that comes to mind is tweets – Melissa Villasenor, when hired by Saturday Night Live, had controversial tweets come to light that people dug up. And then again, with that host for some awards show became replaced when someone else dug up racist tweets he had made years ago. This was also mentioned in Lee/Leone’s comment above, where the heightened nature of filming everything and then posting it online has given us a sense of constant surveillance. We really need to be more careful with this, adjusting our privacy settings.

Would you mind explaining your question further in regards to the safety net? (Sorry!! I have that Friday afternoon brain)

I’m glad you agreed with my article about how it fosters connection.
Thanks, Anne-Marie

Hi Anne-Marie
Great information in your response, thank you i am definitely keen to learn more from your article, it is very close to home for me.
My question is around what safety precautions could be put in place to protect our more vulnerable young people, whether it be an automated alert or a community of mentors who look out for potential dangers and negative influencers on various sites that could be somehow mitigated before awful things happen that we read about so often?

kind regards


Hey again Gerard!
Thanks for the reply. : )
I think possibly more adult moderation would be great – I know my parents have a rule where the laptops are only used in the living rooms. Another set I know have a rule for the kids to leave all devices outside their room by 10pm every night. With Apple phones – have a family Apple ID where the child has to come to you for permission to install an app. There’s also software you can download where parents can check up on their kids, and Find My Friends with Apple where you can look at their location (so they don’t lie about that). Enabling YouTube Kids as well when they’re younger and parental blocks!
I would also recommend open conversations about what can be found online – making sure children know they can come to you with any questions they might have about things. Also the parent being aware of current trends that have the potential to be dangerous, so they can try to discourage their children from following. A website dedicated to this would be helpful! And also mentors would help with these two points as well – being a parental figure but not a parent that they can talk to. I know in my church, we have youth groups led by leaders that can end up being quite influential on the kids. Personally, I found the leaders great people to talk to about anything and everything, especially if I was going through a short lived rebellious phase.
With Covid 19, TikTok has put in place a disclaimer at the bottom of every single TikTok that mentions Covid, saying “Learn the facts about Covid-19” and if you search it within the app a banner appears saying “LEARN THE FACTS ABOUT COVID 19”. This ensures that the users don’t believe incorrect information. Obviously it’s impossible to prevent all the misinformation, but this is definitely a start and really helps to control mass panic over false information.
I would say that you can’t protect children from every single bad thing out there, but you can definitely try your best (which is what matters!). More accurate education for adults about what is going on online would be a great help. I think there’s a lot of hysteria about certain apps and behaviours in the parental community that are over-worried about, whereas other apps and trends go unnoticed, hence why I say “accurate education”.
What do you think of this? Do you have any particular methods you think would be helpful for moderation?

Hi AnneMarie,

The title of your paper is an interesting one and quite engaging. Well done on your research and delving very deeply into the craft of identity performance by adolescents in online communities.

The idea that online identity performances are really continuously evolving and that adolescents find online communities a suitable theatre to live out those identities rings very true. They can be whoever they want to present as and that is their choice.

You have a strong argument and a strong conclusion. Very enjoyable read.

Do you think that because there are issues with authenticity in online communities, be it adolescent or indeed adult ones, that there is need for any adult guidance in the real world on what they might encounter online? Or it is good enough for them to explore, learn and act out however they feel like?



Hi Bayayi!
Good to see your name again – I remember it from your paper!
Thank you for the compliment on the title, I appreciate your kind words.
I really enjoy the topic of identity construction as I have explored it in both theory and art, so thank you again for the compliment.

I definitely think there is need for more adult guidance and moderation for kids of all ages. I would think everyone would benefit from open conversations about what they encounter online. It would mean less misunderstandings (thinking something means a certain thing) and an opportunity for adults to teach their kids values. However, with moderation and identity expression online/offline, it depends on the adolescent’s home environment. Youth from a more conservative household may experience internalized homophobia, so they would benefit from less adult moderation online. They would be able to freely express how they feel. Youth in a household where there is abusive behavior are able to access resources online that help them identify what behavior is not okay. I would say more adult moderation when it comes to general social media browsing would help adolescents e.g. not letting them have TikTok until they are a certain age, or letting them on with parental controls. But with more oppressive households, the adolescents would benefit from less dangerous adult moderation, being able to ‘escape’.
What do you think about my answer? Anything you agree/disagree with? Any case studies you can think of?


Hi Anne-Marie,

What a great paper and an important topic! I am impressed at your bravery in tackling such a tough, large and important topic!

What are your thoughts on whether overall this way of forming your identity is positive or negative? Form me while I understand that the communities that can be formed can have positive impacts on non-mainstream groups (ie. LGBTQ) I feel there is a negative impact for youth no developing their identities naturally. Creating an identity based on what other people are doing or what is mainstream rather than what you want could be detrimental to youth mental health. As they hide who they are in search of something that will get more views. What do you think about this?

I appreciate that your stand point in your paper acknowledges that there are both negative and positive ways of forming an identity based on online communities. Though if we look at Emma Chamberlain and her comment that she only did crafts because it was popular at the time not necessarily because she liked them this to me appears to be quite negative as she is following mainstream trends in order to get more likes or be popular rather than forming an identity around who she is naturally and what she likes? Or do you think that people are beginning to like different thinks naturally because they are exposed to them on SNS?

So many more avenues for more research! You did well to condense such a large topic into such a condense yet intricate paper.

Hey Emily! Thank you for your praise, I really appreciate your kind words!
I would say forming your identity this way would be a mix of both positive and negative. It provides new avenues of exploration, but obviously it comes with its fair amount of downsides. I personally think it is more good than bad, as it really gives youth unlimited platforms to discover new things. It helps young people in isolated, rural areas access things they wouldn’t be able to – discussion boards, new people, different opinions from the conservative ones they experience. You definitely have a point about identity suppression, and being more detached from exploring life physically. I agree with you, but I do still think it has given so much to youth as well.
Yes that is the point I was trying to make in the paper – Emma’s quote is a great example of following the crowd. When I found it, I was very happy as it backs up my hypothesis of identity influence. But I also agree with “People are beginning to like different things naturally because they are exposed to them”. It’s hard to know what you like unless you see it – and I mention that in the paper when I say : Each individual creates an online and offline identity, directly influenced by their online community. This is because of the new ideas and media presented to them through these communities (Boase, 2008). They try on these different skins to see what they like and don’t like, exploring their identity and shaping their attitude. Digital media enables adolescents to access resources and connect with other likeminded people in online communities, as well as practice identity performance.” It is hard to know what you like if you’re not experiencing anything. Would you agree with this?

Thanks for your great response.
Have a great weekend!

Hi Anne-Marie,

I think that is a great way to put it! You need to be exposed to different things to decide whether or not you like them. A bit like trying new foods.

Laura Brunker’s (2020) paper ‘Digital Activism in Online Communities and the Spread of Misinformation on Twitter’ she comments that “…users are likely to follow other people with opinions similar to their own”. This almost offers another counter argument to yours that people are following what they are already interested in aside from social media’s influence. Though also it could be interpreted that people begin to do this after they narrow down their likes and dislikes through the influence and assistance of social media! I think it is such a great topic as there are so many varying opinions on it.

I think at the end of the day I agree with you that it is a positive movement so long as it is managed properly and children are taught how to use it safely for their mental health and also physical wellbeing from a young age!

Hey Emily!
Laura’s right, completely right. However, you can connect my argument to hers when you think about the “Explore” tab on Instagram, the fact that every time you press Follow on Instagram a drop down list of Suggested Follows appears, that influencers/businesses on Facebook can select certain attributes of a person to appear on their feed, tagged photographs of purchases users you follow make, that Twitter gives you a list of Suggested Accounts to Follow on the side, and so on. Users ARE likely to follow people with similar opinions, but I would say it would be near impossible to not encounter other accounts and other ideas on social media. We are always being suggested new content and new people to follow that are similar to what we’re already interested in – but not EXACTLY what we’re already interested in (similar being the key word). You discover other ideas that are SIMILAR to what you like… but you don’t just have one opinion. An example of this would be loving the beach – so you follow beach related accounts right? You post about the beach, the accounts post about the beach, so Facebook/Instagram would show you advertisements for special beach towels. The people you follow would post about different swimwear, beach workouts or surf boards – all related to the beach but not exactly just about the beach. You would discover this content, and then decide for yourself – do you want to follow this swimwear brand that promotes modesty? Or do you not like modesty, and you like little swimsuits instead? Are you interested in beach workouts? Would you follow who the user credits for their beach workout, and then discover other workouts not done at the beach?

From this example, you can see that your feed will be constantly evolving from the influences you get online and offline (someone shows you something offline, you decide to research it online and follow some new accounts). Social media is constantly recommending to you new accounts/ideas/things as they want you to stay on it, and stay interested for as long as possible.
Does this continuation of my argument make sense? Do you think it connects to Laura’s still?

I agree with you about children being properly taught how to use social media safely. How do you think we can do this? Do you think we should implement classes possibly in schools to teach this?
I definitely think with the rise of Snapchat that teens should be made aware of how easily their private photos can be leaked and are actually something that people can be arrested for.


Hi Anne-Marie,

I guess what you are saying is that there are tiny changes that happen with your suggestions and then follows that move you slowly toward a broader account (ie. not just the beach but beach related things that then have their own subcategories etc). I had not thought of it that way! Potentially because they are such minor changes until they make a big change. I do think that your paper is still mildly connected to Laura’s as while there are suggestions for broader accounts and content they are still loosely linked under the same category. However! They are slightly different components that create a more varied account.

I think that with children it is about being vigilant and not allowing them to have too much freedom from a young age. As they simply do not understand. For example I had an experience where I was taking care of two young girls both under 9 years of age. (two friends they were having a playdate). They were in one of the girls bedroom and I was listening to them but giving them space to play on their own. They filmed a video (as they spend a lot of time watching those youtube channels that families have together where the children often take charge of the content) and in the video mentioned their address and their full names. I went in and stood at the door and kept listening to their conversation where they were talking about how much of a good idea it would be to post that on Youtube or Instagram. I sat them down and explained why it was not a good idea which they understood and I also explained that they shouldn’t be posting anything without asking both of their parents first. This they understood a bit less haha. I think that open communication about SNS is key and schools and teachers can definitely help! I think that it would also help if these accounts online with children that seemingly post things by themselves (though I am sure have parental help and permission) put out notices before or after each video that promoted not posting anything online without your parents consent.

Hey again Emily!
Thank you for your lengthy response.
Yes, we consume so much content subconsciously each day. This is outlined in my source by E. H. Gombrich’s 1982 The Image and the Eye. He talks about how we are confronted with images constantly around us, from our cereal boxes, our newspapers, billboards, phones, and so on. We don’t even register how many images we see in the space of a day as we’re so used to them.
I agree strongly with your point about internet safety and children – I was discussing with my husband how we will regulate Internet usage with our future kids. Many kids want to be like the people they see on YouTube which can be so harmful! I recently watched a video about how popular family channels often get to a point where all their content is about recklessly spending money: obviously this would have a bad influence on children, especially if they don’t come from a well-off family. I think maybe even having to have parental approval before their kids post anything as well could be helpful?
Do you think that YouTube is a positive or negative influence for children? I view it as more of a distraction so parents can get things done without their children around.

Hi Annmarie,
Thanks for an insightful paper, I learnt a lot about what internet forces are influencing our youth and the role that is playing in the development of their identities. I always wondered what a “Spam” Instagram account was for- thanks! SNS’s certainly do offer a vast range of community’s young people can draw from, the only limiting factor is their willingness to explore. With regards to the points you make about the dangers of social media because of a lack of moderation, is this any different from the offline world? Like, sneaking behind the garden shed to have a smoke because it’s out of the teachers view of supervision? In all, a good read!

Hello Craig!
Thank you! When I posted the link to this paper on my Facebook, I was really hoping that it would help inform people who weren’t aware of these goings-on. I’m glad you learned from it!
Yes, a lot of parallels can be drawn between the online and offline worlds. I agree with your point, but I would say that less online moderation would possibly have a larger, longer lasting effect than offline. Things that are posted on the Internet last longer than if they’re posted on a bulletin board. If you sneak out to have a smoke and then a picture is posted online, that would last longer and have more consequences if seen by an adult. Obviously there are still major consequences that would happen offline with smoking, but I feel online has more of a ripple effect – the photo posted might have comments by friends that could be seen by their parents individually. Would you agree with this ripple effect? Have you seen any examples of this?

Hi Anne-Marie,

Your paper provides a thoughtful exploration of the influence social media has on the formation of youth identity. Well done!

I note that the figures you provide in the introduction about the number of adolescents using social media were from 2014 – it would be interesting to see what those numbers look like in 2020. I imagine that they have shot up enormously!

Sarah’s paper (Young women, Instagram and creating identity) left me wondering where the ‘authentic self’ was in the midst of all the online performance that we’re seeing. I was surprised to read that Dr Guy argues that ‘authentic identity’ doesn’t exist in young adults. Do you agree with that position?

As a couple of others have mentioned, I would have liked to have seen you touch on the issue of bullying within the frame of all this exploration. I understand that words were limited and it is a huge topic!

Overall, great work! You’ve gone into a level of detail that has provided good insight into this issue.


Hi Anna!
Good to see you around again.
I know, they told me to use more scholarly sources so I looked for the statistics I wanted in papers – harder than I thought to find a current source! I like that you pointed out that it was older, I did the same thing for the Social Media class in the Annotated Bibliography. I tried to make up for it with the TikTok Challenges that were more recent.

I agree with Dr Guy. Youth are constantly revising their identity. I can see it in my twelve year old cousin and her friends. They are always changing their names, their profiles, deleting and adding photos, just uploading, uploading, uploading. The teen years are where you are finding yourself, experiencing different things, and having new influences. They are constantly changing themselves. Dr Guy says that there is no authentic ‘one’ identity because of how we are different online and offline – even subconsciously, we are different.
Yes unfortunately to fit everything in and give it the platform it deserves, I did not include bullying explicitly. However, I still touched on it implicitly throughout the paper like when I mentioned identity erasure/peer pressure. When I finished the paper, I actually had 3,100 words so this is a heavily edited version. I also wanted to touch more on identity formative aspects that were less mentioned as well, as I feel cyberbullying is something always discussed. We don’t talk as much about the exploration of identity and how online media gives minorities a platform to meet each other.
What do you think about authentic identity online?

Hi Anne-Marie,

I appreciate the angle you took for your paper. I think you’re right that there is a lot of conversation around cyberbullying, which is obviously an important topic, but that can influence the conversation more generally around the way in which young people use social media and the internet.

Authentic identity online is a can of worms! Is your question specifically around the authentic identities of young people? I agree that the internet allows for a fluidity of identity that we’ve never really seen before. It makes the perfect platform for exploring and creating different identities for different audiences. I have to say though, that I don’t agree with Dr Guy. For me, the fact though young people are using the internet to experiment with identity formation does not preclude them from having their own authentic self within that. I see the internet acting more as a tool for young people to explore the authentic self that they know is there – to find the boundaries and definitions of what exists, rather than there being nothing authentic whatsoever. I opened up Dr Guy’s thesis, but didn’t have enough time to look at it closely. Perhaps it’s a case of ‘potato’ versus ‘potahto’?

Thanks for your response!

Hey Anna!
I really do wish that there was more word limit as evidenced above with my incredibly long responses (sorry, everyone) as I would have loved to deconstruct cyberbullying more and also discussed preventative measures parents can take.

I meant more what do you think authentic identity is? Does it exist on the Internet and also in real life? I also wouldn’t say no to examples from your life or in research papers of authentic/not-authentic identity. For instance, I had a friend tell me once how much she didn’t like this one couple dating, the next day I saw she had commented on their photograph on social media telling them how much she loved them dating. This would be an example of inauthentic identity as I don’t know how she really feels about them.

With Dr Guy’s thesis, I would look at the Chapter 2: The Presentation of Self Online. I actually printed this out while I was trying to formulate a thesis and it was so helpful! If you get a chance to read it I would recommend it. She has a way with putting things into words…

Thanks for your comments!

Hi AnneMarie,
Like many of the others who have also read your paper, I was also intrigued by your title! The next paper I try to write I will aim to have a catchy attention-grabbing title like yours! I felt that your abstract was perfect in describing the argument of your paper. Personally, I felt a little awkward writing an abstract and I’m amazed at how well yours turned out. It was clear that your paper has been well-researched and very well written. It was very easy to read and had a great flow throughout the paper.
Some quotes that I really enjoyed within your paper were:
– “This connects to Guy’s argument that when we use digital technology, we are pushing ourselves through a filter on the communities we use (Guy, 2017) which relates to how adolescents filter themselves for the different identity expressions on both accounts.”
I liked the expression of adolescents filtering different aspects of their identities and the idea of them using multiple accounts to portray two sides on social media sites for professional and personal uses that show how they need to keep their identities fractured online between two different accounts.

– Caroline Calloway, a well-known Internet personality and writer, asks “If you build a life around an identity that springs from your own imagination, is it ever inauthentic?” (Calloway, 2020, as cited in Greenspan et al., 2020, para. 1).
I thought this quote was very thought-provoking and a great addition to your paper. I agree with this statement and the idea that within these online environments it is difficult to ever truly think of an identity as being authentic when it comes from your imagination and every detail is already considered with an audience in mind.
I must admit when you commented on my paper regarding my thoughts on how social media can make things more problematic, it didn’t even occur to me to think of instances like you have stated above regarding challenges on TikTok going so far as hospitalisations. I hadn’t come across this area within my research, but I am glad that you included it in your paper and brought this topic up!

Hey Sarah!
Thank you for your kind words. I’m glad you liked my abstract as I felt I did not do a great job with it! You were really good in your paper by the way! I felt ours went hand in hand.
I LOVE that you outlined my two favorite quotes within my paper! Guy really did a great job with the “filter” argument, I imagined a teenager trying to fit a whole watermelon (identity) through a small filter/blender (social media) when I read it. With this metaphor, it makes you think about how identities are actually such a large thing, and there’s no possible way you could fit an entire identity in a small phone screen (but it is possible to fit parts of it).
Caroline Calloway is a really interesting person to study on the Internet, she’s an absolute whirlwind who has received so much online harassment but keeps going! I thought a quote from her about identity would emphasise the construction of identities online and offline. She seems like she would be similar to her online personality, but she revealed a few years ago that while she had been writing us great Instagram stories, she was addicted to Adderall. It changed the context of her story: had she been lying to us or did she just not fit in the Adderall part of her life through Guy’s “filter”?
Do you think that we need to be honest with our online audiences on social media, or can we, as Caroline did, make ourselves whoever we want to be?

You’re more than welcome! You did such a good job! I liked the fact that our papers centred around each other and it brought more things to mind that I hadn’t encountered within my research.
That is a great metaphor and it reminds me of how underplayed identity can seem until you really try to pinpoint and define it. There are so many aspects of an identity that can be shared so no wonder they are so hard to understand!
Oh, wow. She really does sound like an interesting person to look into and concealing something like that does definitely change how she is perceived. That is a good point to make. There would be many aspects of an identity that get filtered out that may seem extremely important to some and maybe not to others. I guess maybe it all depends on Calloway’s intention with not sharing this information.
I think that in trying on different identities we are able to construct or create new identities that may feel more comfortable to us than previous ones. In a way, I do think it should be possible to create an identity into what you want to be as long as it feels comfortable to the individual than that will come through honestly to their audience. I hope that makes sense!

Hello again Sarah,
I’m glad you liked our paper similarity! It’s always great to see things from different viewpoints.
Yes, it’s difficult to pinpoint Calloway’s exact intentions behind each piece. It would take a thesis maybe to deconstruct her online identity as there are so many layers.
It is a little confusing but I do understand roughly what you’re trying to say. Do you mean that the identity that a user feels most comfortable with is their most honest identity?

Hi Anne-Marie,

Your comments are definitely not being our friend – won’t let me reply directly either!
In response to:
“Would you say that you personally think communities are mainly a positive influence? Or do you think that we, as a society, should be more educated on the positive/negative influences?”
I personally believe that online communities are definitely primarily a positive influence, even if bad (as pointed out in my essay) they still can offer someone a sense of purpose and belonging. However, just like real world communities, online communities have their fair share of bad points but I think that as the Internet is still so ‘young’, we’re all quite naive to its power! I guess we also can approach Web communities without the inhibitions that may hinder our involvement in the ‘real’ world.

Hey Lachlan! Good idea commenting again – I’ve run into the problem of not being able to continuously reply on a few other threads, it’s most likely WordPress.
Haha yes, I do remember your paper’s outlining of negative influences well.
I guess you could say the Internet is made up of little communities with a place for everyone, no matter how weird/negative/strange their desires are, there’s a place for it. Most of the time, it’s really positive being able to provide a person with validation as they may struggle to find that in real life.
I strongly agree with your point that we are too naive to the Internet’s power. We all know it’s something so big but we could never fully comprehend how it has changed lives and connected people (such as written in your essay, how I never thought of terrorists using Twitter). The Internet’s communities can be seen as so freeing, being able to be “anonymous” (as mentioned in my paper) even though that’s not really true with IP address tracking and browsing history. People definitely change online, as I argue in my paper, subconsciously becoming more positive, or more negative, or however they want to be viewed in their community.
Do you think there’s a way that people could become more accountable online? Like a government implemented course in schools about the effects of Internet usage on yours and others’ mental health?

Hi Anne-Marie,

I enjoyed reading your paper as your topic is interesting with a great title, well done!

You have described very well in your paper how “social media platforms provide adolescents with opportunities to perform diverse identities and form strong and supportive communities”, provided good examples of adolescent online identity performances which are “carefully curated”, discussed how adolescents have more chance of social interactions to peers online than offline, their vulnerability to negative content, use of online role models such as ‘VSCO girl’ and finding the right identity with support groups as exemplified by LGBTQ individuals.

I agree with your argument that “Young adults’ identity emerges through a process of performing diverse self-expressions within online communities, demonstrating that there is no authentic identity”. I understand that they perform different identities with the influences of online role models and online communities that supports them so may end up being different from their offline identities.

Your conclusion that “Social media platforms provide youth with valuable opportunities to perform different identities and form lasting, supportive connections within their communities” reflects the strong influence of social media platforms today on adolescents which I also agree.

Thank you.

Hey Kathryn!
Thank you for your feedback and a great recap of my essay.

What did you think of in regards to adolescent identity constantly changing? Have you seen any personal examples of that in your life?

Why do you agree with my social media has a significant influence on youth? Was it because of my examples or because you have seen that in your own life? Do you think social media should be more regulated for teens?


Hi Anne-Marie!
Finally found your paper after all our discussions on mine haha!
This was a great read, very interesting and relatable! I loved the beginning where you made mention of there being no such thing as an authentic identity, it’s so true because how can you have one true identity with all the different types of things we are exposed to on social media and in the real world. Especially on Tok Tok also where we mainly just watch our For You Page which is a cultivation of random videos from people we do not necessarily follow, unlike Instagram where we only really see people we have chosen to follow who may all be a similar vibe. The mention of the two instagram accounts was interesting too; one for professional and curated feeds whilst one is for a private glimpse for friends. We can hardly say we are aiming for authenticity and reality if there is one side of us we hide haha. Although I will say this does definitely seem to be changing slowly as a result of people posting more raw and real content such as Emma Chamberlain who you mentioned. I definitely agree that everyone seems to be copying the trends and style of those who are receiving attention and creating content specifically to receive positive feedback. Are we really being authentic? What are your thoughts on all of the Tok Tok challenges, trends, sounds and dances etc that people tend to just recreate? Is social media and its users losing its individuality and authenticity?


Hey Mel!
Great to bump into you again.
I’m glad you liked the essay! I appreciate your feedback. : )

Yes, I also mainly watch the For You page when I go on TikTok. I think the For You page can be such a dangerous thing, as you can literally scroll for hours never running out of content… (My record is a hour and a half. Since then, I have regulated my use and put a time limit on the app) It also brings up issues of younger children using it and coming into contact with inappropriate content and dangerous ideas (as evidenced in my paper with the challenges). Would you let your child on TikTok?

I agree that people post content with the intention and desire to be famous behind it. I also think we should discuss the challenges and issues of this “internet fame” and the digital footprint it creates, alongside the long term consequences.

I like to think that I’m authentic on Instagram and Facebook: I post what I want, even if it isn’t popular, but mainly because I feel strongly about the content. However I have deleted a few posts before because I’ve felt awkward that it hasn’t had much interaction… So is it ever really possible to be authentic online? I would say no, at this stage.

I would say that the TikTok challenges and dances can be a great thing if used properly. If they are safe, they can make an individual or group feel like part of a community and connected to others through repetition and similarities in their identity performance. The dances and challenges can also make for great physical activity! But as evidenced above, they can be quite a negative influence and harmful for users.
Social media is evolving. Even though it is difficult to be YOURSELF and just yourself with no other emotion, it is a really interesting thing to study. Its influences will be felt for generations and generations. I don’t know if we could ever really get rid of it – I feel it’s too firmly ingrained into society. I think it’s a great place in some aspects to figure out your individual identity, and to practice identity performances, but it can be so negative at the same time.
Would you agree with this?

Hope that makes sense!


Hi Anne Marie,

I really enjoyed reading your paper. I based my assignment off of the stream ‘Communities and Web 2.0’ so it was really interesting learning about ‘Identity in Communities and Networks’. I was really drawn to your title and especially love the comedic and almost sarcastic side to no longer needing to ‘find yourself’ in Europe.

Here are some of my thoughts/questions –

1. “Each individual creates an online and offline identity, directly influenced by their online community.”
– When you say online community, who are you referring to here? Is it their friends, their followers or both? Do you think the influence is due to peer pressure, wanting to be accept and wanting to be perceived in a certain way?

2. “Digital media enables adolescents to access resources and connect with other likeminded people in online communities, as well as practice identity performance.”
– I definitely agree with this statement. Accessing resources and connecting with other likeminded people are a couple of the many reasons why I love digital media and the technological world.

3. “Evidence of this is seen in the popularity of having two Instagram profiles: One account for professional, serious posting for the public’s consumption and one private account, affectionately nicknamed a “spam” account only for close friends, where the user posts constant photographs ranging from memes to strangely angled selfies.”
– Oh, I did not even realise this was a thing. I don’t know if I’m showing my age (25) or not or whether I was just not aware. What age group did you find this to be prevalent in? I have noticed influencers in particular having a main Instagram page for their polished Instagram feed and then another for their disposable photos which I find really creative. And I personally have my personal Instagram feed where I post ‘life’ stuff and a separate account for my business. But I hadn’t heard of having a separate account for “spam” type photos before, I guess it’s the same sort of concept of the disposable camera trend. What do you think?

4. “The identity performance of adolescents seeks popularity and social validation by their peers (Stern, 2004), allowing them to be vulnerable to dangerous influences from their community.”
– I haven’t heard or seen any of the examples you used in this paragraph on Tik Tok or online anywhere but they are so scary. It would be so hard as a parent to stop your kids from trying these challenges, especially if their peers are partaking in them. This is definitely one of the negatives of SNSs.

5. “Youth adjust their identity to encourage positive feedback from their desired community.”
– Do you think all youth are like this or is this a generalised statement? I think to a certain extent everyone likes to show a good front when it comes to SNSs and don’t often show the bad days, as an example.

Overall, I really enjoyed the points you made in your paper and the examples you used. It was great delving deeper into the habits of youths on social media, I will definitely pay more attention now when I am online.


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