The Oxford Dictionary defines ‘Identity’ as “The characteristics determining who or what a person or thing is”
But is it something that we are born with or is it something that we create?
Sociologist Erving Goffman describes identity as an interactive construction rather than something ‘given’ and suggests that all social interaction is like a dramatic performance.
Likewise, I believe that we can be whoever the hell we want to be … understandably, we cannot control how we are born, our gender or the genes we inherit; however I feel we have the power to manipulate our identity and portray ourselves as whoever or whatever we desire to be.
People behave differently in different settings. Take a working environment in which you would perform professionally against a social setting were you would behave in a more relaxed manor. In both settings we would conduct ourselves differently however both still require performance. This theory applies across the communication board, whether that be in person, over the phone, email and varies depending on the receiver / audience.
Goffman’s theory was, pardon the pun… identified in the late 50’s, a long time before the internet and the rise of social media but I feel it largely applies to this day and age.
The internet and social media platforms enable us to go to extremes and be absolutely anyone we want and to the point where we can hide behind the identity of an existing or fictitious person…commonly known as ‘catfishing’.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying these social media Influencers have fake profiles but I do think they can paint their identity to appear absolutely perfect and flawless. That combined with consistent activity of interesting content, generates followers and subscribers and enables them to position themselves on a social pedestal for us “real people” to view them as superior.
It’s obviously not as simple as that, if it were we all would be doing it but you do have to have that something extra and special to stand out; whether that be a beautiful face, body or character…it’s knowing how to utilise it and essentially brand / market yourself.
International social influencer and all-rounder 23 year old fitness guru, entrepreneur and mother of 3, Tammy Hembrow is a prime example and she is very much in demand.
Her social identity has become a 24/7 job, inspiring thousands of people and consumers worldwide. The success has even landed her brand sponsorships and endorsements such as fitness clothing line ‘Gym Shark’, which generate revenue and a lot of revenue at that… since 2017 her net worth is approximately $1.6 million!
But is it possible to be absolutely flawless 100% of the time? Of course not but this platform is one of Tammy’s ‘front stages’ and when she’s not working, she probably behaves like a normal full-time mother and fiancé and in a more relaxed environment, as her ‘back stage’ self.
Technology is so advanced these days that you don’t need to be a professional photo editor to edit images. We can instantaneously alter and enhance a basic photograph with the use of filters and editing tools…we can even access editing apps for free or pay next to nothing to smooth out blemishes, whiten teeth and even bring in our waistlines.
But how far is too far? Are these embellished photographs not showing an unrealistic representation that you couldn’t possibly compete with in person…
Vicky Pattison was initially and famously known for being on MTV TV series Geordie Shore which let’s be honest… probably didn’t paint her in the best light.
However with the help of the social media, she has managed to change public opinion and landed respected roles such as presenting on ITV’s Loose Women as well as starting her own online clothing boutique ‘Honeyz’.
Vicky is also no stranger to editing apps and isn’t shy about it either!
She admitted during a discussion on Loose Women that she enhances pictures of herself; airbrushing and smoothing out wrinkles etc. something that various social media fans have slated her for.
Vicky might regularly share airbrushed selfies and edited snaps but occasionally she will post a natural and unedited picture, say at the gym for example.
When it comes to male social influencers, their natural snaps are more than likely untouched but enhanced with a basic filter however the same measures apply; the content is attractive to consumers, brands and is consistent.
Take Instagram success Nick Bateman for example…
Aside from the obvious…he’s a very handsome guy but his social content is appealing to a wide audience and probably a large majority of that being Yorkshire terrier fans and followers.
I’m a big fan of Nick and how he portrays himself online. In the words of Derek Zoolander, it’s not all about being really, really, ridiculously good looking… Nick doesn’t take himself too seriously and offers an element of humour on his social feed.
Haters are also not likely to hate with content like this…
I mean how could you???
Stay tuned for Part Two: The Social Influencer: Back Stage
Cara Cowan is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be contacted on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/caracowan/