Self-presentation in social media

With the Internet entered into the Web2.0 era, social media has become the most popular network applications, along with the transfer of people’s relationship from offline to online. Different from the past network social interaction, the biggest feature of the social network is to “met acquaintances through acquaintances”, the first acquaintance here is usually an acquaintance in offline social relationship, that is a family member, a relative, a friend, etc., and the second acquaintance is usually a new friend in a social network; specially embodied as publicity, interpersonality and authenticity. Overall, people maintain offline social relationships and develop new social relationships in social media. In addition, the performance of people in social media is also different from that in the network social interaction in the past, and it has become more and more close to the real.


Concept of self-presentation

In 1959, Goffman, Canadian sociologist, made a systematic exposition of the theory of “self-presentation”. He believes that everyone is always trying to maintain an appropriate impression in the social context, in order to get a positive evaluation (Goffman, 1959). After the emergence of social media, people gradually transfer the social activities to the Internet, and they build their own images through text, images, sound and other symbols systems (Hogan, 2010).


The most important feature of traditional social communication (also known as social interaction) is the “presence” (face to face). The gathering of friends and relatives, the communication between the neighborhood, the talks in working space and so on, are all so. We know each other through gender, physical appearance, mannerisms and facial expressions, body posture, dress and so on; also we present ourselves by physical appearance, mannerisms and facial expressions, body posture, dress, etc.. Self-presentation or Impression Management is a fundamental component of social interaction of phenomenon or reality.People always want to present the impression of “meeting expectations” in the right place.


The concepts of Self-presentation and Impression Management originate from the theory of drama. In the The presentation of everyday life “ (1959), Goffman mentioned Self-presentation and Impression Management for the first time. Goffman (1959, 1989) compares social interaction to dramatic performance, thinking that people’s choice of verbal and nonverbal behaviors in social interaction to achieve the “expected impression” is the Impression Management of Self-presentation. It is widely believed by academic circles that the motive of Self-presentation is mainly to meet the expectations of the society or the situation. Self-presentation theory generally believes that in any form of social interactions, people are trying to control their impressions in the eyes of others (Goffman, 1989; Schlenker, 2003).


In social media, people “operate” their personal home page, photo albums, status and logs through text, images, audios, videos and other means, in which people interact with each other, this forms a new social interaction. Such text oriented and symbolic ways are becoming the most important ways of self presentation in social media.


Social media has the harmony of virtual social interactions and real social interactions. In the WEB1.0 era, since the network communications exist in all kinds of information relationship structure only in digital form, and do not depend on the physical reality such as specific time and space which are depended on by the real communications, from the Internet chat rooms to instant messaging and a variety of social networking forums or social virtual community, people tend to distinguish themselves from the real social life and virtual networks. And Web2.0 is a network relationship established based on people’s offline relationship, in addition, SNS technology innovation makes the real life more and more mapped to the network society. On such a basis, due to the personality of the cross situational consistency and stability, people are more and more aware that the virtual platform of social media is just a tool brought by a technology, not the purpose, and the performance of people in the network is more and more consistent with that in the reality. Kaplan & Haenlein (2010) break down social media into six categories based on the level of self-presentation (Pic1). People will transfer the social interaction in the real life and then extend to the network society, what people show and present in the network society and the mutual communications and interactions are real. Therefore, since people gradually adapt to the characteristics of the network society, it is inevitable to integrate the virtual and real, and to return to the unity and integration of the self.



pic 1


Self-presentation strategies in social media


In order to achieve credibility and advantage, people adopt different strategies to carry out certain impression management. Overall, there are three kinds of self-presentation strategies: positive impression presentation, revision impression control, and vague impression formation of fuzzy control (Fiske, 1991). Proactive strategy refers that people value other people’s perception of self image in social media, and are willing to show the positive side, willing to upload photos to show personal image. Fuzzy generalization strategy refers that in order to avoid others to produce stereotyped images on oneself in social media, individuals tend to express their inner thoughts and feelings vaguely. Passive strategy refers to control the negative emotions and negative attitudes in social media.


The study on 425 undergraduates from many Utah State Universities by Chou Hui-Tzu & Nicholas Edge (2012) shows that those who spend more time on Facebook are more likely to think that Facebook’s “friends” live a better life”; this indicates from the side view that people present a better side on the Facebook. In other words, people choose to present themselves in social media: They present more positive emotions rather than negative emotions in social media (pic 2), and compared to the self-presentation in reality, people are more willing to show a better side in social media (Lin Qiu, 2012).



Network media plays an important role in the psychological development and the self identity of teenagers, especially the rise of social networking sites, which makes teenagers’ preferences, intimate relationship and ideology collected and display simultaneously. Different from the public forums constructed with interest, hobby or a certain theme, social network is a user-centered virtual community. Social media allow teenagers to create a personal homepage, to form an identity in the social media, and a variety of backgrounds, graphics, music, videos and so on have become general and direct communication means for teenagers.


Application of self-presentation and identity in our unit


Based on the principle of self-presentation, in the social media campaign of this semester, I designed an exclusive logo associated with the theme of the “movie” for the service principle as the image (pic 3), also the author uses “movie”, “art”, “literature”, “drama” as labels in the social media homepage, thus to find the opinion leaders and potential users through the same label.


pic 3

In general, “to met acquaintances through acquaintances” is an important attribute of social media, specifically reflected in the publicity, interpersonality and authenticity. Such characteristics integrate the virtual society in the network and the real communications in reality together, unlike previous non personality of network social communications and non-connection with real communications, it also gives a possibility for social media as front desks. In this context, self-presentation in social media is possible, and also closely linked to the real social communications.




Chou, H. T. G., & Edge, N. (2012). “They are happier and having better lives than I am”: the impact of using Facebook on perceptions of others’ lives. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 15(2), 117-121.

Fiske, S. T., & Taylor, S. E. (2013). Social cognition: From brains to culture. Sage.

Goffman, E. (1959). The presentation of everyday life. New York et al.: Anchor Books.

Hogan, B. (2010). The presentation of self in the age of social media: Distinguishing performances and exhibitions online. Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society, 0270467610385893.

Kaplan, A. M., & Haenlein, M. (2010). Users of the world, unite! The challenges and opportunities of Social Media. Business horizons, 53(1), 59-68.

Qiu, L., Lin, H., Ramsay, J., & Yang, F. (2012). You are what you tweet: Personality expression and perception on Twitter. Journal of Research in Personality, 46(6), 710-718.

Schlenker, B. R. (2003). Self-presentation.


2 thoughts on “Self-presentation in social media

  1. In all those posts, I am more interested in this article called “Self-presentation in social media”, posted by miyaaagao.

    First of all, it is an interesting angle to judge social media. The author believes that everyone would like to use social media platforms to leave an impression on others’ mind. Also, a research from Utah State University was mentioned. In this research, researchers find that people who spend more time on Facebook will probably think their friends are living a better life – it indicates that people are more likely to show their positive and shiny side to others.

    Another interesting point is that the author claims that virtual game worlds have high social presence but low self-presentation. I cannot agree with it more. As a online gamer, I am totally a different person in game worlds – I am extroverted and wordy in games while I am introverted and quiet in real life. I just have not thought about it in that interesting angle.

    Anyway, the angle provided by the author really inspires me to have some new thoughts about social media and online games. Good work!


  2. I really enjoyed the article, as it presented a great analysis about our self-presentation in social media. The article demonstrated how people have a strategy to “operate” their social media profiles in order to get a greater admiration and acceptance from their connections. This representation does not reflect their real lives, which ends up putting a lot of pressure on people about how they present themselves in social media.

    The post reminded me of the case of the Australian model, Essena O’Neil, who completely abdicated social media in 2015, under the affirmation that she had a dream life that was not real. According to the model, she “was surrounded by all this wealth and all this fame and all this power and yet they were all miserable, and I had never been more miserable”. Essena deleted all her posts from her profiles, which had more than 500 thousand followers, and recorded a video talking about how she was freeing herself from her fake life.

    This is an extreme example, however it’s a good warning about how harmful the pressure of having a perfect self-presentation in social media can be, especially for teenagers.


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