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The Looking Glass Lens: Self-concept Changes Due to Social Media Practices



This study brought an enduring social psychology theory into the era of mass self-communication. Cooley's (1902) looking glass self posits that the self-concept is built, in part, by how a person sees him-or herself and, in part, by the reaction of others. For social media producers, neither the reflection nor others' judgment needs to be imagined. Digital media can serve as a mediated mirror and social media sites provide the space where others' judgments are clearly posted. YouTube producers were asked if they had come to see themselves differently since posting to the mega-media site and, if so, how. Forty-six participants reported self-concept changes ranging from being more accepting of their physical appearance to gaining confidence Julie M. Jones is an Associate Professor at the Gaylord College at the University of Oklahoma. Correspondence can be directed to
Page 100 The Journal of Social Media in Society 4(1)
The Looking Glass Lens:
Self-concept Changes Due
to Social Media Practices
Julie M. Jones
This study brought an enduring social psychology theory
into the era of mass self-communication. Cooley’s (1902)
looking glass self
posits that the self-concept is built, in
part, by how a person sees him- or herself and, in part, by
the reaction of others. For social media producers, neither
the reflection nor others’ judgment needs to be imagined.
Digital media can serve as a mediated mirror and social
media sites provide the space where others’ judgments are
clearly posted. YouTube producers were asked if they had
come to see themselves differently since posting to the
mega-media site and, if so, how. Forty-six participants re-
ported self-concept changes ranging from being more ac-
cepting of their physical appearance to gaining confidence
Julie M. Jones is an Associate Professor at the Gaylord College
at the University of Oklahoma. Correspondence can be directed
Page 101
from overcoming the sting of negative comments to being
empowerment due to a new role within a global, digital
environment. The combination of media and media shar-
ing platforms can serve as a digital looking glass lens.
he ability to share self-produced media online is
one of the most salient changes brought about
by digital technology. This new paradigm,
which Castells (2009) calls the
mass self-
model, is a significant alteration to the
20th century, top-down, hierarchical model of mass commu-
nication. Individuals armed with cell phones, web-cams,
GoPro and other WiFi enabled cameras have the ability to
express themselves and share these visual expressions
widely sometimes with political, legal, and cultural ramifi-
cations (Jenkins, 2006; Lessig, 2008; Yousuf, 2009). In-
cluded in this mix of self-produced media is, quite literally,
media of
where the creator of an image turns a cam-
era lens on him- or herself to capture a photo or video clip.
These new forms of “me-media,” such as vlogs (video blogs)
and selfies (photographic self-portraits), are rising in popu-
larity ("Self-portraits and social media: The rise of the
'selfie'," 2013). Scholarship tends to focus on either the
“mass” side of Castells’ model, e.g. the influence of citizen
media on news practices (Gillmor, 2004), or on self-
presentation styles rather than the more encompassing
self-concept (Zhao, 2005). Rare is the study that examines
how social media practices
the producers them-
Social psychology considers the self-concept much
like a cup that contains a collection of identities, roles, and
values an individual holds about one’s self. These notions
Page 102 The Journal of Social Media in Society 4(1)
of self are formed through an inner dialog the person has
with him- or herself with certain social situations and ac-
tors in mind. Cooley’s (1902) theory of the
looking glass
analogizes this process to that of checking one’s ap-
pearance in a mirror; i.e. a person sees him- or herself in a
mirror, begins to imagine how he or she appears to others,
anticipates their judgment, which evokes an emotional re-
sponse. Digital cameras allow producers to easily create a
mediated form of self while social media platforms afford
an easy means of sharing and gathering others’ judgment
via replies, comments, likes and shares. This study asked
YouTube producers two simple questions: Have you come
to see yourself differently since posting on YouTube and, if
so, how. Along with Cooley’s looking glass self,
James’ (1890) classification of the self-concept serves as a
conceptual framework to categorize the common themes
that emerged from YouTubers’ responses. The literature
review begins with the foundational writings on the self-
concept (i.e. James, Cooley) before addressing how the me-
dium (video) and the social environment (YouTube) could
fit into Cooley’s looking glass self.
The me in the mirror: Self-concept theories
James (1890) first theorized that the “self” has an
empirical, known aspect that he called the
-self. The
empirical self has three aspects:
the material me
the so-
cial me
, and
the spiritual me
. The material me encom-
passes the essential self (one’s body), material possessions,
and the product of one’s labor. The social me is fluid and
multifaceted because it is anchored in social situations. As
James wrote, a person has “as many social selves as there
are individuals who recognize him and carry an image of
Page 103
him in their mind” (p. 294). The situation, the person, and
others involved determine the role and actions a person
takes on. For example, James noted that most people
would leave a city devastated by a pandemic unless that
person was a doctor or priest. Despite the name, the spiri-
tual me is not so much a religious form of “me” as it is a
collection of roles, values, and possessions that come to
mind when thinking about one’s self in the whole or, in
James’s words, what “we
think of ourselves as think-
(emphasis in the original, p. 296). The spiritual me, in
contrast to the material and social me, transcends the in-
dividual as he/she considers contributions to the larger
scale of life, e.g. contributions to a community, to society,
to humanity, etc.
Although his theory centers on motivation rather
than self-concept, Maslow’s (1943) hierarchy of needs
loosely mirrors James’ aspects of the me-self. Maslow theo-
rized that, at the most basic level, individuals are moti-
vated to meet physiological and security needs (material
me), then belonging and esteem needs (social me), and,
finally, self-actualizing needs (spiritual me). Despite the
difference in emphasis, the idealized form of self (spiritual
me) and the idealized form of motivation (self-actualizing)
share common notions of aspiration beyond one’s individ-
ual self to contribute or connect to something larger, e.g. to
a cause, a quest, a community, etc.
Cooley (1902) was the first to advanced James’ con-
cept by articulating how social and psychological forces
may influence one’s sense of self. The
looking glass self
analogizes the building of the self-concept to that of check-
ing one’s appearance in a mirror; i.e. a person sees his re-
flected image and, then, forms an impression of how others
Page 104 The Journal of Social Media in Society 4(1)
will come to “see” him. This imagined judgment then
evokes an emotion that Cooley called “a self-feeling”
which, in turn, influences the person’s sense of self and,
potentially, his actions. “The social self,” Cooley wrote, “is
simply an idea, or system of ideas, drawn from the commu-
nicative life, that the mind cherishes as its own” (p. 179).
Key within that quote are two ideas: first, that a notion of
self emerges from communicative, social interactions with
others and second, that the view is one filtered by what
the person holds dear. Not every imagined judgment from
every person present in any given social situation has
equal weight. Instead, a person must first
reflected judgments he/she imagines,
which people
and judgments are salient, and then seeks
the imagined judgment and the own inner sense of self
(Franks & Gecas, 1992). Thus, each step in this process is
anchored on internal values. The need to witness consis-
tency between an inner sense of self and the outward view
a person witnesses of his or her actions is thought to be so
strong that, in the presence of inconsistency, people will
undertake a number of actions and rationales to bring the
two back into alignment (Secord & Backman, 1965; see
also Baumeister, 1997). In this manner, attention to self-
presentation may be motivated by anticipated rewards
from a desired audience or by the reward of bringing one-
self closer to an internalized, idealized self (Jones &
Pittman, 1982). The need for a consistent, inner sense of
self does not mean that the self-concept is a locked down,
static view of self. Tice (1992) found that individuals
change their self-concept schemas and do so at a greater
extent when they believe their actions are public. The
looking glass self, then, can act as a magnifying glass “…
Page 105
so, what one sees in oneself while others are present has
an extra powerful impact on self-concept” (p. 215).
In examining narratives across the history of hu-
man storytelling, Baumeister (1987) argues that self-
concept themes are common to particular eras with popu-
lar postmodern schemas being self-actualization and a
sense of individual uniqueness. For example, early litera-
ture of the 20th century centered on issues of alienation
and personal defenselessness amongst the backdrop of the
industrial revolution, World War I, and, subsequently, the
depression era. In comparison, literary works in the later
half of the century center on individuals’ inner reflection
and quest to know one’s self. Simply put, the earlier pro-
tagonists were victims to or raged against political and
economic structures (think Sinclair’s
The Jungle
) whereas
protagonists created later on are driven by a struggle for
identity and consistency in self-schemas (think Capote’s
Cold Blood
). Baumeister’s insight adds to this study in two
ways: that certain socio-historical eras may popularize cer-
tain self-schemas and that creative products can serve as
artifacts that uncover those schemas. Baumeister ques-
tioned how the idea of human narratives, as media arti-
facts, point to commonly held self-concept themes during
certain time periods. The questions of this study are the
following: Can self-produced content serve as creative arti-
facts revealing something
the producer
the pro-
ducer? And, if so, how? The next section discusses possible
locations that may influence YouTube content creators’
self-concept; namely in the images and media they post or
in YouTube itself.
Page 106 The Journal of Social Media in Society 4(1)
The me in social media
The mode: Me in the visual. Images have communi-
cative power unlike any other form of media. As Messaris
(1997) writes, images serve as evidence “like footprints in
the sand” (pp. 129-160). Metz (1974) contends that moving
images had the power to say “It is so!” ever since the be-
ginning of cinema (p. 4). The power of images to communi-
cate comes from three inherent attributes: iconicity
(analogy), indexicality (causality), and a lack of syntax
(order)(Messaris, 1997). Photographs, in particular, are
iconic because they give the impression of “standing in” for
real-life objects. Photos are indexical because they are evi-
dence of at least one action the act of taking a picture.
Images also lack the syntactical properties that guide
other forms of communication. In particular, moving im-
ages (film, video, or animation) are open to personal,
polysemic, and often affective interpretations. While all
three attributes are particularly salient in video, at times
they lead to a strange contradiction. A video may appear
as proof of what “really happened” but its meaning can be
contested and, often, with a great deal of emotion wrapped
around the conflicting arguments. For example, consider
the court battle over terminating life support to Terry
Shiavo. Video clips, recorded by her parents, were used by
both sides of the controversy as “evidence” of Shiavo’s cog-
nitive state. The clips were so passionately contested that
they became a central point for protest and media cover-
age (Cranford, 2005). Since the Shiavo case, the power of
video to both prove and disrupt has influence beyond one
court case namely due to the ease to post and extensive
reach through social media spaces. Still images and video
captured at key moments during political unrest in Arab
Page 107
nations have swayed public narratives of “what happened”
even when official reports and eyewitness accounts de-
scribe a different set of facts (Yusuf, 2009).
The channel: Me in YouTube
YouTube is a classic
embodiment of Castells (2001) four cultures of the Inter-
net: techno-meritocratic, hacker, virtual communitarian,
and entrepreneurship culture. In Castells’ argument, each
layer informs and supports the other three. Techno-elites
drive knowledge through peer review processes and a
quest for discovery; hacker culture takes what the meri-
tocratic side creates and reforms it hacks it into some-
thing different with new value. The virtual community
culture honors self-directed freedom, creativeness, and self
-expression; all of which are positioned against mass me-
dia communication systems where, in the virtual commu-
nitarian mindset, individual free expression is trounced.
And, finally, the entrepreneurship culture driven by the
notion that any individual with a singular focus on devel-
oping a new idea can change the world and, in so doing,
reap outrageous monetary rewards. Traces of all four cul-
tures can be found in YouTube. YouTubers sharpen their
video craft, gaming, or other skills through the comments
and video responses posted by other YouTubers aspiring to
master the same skillset. Remix culture represents the
hacker philosophy in YouTube. Remixers appropriate com-
mercial and user-produced content to re-edit the clips into
a new expression (Lessig, 2008). A certain class of YouTu-
bers often describe the site as “the YouTube community”
and express a heightened sense of that community when-
ever they feel the corporate actions of YouTube, Inc. are in
violation of shared norms and values (Burgess & Green,
2009). Meanwhile, commercial aspirations drive YouTu-
Page 108 The Journal of Social Media in Society 4(1)
bers ranging from adding video content to an existing com-
mercial entity or brand to making a living in YouTube by
becoming a YouTube Partner (Burgess & Green, 2009;
Maia, Almeida, & Almeida, 2008). In theory, any of Cas-
tells’ four cultural layers may sway how YouTubers come
to see themselves depending on which aspect the person
holds in higher regard. For example, the virtual communi-
tarian and the entrepreneurial producer should draw dif-
ferent value from their time on YouTube; i.e. one is fo-
cused on gaining social connections and the other on gain-
ing commercial or celebrity success. If their self-concept
changes at all, the cultural aspect they hold dear should
influence either that change or the perception of their
change in self.
Cooley theorized that individuals form their self-
concept, in part, from a mental picture of themselves and,
in part, from an imagined judgment from salient others in
a certain social contexts. Unlike other social media sites,
YouTube’s main social and commercial currency is
Videos have a contradictory nature; although images are
“proof,” their interpretation is personally derived. Further-
more, the social space in which media is shared may influ-
ence meaning. Can self-produced videos reflect back some
evidence about the producer to
the producer of the clip? If
so, how might the social environment
some as-
pect of self? Despite the rise in self-produced media, no
research to date has brought Cooley’s theory into the era
of shared, digital media spaces. As a first step, this study
simply asked YouTube content producers if they had come
to see themselves differently since posting on YouTube
and, if so, how.
Page 109
A two-step sampling approach was used to recruit
YouTube producers. Producers interested in discourse and
social interaction (over entertainment or music) are known
to tag their videos with the news/politics or people/blogs
content categories (Burgess & Green, 2009; Siersdorfer,
Chelaru, Nejdl, & Pedro, 2010). Popularity lists, which
rank videos according to the kind of attention the video
was attracting, were listed under content categories. To
gather participants with a range of experience in You-
Tube, two lists were used: the
most discussed
most re-
cently posted
. The most discussed list ranks videos gather-
ing enough text comments to move them into a popularity
range; the most recently posted simply listed videos as
they were posted to YouTube. Videos were randomly se-
lected to identify the content producer who posted it and
an invitation to the online survey was sent via YouTube
email. Tracing videos back to the person who posted it is a
procedure used elsewhere (see Burgess & Green, 2009;
Rotman, Golbeck, & Preece, 2009). Sampling took place in
the summer of 2008.
In the end, 102 YouTube producers agreed to par-
ticipate. The people/blogs and news/politics content was
equally represented, but the sample was slightly skewed
in favor of the “most discussed” over the “most recently
posted” (61%) and male participants over female ones
(73%). Age was recorded by the decade the person was
born. Forty-seven percent of the sample was under 27
years old and nearly a third of the participants (32%) lived
outside of the U.S. At the time of sampling, re-
ported that both males, the 18-24 cohort, and U.S.-based
users were overrepresented in YouTube. Fifty-one partici-
Page 110 The Journal of Social Media in Society 4(1)
pants indicated that they had come to view themselves dif-
ferently due to their YouTube practices. Five responses
were not included in the final sample; three participants
indicated that they had changed how they looked at them-
selves but choose not to elaborate and two responses did
not address changes directly when asked to elaborate. The
remaining 46 responses were coded along James’ classifi-
cations of the empirical self. Comments where the partici-
pants discussed seeing their body, face, work differently or
expressed self-concept changes broadly, e.g. a greater self-
esteem, were coded as
changes to the material self
. Com-
ments where the participant discussed the influence of
other YouTubers, including actual or perceived judgments,
were coded as
changes to the social self
. Comments where
the participant discussed connecting to, drawing in, or in-
fluencing a larger collective (YouTube in general, an audi-
ence, society, etc.) were coded as
changes to the spiritual
This study asked what kind of self-concept changes
might YouTube producers experience due to their content-
creating practices. Social media practices did sway an in-
ner sense of self for half of the sample. Elaborations from
46 participants are similar to James’s empirical me classi-
fications. However, their comments also reflected You-
Tube’s culture in terms of social expectations or aspira-
tions. The findings section focuses on how these responses
were similar to the material, social, and spiritual me. How
a certain “YouTubeness” is weaved through the comments
is left for the discussion section.
Page 111
Changes to the material self
Twenty participants reported some change in how
they viewed their material self. These responses mirrored
James’ concept of the material me as encompassing one’s
“possessions.” Participants wrote of gaining confidence,
enhancing their creative side, or coming to see themselves
differently in general terms. Five talked openly about ac-
cepting a part of themselves they had struggled with be-
fore YouTube their physical appearance. One wrote:
[a]t first, to even contemplate having my photo on
the web was impossible to tolerate…
I now see myself as more capable than I
realised [
], entertaining, funny, even…I
am not as ugly as I thought I was. I still see
myself as "odd" looking but I accept that
without pain, now; without cringing!! …
Now, I actively encourage anyone with
similar reservations to bear the perceived
pain and put them self out there. With total
editorial control, an individual can learn
quickly that they actually aren't a scary
alien from outer-space, and they don't bear
the physical characteristics of a slug…
Broadcasting oneself is character building,
enhances one's sense of self, and builds self-
Posting self-produced videos helped three participants
with debilitating, social hurdles. One wrote that he was
"more aware of my autistic gestures and other things I
need to improve vocally and physically." Another man
wrote that “[w]hile I am still considered ‘shy’ by most stan-
dards, I am now more open than I was before YouTube.”
Page 112 The Journal of Social Media in Society 4(1)
The last participant in this group of three considered You-
Tube’s social environment, not the camera lens, as making
a difference:
My opinion of myself as an anti-social and
asocial paranoid schizophrenic has been in
part mitigated as a result of much more hu-
man interaction, albeit electronic, with lit-
erally several thousand people writing to
me, rating my videos, etc. In some respect I
find YouTube humanizing.
For these participants the combination of YouTube and a
camera lens provided an actual mirror to view self. Two
short responses from other participants hinted at a dis-
crepancy between the camera lens and “the real world” but
did not elaborate further.
Six participants mentioned gaining self-worth
through their work in video or filmmaking. James’ consid-
ered this view of self, tied to the products that come from
one’s labor, as part of the material me. Most talked in gen-
eral terms about how their “creative work” had lead to
greater confidence and self-appreciation. Two wrote that
their YouTube videos had strengthened their professional
image or brand. One man, a software engineer by trade,
thought YouTube had brought him closer to long-held per-
sonal aspirations:
… uploading videos that interest me on you
tube made me extremely happy. As they say
there's somethings [
] money can't buy and
happiness is one of them. That's exactly
what You Tube bought for me. And now I
not only understand what makes me most
happy, but also got a insight into my own
Page 113
thoughts and dreams. … Movies have al-
ways been my first love. My passion for mov-
ies was always alive and you tube just made
it stronger. Hopefully someday I will make a
motion picture. That will be the day.
Most of the remaining participants simply
discussed having more self-esteem and self-respect.
Demographically, the material me group was
largely men (85%) responding from the U.S.
Changes to the social self
Twelve participants mentioned how other YouTu-
bers’ had altered the way they viewed themselves. Five
participants considered the feedback they received from
other YouTubers as a positive experience. “When ppl [
give you good critick [
] you feel more safe,” wrote the
youngest participant, an 18-year old woman posting from
Norway. “And youtube [
] helped me getting out my
thoughts and feelings - this helps.” Two of the older par-
ticipants in the sample also talked about the social space
of YouTube as being positive. “People have told me that
my videos expressed a point of view or advice that was
useful to them,” wrote one man. “ I had not, until this
point, considered my opinion or advice all that notewor-
thy.” Another responded to the question by writing “I've
learned so much about myself from social networking/
entertaining - about how I deal with others and how they
view me.” One participant, who used YouTube to share
videos of his oil painting process, believed “… hearing
what others have said about my work, and myself as a per-
son have built my confidence and altered the direction of
my life in many ways.”
Page 114 The Journal of Social Media in Society 4(1)
Other participants, though, saw inconsistencies
between their inner view of self and how others seemed to
be judging them in YouTube. “I have a lot more viewers
who share their opinions about me which don't usually
match up with how I see myself,” wrote one man. “Over
time I think it definitely has an effect on your self image.”
Some were more attentive to their communication or self-
presentation styles after being on YouTube. “I'm more
careful about what I say online,” wrote one. “[I] question
my opinions to see if they are really what I believe. I also
see other people online as actual, if anonymous, people.”
Another wrote:
I'm more aware of how I "come off" to other
people. Because of how anonymous com-
menters comment and openly express their
view me, I now see how just tweaking words
or expressions even a little bit can help get
an idea communicated properly and with
While her response implies that the attention she received
from “anonymous commenters” was not positive, others
were more explicit about the negative side of YouTube. For
example, another woman wrote:
… with a fanbase there's also haters or peo-
ple who judge you. Sometimes I feel like I'm
something I'm not, it's not really easy to ex-
plain, but the wear and tear from haters,
judgmental people, just takes a toll on my
mind. But all in all, I think dealing with all
that crap has actually made me a stronger
One took the “haters” on as a personal challenge:
Page 115
From my experience, YouTube comments
are usually unintelligent and needlessly
hateful. But somehow the comments on my
videos are almost always positive and en-
thusiastic. The fact that I've turned the Hy-
dra of antagonism that is YouTube com-
menters into my lapdog makes me feel like I
have something special, something genuine
and enjoyable to offer.
While she may appear to be bragging, she
had the proof to back up her words. At the time of
the survey, she had nearly 15,000 subscribers a
number surpassed by only one other participant.
Others talked about how
were providing value
to others. “Its [
] empowering,” began one response, “I
am able to share important things that others would never
believe unless they saw it with their own eyes.” Common
among these comments is a somewhat self-sighted view of
the social self. The responses imply that the participant is
not so much interested in what others say about him or
her, but focused instead on what
do for
. For
example, one YouTuber wrote, “I wanted others to experi-
ence some of the things that I have been lucky enough to
do. I see myself as being lucky enough to do some cool
things that others might like, so I posted what I have.” At
least initially, another participant also framed his re-
sponse in terms of his influence:
Any interaction at all provides a sort of so-
cial mirror of yourself, in which you can see
what you bring out in others. Youtube [
is a different social arena, and as with any
Page 116 The Journal of Social Media in Society 4(1)
prolonged interaction, that sense of self and
its placement in society adapts to fit the slot
that society allows it, only differently.
The distinct demographic trait that separated the social
me group from the other two was age; exactly half were 28
years old or younger.
Changes to the spiritual self
Fourteen participants wrote about self-concept
changes in a grander context, e.g. having impact, being
heard, or being connected to a global community. A
counter-mass media theme weaved through the group. “I
feel more empowered to inform, and not so much at the
mercy of the mainstream media,” one wrote. Another ech-
oed a similar sentiment:
It [YouTube] gave me, as I suspect it has
many others, a sense that I might really be
heard by some of the public at large,
whether we agree or not, and might give
others a feeling that "the common woman/
man" can still be significant in the processes
of our society. This is of profound import,
being that much of what passes for "a free
press" these days is controlled by rich indi-
viduals (Murdoch), rich corporations (GE,
TimeWarner), or "starlet journalists" (check
ANY over-powdered, loudmouthed, or sanc-
timonious face on television today)…. This is
a precious gift, this power. And with it
comes a sobering sense of responsibility:
whether being serious or silly, eliciting pub-
lic opinion or expressing that "girls just
Page 117
wanna have fun", we each have something
to say. And say it we should!
One woman saw her YouTube role as a counter-
argument to the bias she perceived in traditional
news coverage:
I see myself as a producer of media, not just
an audience. I see more of the bias in the
mainstream media, and how easy it is for
them to lie/give skewed views to the public,
and I am concerned about it. I think there is
a Liberal bias, and it is frightening and
Others focused on different power structures than mass
media ones. “No longer am I a spectator on the war for de-
mocracy in America,” wrote one man. Another felt he was:
… more responsible in having a greater role
in respect to influencing and effecting a
change in the zeitgeist of our society away
from dangerous ancient myths and supersti-
tions, toward a real appreciation and under-
standing in the value of reason, logic, and
empirical evidence. Such a trend of attitudes
is essential for the betterment of humanity
and its future in a peaceful "brotherhood of
Unlike those expressing an anti-mass media senti-
ment, these participants wrote in terms of being
part of
rather than
oppositional to
something larger. One of the
older participants in the sample felt YouTube had brought
him some awareness of “…what I missed out on doing
many years ago. I can reach out to people and bring people
together for a common cause. I no longer have the doubts I
Page 118 The Journal of Social Media in Society 4(1)
once had about myself.” Others talked about gaining a
cultural understanding of “others” across the global. “[E]
ven though we live far away we still share lots in com-
mon,” wrote one. Another merged his newfound under-
standing of others with a more self-sighted aspiration:
I'm contributing to society more, immortaliz-
ing my identity, connecting with people who
are less like me, and working in a new field.
I have a personal self and a persona. My
name, because it is also my username, is a
brand now.
These YouTubers considered brand as an
extension of self
rather than enhancing part of a professional image. Still,
reaching a “mass” audience was an implied goal. One man
simply wrote, “I think it COULD be possible that I could
become famous.” As with others in the sample, his sen-
tence may appear boisterous until considering his 10,480
subscribers at the time. One woman wrote:
I am now a personality. I am "
" I am
an entertainer and educator, a sister and a
friend. A knockout. Youtube [
] has now
become a medium for me to spread mass
messages and teachings across the world.
Before I was averse to having my image
broadcast and was quite private, now I see
that there are tidbits of knowledge and ad-
vice that I can broadcast to people who need
it. I volunteered in real life, one on one. you-
tube [
] gives me the ability to do a sort of
philanthropy with limitless potential…. I
suppose now I see my self and more effec-
tive, pertinent, and powerful.
Page 119
The only participant to discuss community was also the
most popular YouTube creator in the survey. His YouTube
vlog had over 28,000 subscribers. “I don't think my under-
standing of myself has changed much,” he wrote, “I think
my understanding of community has changed radically.”
No demographic or YouTube data including subscribers
distinguished this group from the other two.
At a time when self-produced, socially shared vis-
ual media is becoming ubiquitous online, this study asked
two simple questions: Do social media producers come to
see themselves differently since they first posted on You-
Tube and, if so, how? Half of the YouTube producers in the
sample reported some change to their inner sense of self.
The responses tied to a changes in the material self, i.e.
appreciating their actual body or gaining confidence from
sharing their creative work, are consistent with James’
concept. Not surprisingly for a YouTube sample, some con-
sidered video storytelling as playing a role in these
changes. More surprising, though, were the frank com-
ments on how painfully some had viewed their physical
self before YouTube. For these participants, mostly men,
YouTube was a healing mirror through which they could
make peace with how they
they looked to the
world. For other participants, YouTube’s social space was
locus of their self-concept change. Consistent with Cooley’s
looking glass self, some discussed being more socially
aware or attentive to their self-presentation or communi-
cation styles. One man experienced such a drastic discon-
nect between his inner sense of self and how others saw
him that he reevaluated core, personal opinions. However,
Page 120 The Journal of Social Media in Society 4(1)
traces of Castells’ Internet culture also begins to appear
among the social self changes. In the real world, a person
hardly expects others to hurl insults and condemnations
their way in everyday, public spaces. As Goffman (1959)
noted, individuals tend to seek a consistency between their
all the other players in the situation. Yet,
the freedom of self-expression treasured by online culture
sometimes means the freedom to be mean. Merely surviv-
ing the onslaught of YouTube “haters” strengthen produc-
ers’ sense of self; actually taming the beast of negativity
was an even greater personal victory.
Castells’ Internet culture was most apparent
among the group reporting changes to the spiritual self. To
James, the spiritual me is the sense of one’s worth to the
world. While some participants did write about their con-
tributions to a larger context, many discussed this change
in either an oppositional or self-directed tone. For exam-
ple, some saw their role in YouTube as being a voice
mainstream media or political structures. These
sentiments are common to the libertarian nature of hacker
and virtual communitarian culture. Others alluded to com-
munity norms by discussing belonging to a larger collec-
tive, but they spoke of community broadly in terms such as
brotherhood, global connections, or “being a sister” to oth-
ers. Community theory tends to consider community, both
relational and traditional, as having clear boundaries to
the members who understand
who is
who is
of their group (see McMillan & Chavis, 1986). Finally, a
hint of the entrepreneurial culture was present as well in
the comments about becoming famous, being a brand, or
serving an audience. Although these sentiments may ap-
pear self-sighted, there is a sense that this group, as a
Page 121
whole, had experienced profound changes to self; becoming
a world citizen, an opinion leader, or having a following
had given these producers a satisfaction not entirely ex-
pressed in the material or social change responses. This
group truly considered their place in the grander scheme
of humanity due to their time on YouTube.
This study sought to lay the boundaries by which
other work can more robustly investigate self-concept
changes due to social media practices. Given that goal, cer-
tain limitations and future directions are inherent to the
work. First, because responses were drawn from two ques-
tions (one dichotomous and one open-ended), more intro-
spect methods, such as in-depth interviews or ethnogra-
phy, is needed. Second, in the time since the study, You-
Tube, Inc. has continued to expand its commercial position
by forging new partnerships and initiatives. Thus, some
responses may be bound to a historical period of YouTube’s
growth. Lastly, responses were coded along James’ classifi-
cations of the empirical me by the author. These classifica-
tions may be too broad and one person’s interpretations
too limiting. It is salient to note, though, that this study
makes no generalization claims. Instead, the goal of the
work was to open a new way by which to consider social
media practices within a self-concept frame.
This was the first study to illuminate possible self-
concept changes due to posting visual content on a social
media platform. More work that flushes out these changes
is needed. For example, comparing self-concept changes
across different platforms may be a means of understand-
ing cultural expectations that are unique to certain social
environments. For example, comparing responses from
Facebook users to YouTubers might help in understanding
Page 122 The Journal of Social Media in Society 4(1)
what self-concept changes are unique to the platform and
what are more universal. In regards to visual sharing en-
vironments, two parts of the looking glass process are par-
ticularly salient for future work: meaning in the image
and anticipated reactions from others. For example, ask-
ing YouTube producers what other producers’ videos
“mean” about creators and what in that image “proves”
that meaning would be valuable knowledge on how visual
elements serve as social proof in digital spaces. Flipping
the question around to ask them to explain
tion decisions in terms of what it “says” about them could
help illuminate the expectations social media producers
anticipate anytime they post content.
Whether they know it or not, any person picking up
a camera is wielding a powerful communication tool. From
the most basic level of self (the bodily me) to the most ex-
pansive self (the global me), these participants reported
subtle and profound changes to how they saw themselves.
Weaved throughout the comments are Castells’ layers of
Internet culture, i.e. the hackers’ libertarian spirit, virtual
communitarian values and entrepreneurial intent. The
findings suggest that digital, social spaces are both similar
to and slightly different than the social arenas Cooley and
James considered. A mediated form of self, shared on digi-
tal social spaces like YouTube, can act as a traditional re-
flection of self but with a “broadcasting yourself” twist.
Neither the media nor the social platform takes center
stage in this process. Instead, together the two reflective
tools become a looking glass lens that magnifies different
aspects of self whether that “self” is the actual, human self
or the digital, mediated self.
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... Two findings are almost constantly evident in research literature on the relationship of sport and social media use: First, if social media is used in sport-related contexts, the effects on sport activities are rather enhancing (Braumüller & Hartmann-Tews, 2017). Second, informal athletes particularly benefit from engaging relationships between doing sport and using social media (Bock, 2017;Braumüller, 2016;Jones, 2015;Schwier & Erhorn, 2015) as they are enabled to virtually connect and communicate with their networks and integrate the "medial and physical practice" (Schwier, 2008, p. 273). ...
... Having shown that sports (especially informal sports) and social media use (es- Fig. 1 9 Parkourrelated physical self-concept model (Holzmüller, 2018) pecially sport-related social media use) are enhancing activities, the next step is to contextualize these findings with their effects on different self-or body-concepts in general. Jones (2015) looked into the effects of active social media use on the general self-concepts of YouTube producers, based on Cooleys' (1902) looking glass lens theory. There, she identified confidence gains, a more positive acceptance of one's physical appearance or self-empowerment, which she linked to overcoming negative comments or the producer's new role in an interactive community (Jones, 2015). ...
... Jones (2015) looked into the effects of active social media use on the general self-concepts of YouTube producers, based on Cooleys' (1902) looking glass lens theory. There, she identified confidence gains, a more positive acceptance of one's physical appearance or self-empowerment, which she linked to overcoming negative comments or the producer's new role in an interactive community (Jones, 2015). Besides potentially positive effects of social media use, too much screen time is also repeatedly linked to fatigue (Suchert, Hanewinkel, & Isensee, 2016) and possible psychological issues (Chou & Edge, 2012;Fox & Moreland, 2015;Gonzales & Hancock, 2011). ...
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In postmodern times, social media is an integral part of informal sports like parkour. It potentially impacts physical activities as well as the assessment of one’s physical abilities and skills. Referring to the under-researched impact on the self-assessment, this study aims to examine if the parkour-related physical self-concept can be determined by social media use, as well as parkourtraining aspects and sociodemographics.Two reference points of comparison have been considered, comparing one’s skills to real or virtual parkour communities. To address this research phenomenon, multiple linear regression analyses were conducted. The results showed that a high parkourrelated physical self-concept (pkPSC) is primarily determined by the amount of time athletes put into their parkour activities. Furthermore, age and gender played an important role, indicating that being a young male appeared to be a main determinant for a higher pkPSC. Finally, posting parkour-related content in social media appeared to influence the pkPSC, although this finding might be interpreted as causality in both directions. The study identified real-life activities to be more important for the physical self-concept of traceurs; however, socialmedia play a crucial role in the parkour community.
... Symbolic Interactionism is a theoretical approach which generally contends that individuals interact with one another to create symbolic worlds of meaning used to reinforce their self-identity within society. Social processes conducted through digital means of social media have been previously studied, utilizing the symbolic interactionist perspective (Jones, 2015;Murthy, 2012;Zhao, 2015); however, theoretical applications of Symbolic Interactionism are currently lacking in branding contexts despite the continued proliferation brands' utilization of social media, an environment largely created for interpersonal communication among users. ...
... This concept proposes that an individual's identity is developed in part by (a) how the individual perceives themselves and (b) how the individual thinks they are being perceived by others (Cooley, 1902). The era of social media has ushered in an amplified 'looking glass self' for the everyday social media user (Jones, 2015). That is, without actually being physically present, users can rectify both aspects of Cooley's (1902) concept through a telecopresent process (Zhao, 2003) of interaction with others virtually to showcase their identities and receive feedback on their self-presentations (Jones, 2015;Zhao, 2015). ...
... The era of social media has ushered in an amplified 'looking glass self' for the everyday social media user (Jones, 2015). That is, without actually being physically present, users can rectify both aspects of Cooley's (1902) concept through a telecopresent process (Zhao, 2003) of interaction with others virtually to showcase their identities and receive feedback on their self-presentations (Jones, 2015;Zhao, 2015). We conjecture that through a mediated social media 'looking glass' (Jones, 2015), consumers utilize branded symbolic material to construct and exercise the 'self' in order to purposefully entice reactions from others regarding their identities. ...
... Digital identity is built via online interaction excluding intervention of unspoken feedback and impact of conventional actors of the environment [31]. The construction of identity in game-based learning is studied from different perspectives, for example, how the identity is constructed when a person plays computer games [17], how anonymity is maintained in virtual identity construction [23] and many more. In game-based learning environments, persons could expose and mitigate multiple identities. ...
... ability to identify the changing situations [2] Projective reflection [15]; self-exploration [17], [21] Interpersonal and individual differences [29]; ...
... In the researched papers, media competences were studied in three directions: i) directing the level of educational engagement (from access -"being" to action-"doing"); ii) objecting three digital tools and techniques (informational, technical and social); iii) determining and observing the learning activity (knowledge reception and production) [22]. Digital environment could facilitate or hinder interaction and learning [17], [8], [9]. ...
Conference Paper
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Game-based learning is gaining grounds in primary and secondary schools. While becoming part of the teaching and learning agenda in contemporary classrooms, game-based learning has proven to be attractive, because it allows learners to participate intensively in digital gaming activities. A digital game-based learner's identity is not an inbuilt entity within a learner's inner-self, rather it is actively constructed in a formal and informal learning setting. In this study, we researched on how students constructed identity when they got involved into formal game-based learning at school, as it was described in last five years empirical scientific articles. We found that, researchers discussed how digital game-based learning helps to define the identity of the learner. In our review we identified certain variables that affected identity construction: formal teaching and learning culture, family and social environment, smart technology knowledge, gender, age, digital game type, the culture of play. Inspired by Cooley "Looking glass self" concept adaptations to social media and digital games practices, we focused on personal, social-communication and media competencies. It was found that, a digital learner's acquisition of the competency identities studied in this work, leads to profitable development of the individual, such as, team work ability, great skills in manipulation and utilization of media skills, self-realization and discovery, sensitivity to phenomena, inter and intra personal development and most importantly is the selection of a right identity that befits an individual with the right balance and support of the instructor or tutor. These findings contributed to understanding how the identity of young digital game-based learner was constructed.
... The visual text or captions attached to the self-picture written in social media is able to explain the "self-looking glass" identity of the user. The viewers or followers is capable to assess the personal identity of the account owner (Jones, 2016). This interpretation then trigger a response that is constructed through non-verbal communication includes text (comments), and emoticons (virtual emotion). ...
... These responses are reflected through utterences of degrading, insulting or threatening on coments coloumn. According to Jones, the social media provides a virtual space that encourages exchange of judgement toward object through form of replies, comments, likes, and posting easier (Jones, 2016). Specifically, the final form of the Cyberbullying process on Instagram are classified based on the message design logic such as expressive, conventional and rhetorical message. ...
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The transformation of social interaction between individuals into Social Networking Site (SNSs) such as Twitter and Instagram, etc., has significantly raised new phenomenon to be investigated. In Indonesia, the Cyberbullying phenomenon has emerged as recent issue in communication technology, communication and media studies. This study aims to draw the red thread of the Cyberbullying interaction process through the symbolic interactionism theoretical framework. The object of this study is Mimi Peri Rapunchelle, an Indonesian Celebrity Instagram that has been viral among Indonesian Instagram users. The pictures, video scripts and follower's comments are taken as the primary data of this research. By using descriptive-qualitative approach, the process of Cyberbullying on Instagram was started from three stages: (1) internal conflict in victim's self-identity, (2) society collective interpretation towards victim's visual identity (3) visual society response towards victim existence in Social Media reflected by visual text and emoticon.
... Yet, knowing more about these perspectives is increasingly relevant today, given the effect that continuous war has had on the nation, and the interconnected social media culture in which individual viewpoints are increasingly relevant to broader public debate. In such an environment, as explained by Cooley's (1902) theory of the looking glass self, the way that individuals see themselves depicted-both in their own social media content and professional media-plays an important part in self-definition and understanding one's role in society (Jones, 2015). Accordingly, this study focuses on the diverse perspectives held by individual service members and veterans regarding military-related news coverage. ...
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Military-related journalism serves an important purpose, and has a special relevance in the modern era of nearly continuous American military involvement. Yet, conflicting goals have long made relations between journalists and the military difficult, and both institutions have faced abundant criticism regarding the role each plays in providing information to the public. This study seeks to provide additional perspective on the topic, and involves a consideration of the views held by individual military service members and veterans regarding military-related news. Data gathered from interviews suggests that, while a diversity of perspectives exist, widespread frustration with military-related reporting is very common among the military population.
... The transcriptions were thoroughly read and the answers grouped into themes (Wilson, Åkerlind, Walsh, Turner, & Shield, 2013). These thematic groupings helped in categorising the responses into sub-headings for analysis (Phillips, 2013;Jones, 2015). Reliability and validity were carried out in the research. ...
This research is an investigation of a prominent social media community (River 9ija) of Nigerian students across various higher institutions. Through in-depth interview, the study sampled 27 Nigerian students studying in various higher institutions in different countries. Findings from this study revealed that social media platforms do not only function as a medium of social connection and interaction; they play pivotal and significant roles in educating, informing, establishing all forms of business, romantic and educational relationships. Findings further showed that River 9ija is a great tool for fostering community integration. It was also found that the virtual community creates an opportunity for students to understand themselves better and have a common goal. Based on the findings, it was concluded that university students have found a common and unifying ground where they can interact and express themselves. It was, therefore, recommended that interaction via River 9ija needs to be encouraged, but moderated so that these students will not lose focus or concentration while in school.
... LGS argues that before presenting themselves to others, people imagine how others would evaluate them and consequently modify the self they disclose in order to obtain social acceptance. It is similar to a person who checks his or her appearance in a mirror, anticipates the effect of the appearance on others, and adjusts his or her appearance accordingly (Jones, 2015). Our self-perception consists of ideas fashioned by communications and interactions in social contexts that give us clues that make us aware of the perceptions and judgements of others (Yeung & Martin, 2003). ...
This study explores motives for taking and posting selfies on social media and whether those motives and other social psychological dispositions predict the selfie-related activities of "taking," "posting," and "editing" selfies. A sample of 404 university students in Kuwait indicated they took and posted selfies for motives of appraisal-seeking self-presentation (ASSP), entertainment, status-updating self-presentation (SUSP) and documentation. Females were more likely to be involved in selfie-related activities and to use selfies for ASSP. Documentation was the prime predictor of the activity of "taking" selfies, SUSP was for "posting" selfies, and ASSP was for "editing" selfies. Self-perceived attractiveness predicted the activities of "posting" and "taking" selfies. Results are discussed in light of the influence of culture in Kuwait and some conceptual considerations about selfies are made.
... where youth tend to write online comments based on how they think others will perceive them (Jones, 2015), the interview process we outlined in our study provided them with tools to think and reflect based on their own conjectures, rather than on their peers' reactions. ...
Full-text available
Research Problem: Public reaction to the 2015-2016 resettlement of Syrian refugees to Canada ranged from strong support to active resentment. This study explored some of those reactions: those of host society youth. It examined the process of this youth learning about themselves in the context of the social media propaganda about the resettlement of Syrian refugees, and investigated how the public opinion about the refugee resettlement affected their perception of their roles in the integration and inclusion of these newcomers. Research questions: 1.How do youth construe online interactions about the Syrian refugee crisis? 2.How do youth construe their role in the integration and the inclusion of refugees in a context where the image of refugees is deeply influenced by social media? 3.What knowledge and skills do youth develop when they engage in analyzing their thoughts and behaviours in regards to sensitive and controversial issues such as the refugee crisis and resettlement? 4.How could this knowledge and these skills facilitate their engagement in civic online reasoning and participatory politics? Methodology: The researcher conducted more than 160 hours of qualitative in-depth interviewwith 42 host society youth between 18 and 24 years old from North America, Europe and the Middle East. For the purpose of this thesis, only data collected from the Canadian participants was analyzed and shared. The participants were recruited through a snowball sampling. They were active on social media, supportive of the Syrian refugee resettlement in Canada, but deliberately acting as passive bystanders whenever they encountered online posts and interactions about the Syrian refugee crisis. Adapting four techniques from George Kelly’s Personal Construct Psychology (Kelly’s self-characterization technique, Procter’s Perceiver Element Grid, Kelly’s Repertory Grid Test and Hinkle’s laddering technique), data collection included three to four interviews with each participant. The interviews provided the participants with opportunities to delve into their own construct systems and to reflect on the genesis of their constructs. Results and Conclusions: By reflecting on their own behaviours online, participants realized that they could control how social media influenced them, and shape the online image of the Syrian refugees in host countries. While their empathy towards refugees increased, participants identified factors that could lead to Islamophobia, racism and fear, and developed strategies to counterbalance them online. The process of learning about themselves was key to transform the participants from passive bystanders into active agents of change, ready to confront digital propaganda. Civic educators, social workers, curriculum developers, policy makers and parents concerned with the takeover of social media by hate speech proponents can apply these findings and help youth withstand manipulation and fight racism, hate speech, radicalization, and cyberbullying through the Get Ready to Act Against Social Media Propaganda model generated by this study. The model includes five iterative stages: Question, analyze, design, prepare and evaluate.
REPRESENTATION OF REFUGEES IDENTITY IN NARRATION OF INDONESIAN ONLINE NEWS PORTAL Raising the phenomenon of refugees in Kalideres West Jakarta, published through online news portals, this study explores the representation of refugees on the mass media perspective. This study uses the Social Semiotics discourse analysis approach to see the meaning of refugees identity in everyday social reality. The post-positivist research paradigm was used as an approach in analyzing 36 Refugee news in Kalideres published by 17 national online news portals. In answering the meaning of the identity of Refugees and its social interactions that occur between Refugees and Local Residents, this study refers to the theories of Haoijer's social representation and Mead's symbolic interaction. Through descriptive-qualitative analysis techniques, the results of this study indicate that the mechanism of representation of refugee is carried out through a naming mechanism which is described through diverse categorization of identities. In addition to the use of naming mechanisms, the meaning of identity through online media narratives were done through labeling or stereotyping which is classified into seven categories of stereotyping. Whereas in looking at the social interactions between Refugees and Local Residents, the process of symbolic interaction were carried out into stages where the response of the local residents to provide aid distribution to Refugees is begun from stimulating stages of Refugees’ uncertainty experience and interpretation of refugee’s attributes of self-material identity. Keywords: Refugees, Stereotype, Social Representation, Social Interaction
This study explores motives for taking and posting selfies on social media and whether those motives and other social psychological dispositions predict the selfie-related activities of “taking,” “posting,” and “editing” selfies. A sample of 404 university students in Kuwait indicated they took and posted selfies for motives of appraisal-seeking self-presentation (ASSP), entertainment, status-updating self-presentation (SUSP) and documentation. Females were more likely to be involved in selfie-related activities and to use selfies for ASSP. Documentation was the prime predictor of the activity of “taking” selfies, SUSP was for “posting” selfies, and ASSP was for “editing” selfies. Self-perceived attractiveness predicted the activities of “posting” and “taking” selfies. Results are discussed in light of the influence of culture in Kuwait and some conceptual considerations about selfies are made.
In this article, historical evidence pertaining to selfhood is reviewed. A scheme of stages is delineated, according to which the modern self and its uncertainties have evolved. The historical data are then reviewed in connection with the following four major problems regarding the self: knowing and conceptualizing the self; defining or creating the self; understanding one's potential and fulfilling it; and relating the single self to society.
Introduction Part One: Cultures (Cultures of Our Past Culture of Our Future RO, Extended RW, Revived Cultures Compared) Part Two: Economies (Two Economies: Commercial and Sharing Hybrid Economies Economy Lessons) Part Three: Enabling the Future (Reforming Law Reforming Us Conclusion)
The impact of others in telecopresence on the formation of self has not been well studied, and existing research on the self in cyberspace has focused mostly on issues related to the presentation of self. A major question researchers have been trying to answer is how people present their self to others when they become disembodied and anonymous in the online world. The question the present study attempts to answer, however, is almost the opposite: how do people come to conceive their self when others become disembodied and anonymous? This question is particularly important for understanding the effect of the Internet on self-formation, especially in teenagers who are yet to form a stable view of themselves. Based on the analysis of teenagers' online experience, the present study shows that others on the Internet constitute a distinctive “looking glass” that produces a “digital self” that differs from the self formed offline. Teenagers' playful online self-presentation is thus an integral part of the process of self-formation. As such, “intimate strangers” or “anonymous friends” on the Internet play an important role in affecting the self-development of online teenagers.
The totality of Cooley's contribution to self-theory, as reported in most sociology texts and much of the contemporary self literature, is erroneously equated with his concept of the “looking-glass self”, in its passive, dependent, and chameleon form. In this paper, we highlight Cooley's own qualifications to the looking-glass self, which properly place this popular concept in the context of Cooley's broader and more assertive view of self-concept formation. These qualifications include Cooley's emphasis on selectivity and interpretation in the process of reflected appraisals, his writings on core values and the continuity of character, and his discussion of efficacious action and appropriative activity in the early formation of the self.