Specialisation: Identity

The Impact of Social Media on Identity Formation in the Digital Age


The consuming landscape has changed dramatically in the digital age, radically changing how people interact with information and create identities. The driving force behind this change is social media’s ubiquitous effect, a method of consumption deeply entwined with the complexities of individual and group identity. The enormous effects of social media on identity development in the digital age are examined in this essay. Social media’s importance as a consuming method stems from its many uses as a virtual hub for communication, self-expression, and human engagement. Users mold their online identities and impact the stories that permeate digital environments by actively engaging in a dynamic interplay between creation and consumption. People become designers of their digital identities as they go through the virtual halls of social media, creating and selecting online personas that speak to them. Within this framework, the essay’s thesis asserts that social media, as a consumption tool, actively participates in the continuing conversation about identity construction in the digital age and reflects societal shifts. As we continue this investigation, it becomes increasingly essential to sort through the main arguments and conflicting theories in the body of literature already in existence to offer a thorough framework for comprehending the intricate interactions between social media use and identity building.

Social media consumption in the digital age

Consumer culture has entered a revolutionary phase with the introduction of the digital age, which has radically changed how people engage with information and negotiate the complexities of the modern world. Featherstone (2010) and van Dijck (2009) offer essential viewpoints within this changing environment that establish the foundation for comprehending social media usage.

Featherstone (2010) emphasizes the significant impact of social media on people’s views and interactions with goods, services, and cultural phenomena to shed light on the complex dynamics of consumer culture in the digital age. He emphasizes how social media platforms have enabled an engaged and participatory nature, underscoring the shift from traditional consumption patterns. In this context, social media becomes a dynamic arena where users actively participate in the production and propagation of cultural narratives and are passive consumers of content.

Van Dijck (2009) expands on Featherstone’s observations by examining the notion of user-generated content and its consequences for user agency in the digital sphere. Her research explores how consumers become active producers of the material they receive through interactions with social media platforms. Van Dijck challenges established hierarchies in developing and distributing cultural objects through his study, which focuses on democratizing content creation.

Featherstone and van Dijck’s combined views offer a solid basis for understanding the changing dynamics of social media usage. Because of the digital age’s increased interactivity and user agency, people actively influence the cultural landscape through their interactions and consumption on social media platforms. In later parts of this essay, we will go deeper into this fundamental concept of how social media affects identity formation.

Identity formation on social media

Social media has become a dynamic space in the modern digital age where people purposefully create and express their social identities. Lüders et al. (2022) have conducted research that offers significant insights into internet users’ deliberate and inventive tactics during this complex identity-creation process.

In this strategic approach, visual components become essential. According to Lüders et al. (2022), profile images and other well-chosen visual information effectively project particular aspects of social identity. Users purposefully modify these images to fit their ideal version of themselves, highlighting the deliberate aspect of identity presentation on social media.

Moreover, the study illuminates people’s deliberate and active interaction with social media content. According to Lüders et al. (2022), conscious decisions and creative expression interact in a complex way to shape one’s online persona. Social identity is built in the virtual world through users’ purposeful contributions to online interactions.

Lüders et al.’s (2022) research essentially highlights social media’s role in people actively and intentionally constructing their identities. Users explore the digital landscape to honestly portray themselves within the online community through deliberate visual choices and meaningful involvement; in the digital age, where the intentional creation of online personas adds to the complex fabric of modern social interaction, understanding these tactics becomes crucial to understanding the broader consequences of social media on identity development.

Influencer culture and self-representation

With the constantly evolving social media landscape, influencer culture has emerged as a significant phenomenon affecting how individuals interact online and present themselves. This study was led by Abidin (2016), who explored the intricacies of influencer culture and showed how influencers purposefully use social media as a subversive frivolity, especially when seen through the lens of selfies.

According to Abidin’s (2016) analysis of influencer culture, influencers build their own digital identities and produce content. Influencers participate in a special kind of subversive frivolity, a purposeful playfulness that challenges conventional norms and expectations through the intended usage of selfies. This defies preconceived notions about narcissism and vanity by going beyond the apparent level of self-presentation and subtly expressing individuality.

There are many different ways that influencer culture affects how people portray themselves. Abidin (2016) provides an example of how influencers purposefully manage their online persona through well-planned selfies that give insight into their daily routine, wardrobe preferences, and way of life. Although it may appear unplanned, this carefully chosen self-presentation is a deliberate attempt to construct an online persona that appeals to fans and fits with brand partnerships.

Furthermore, audience involvement in the digital sphere has been redefined by influencer culture. According to Abidin (2016), audiences engage in this subversive frivolity by connecting and consuming influencers’ content. The influencer-audience interaction is strengthened by the comments, likes, and shares, which turn self-representation into a cooperative effort. The audience participates in the continuing story of the influencer’s digital identity by interacting with the individual and the well-chosen persona.

Abidin (2016), for instance, gives instances of influencers who purposefully utilize selfies to question social conventions and promote diversity, body positivity, and authenticity. These influencers challenge beauty norms and encourage more authentic self-expression using subversive playfulness. The interaction sparked by this kind of information shows how society is changing and emphasizes how influencer culture may affect more general discussions about representation and identity.

Abidin (2016), for instance, gives instances of influencers who purposefully utilize selfies to question social conventions and promote diversity, body positivity, and authenticity. These influencers challenge beauty norms and encourage more authentic self-expression using subversive playfulness. The interaction sparked by this kind of information shows how society is changing and emphasizes how influencer culture may affect more general discussions about representation and identity.

Ultimately, Abidin (2016) sheds light on how people create and display their digital identities by observing influencer culture and using selfies as a subversive frivolity. Influencers and their interested audiences should both take great note of this purposeful and lighthearted self-representation. Influencer culture is changing how people show themselves and talk about identity, authenticity, and social standards in the digital age.

Citizen journalism and public discourse

The examination by Antony and Thomas (2010) of YouTube’s involvement in the Oscar Grant shooting incident provides insightful information about the critical role social media platforms play in citizen journalism and public debate. This analysis emphasizes social media’s influence on public opinion and discourse, highlighting its potential as a tool for information dissemination.

The study by Antony and Thomas (2010) shows how YouTube developed into a significant hub for citizen journalism as a social media tool after the Oscar Grant shooting incident. The event was captured on raw, unedited video that users uploaded and shared, defying conventional media narratives. By democratizing the flow of information, citizens could question traditional media hierarchies by actively participating in news reporting and sharing.

The study’s conclusions make clear how social media shapes public conversation. The YouTube recordings served as a spark for extensive discussions, arguments, and awareness-raising about the tragedy. Social media platforms’ instantaneousness and accessibility allowed people to interact in real-time, share viewpoints, and add to a larger conversation about issues of justice, accountability, and police brutality.

Antony and Thomas (2010) point out that YouTube videos stimulated conversations on various social and racial justice sites, resulting in a group conversation beyond geographical bounds. These movies’ comment sections turned into online town halls where people discussed interpretations, exchanged assessments, and voiced concerns. Social media platforms facilitate decentralized and participative public debate, further democratising sledge and allowing people to create narratives.

Furthermore, Antony and Thomas (2010) stress how social media might give citizen journalism transformational power. The grassroots reporting on YouTube prompted a more critical and varied analysis of the incident, which offered alternate viewpoints and refuted the official story. The de-democratization storytelling improves the news cycle by introducing a range of views and experiences into the discourse and enabling individuals to engage in it actively. Social media platforms play a crucial role in encouraging citizen journalism and influencing public discussion, as evidenced by Antony and Thomas’s (2010) analysis of YouTube in the context of the Oscar Grant shooting event.

The study demonstrates how these platforms facilitate users’ active participation in reporting and discussion of noteworthy events, thus promoting a public discourse that is more diverse, inclusive, and lively. Social media’s influence on citizen journalism and public debate still transforms society’s narratives and perspectives even as it develops further.

Building digital communities and digital identity

Ilieva’s (2022) Forbes piece highlights the benefits of social media community creation and emphasises the importance of these networks in forming digital identities. The essay emphasises that these communities might change the digital world by promoting connection, cooperation, and a sense of belonging.

Ilieva’s observations demonstrate how online communities give people a forum to interact with others who share their interests, have deep conversations, and find common ground. The Forbes article highlights how internet communities let people from different backgrounds connect and build solid digital identities by bridging geographical divides.

Moreover, Ilieva’s (2022) instances from the Forbes piece demonstrate how these communities develop into forums for cooperation and information exchange, enabling participants to participate actively in co-creating digital identities. Online communities allow people to grow personally and learn new skills, whether via shared interests or professional networks, helping them create a good and complex digital persona.

Ilieva’s Forbes piece highlights the advantages of online networks for developing digital identities. These areas show the transformative potential of digital communities in the modern online environment by fostering connection and collaboration and being essential to creating a complex and enriching digital identity.


In summary, this essay’s examination of social media’s influence on identity development has revealed a nuanced interaction between people and the digital environment. Featherstone and van Dijck underscored the interactive aspect of social media usage while offering fundamental insights into the changing consumer culture. Lüders et al. highlighted the dynamic element of self-presentation by exposing the deliberate and inventive methods people use to create their social identities. Abidin’s examination of influencer culture showed how social media—particularly selfies—becomes a stage for subversive playfulness that affects how users portray themselves and interact with others. The analysis of YouTube by Antony and Thomas about the Oscar Grant shooting event demonstrated how social media may challenge established media hierarchies and play a revolutionary role in citizen journalism and public discourse.

After some thought, the broader ramifications imply that social media promotes inclusivity and the democratising flow of knowledge, acting as a catalyst for societal change. Future research points to a constant evolution of digital identities as users gain proficiency in using social media for deliberate self-presentation and interaction. Navigating the intricacies of our digitally connected and interconnected world requires a grasp of the enormous impact that social media has on identity creation, mainly as the digital environment develops. An understanding of the complex ways in which social media shapes identities in the modern period is made more nuanced by the interactions among citizen journalism, influencer culture, self-presentation, and online communities.


Abidin, C. (2016). “Aren’t these just young, rich women doing vain things online?”: Influencer selfies as subversive frivolity. Social media+ society2(2), 2056305116641342.

Antony, M. G., & Thomas, R. J. (2010). ‘This is citizen journalism at its finest’: YouTube and the public sphere in the Oscar Grant shooting incident. New media & society12(8), 1280-1296.

Featherstone, M. (2010). Body, image and affect in consumer culture. Body & Society16(1), 193-221.

Ilieva, M. (2022, December 9). Council Post: Building A Community On Social Media. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesbusinesscouncil/2022/12/09/building-a-community-on-social-media/?sh=6206fa732338

Lüders, A., Dinkelberg, A., & Quayle, M. (2022). Becoming “us” in digital spaces: How online users creatively and strategically exploit social media affordances to build up social identity. Acta Psychologica228, 103643.

Van Dijck, J. (2009). Users like you? TheTheorizingency in user-generated content. Media, culture & society31(1), 41-58.

Analyzing Gender, Identity, and Agency in “The Yellow Wallpaper”

Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s 1892 short story “The Yellow Wallpaper” offers a critical analysis of gender norms and how they affect identity and personal agency. The story, which is set in an era when inflexible social conventions severely restricted women’s liberty and self-expression, revolves around an anonymous female heroine who is kept in her bedroom for her nervous depression by her physician husband (Gilman 14). Gilman skillfully uses the yellow wallpaper’s symbolism to show how patriarchal society’s repressive forces are encroaching on the narrator’s mind and soul. The way the narrator interacts with the masculine characters in her life illustrates the cultural expectations, gender prejudices, and power dynamics regulating her sense of selfhood and ability to control her destiny as she gradually slips farther into obsessive lunacy.

Societal Expectations and Gender Norms

The oppressive gender conventions of the late 19th century that force the heroine to conform to the role of a devoted wife and mother are a significant cause of her mental anguish. She bemoans the fact that her spouse, John, a doctor as well, “hardly lets [her] stir without special direction,” which includes forbidding her from working, which served as her former emotional release (Gilman 1). Additionally, John often disregards her emotions and ideas because he believes that with [his] special knowledge of the subject, he can make the best decisions for her care (Gilman 3). This is consistent with more prominent cultural beliefs that give males control over women’s healthcare and discount women’s opinions as being too sentimental or illogical. The space that the narrator refers to as a “nursery first and then children’s playroom,” which represents the home realm to which women were restricted, seems imprisoning to her (Gilman 3). Even if she would like to go and do something interesting, she accepts that she must comply completely since “a physician of high standing” like John undoubtedly ought to know better (Gilman 1). Thus, the protagonist is forced into a juvenile position by the combined forces of societal norms and masculine authority, which takes away her autonomy.

Intersection with Mental Health

The narrator’s mental health condition makes the gendered societal constraints on her identity and agency even more challenging to understand. Her writings on her frequent episodes of sadness and suicide ideas indicate long-standing inner anguish. She bemoans the fact that, despite being a catch-all diagnosis for women at the time, suggesting emotional instability and irrationality, people kept brushing off her troubles as the result of a “slight hysterical tendency.” John, her spouse, personifies this gender prejudice by condescendingly treating her mental health issues. To put her disease in such terms as “temporary nervous depression, a slight hysterical tendency” is to minimize the significance of her encounters with psychology as a woman (Gilman 1). The lack of empathy from male characters such as John and the societal stigma associated with mental health for women worsen the narrator’s sense of loneliness.

Seeking Agency through Madness

The protagonist’s connection with the yellow wallpaper becomes a way for her to exercise autonomy and take responsibility for the ideas she has been holding within. This is how her sanity keeps falling apart. She explains how the wallpaper’s initially disorganized design begins to resemble imprisoned women attempting to escape, mirroring her feelings of entrapment and longing for freedom (Gilman 13). When she is alone at night, she carefully removes the wallpaper, almost as if she is scrubbing her way out of a cell. The narrator’s gradual decline into a deluded obsession with the wallpaper illustrates how her mentality is breaking under the intense pressure from society to adhere to traditional feminine norms. Her only escape from the everyday routines and conventions dictating her words, behaviors, and identity is crazy as she lacks healthy channels for self-expression. Even while it comes at the terrible expense of her sanity, the story’s unexpected conclusion, in which she climbs over her husband’s body, suggests a dramatic ultimate rejection of his dominion over her.


“The Yellow Wallpaper” presents a menacing depiction of the ways in which men’s control over women’s autonomy, strict gender norms from the Victorian period, and the stigma associated with mental illness combine to limit women’s identity and agency. Gilman skillfully uses the wallpaper as a representation of the narrator’s struggles to restore her broken identity as well as society’s suffocating control over her. Even though the protagonist’s conclusion is sad, it highlights the harmful effects of depriving women the freedom to express themselves and their psychological well-being, restraints that many still experience today. The narrative vividly conveys the tangible pain resulting from structural gender inequality, leaving a profound effect on readers.

Works Cited

Gilman, C. P. The yellow wallpaper. The Floating Press, 2009. Retrieved from: https://d1lexza0zk46za.cloudfront.net/history/american-documents/documents/cpgilman-yellow-wallpaper-1892.pdf