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Social Self: Self-presentation in the era of the Internet


Guest articles > Social Self: Self-presentation in the era of the Internet


by: Lisa Peyton


Online environments have thrown a new light on self-identity and the degree with which we can control impressions other people form. Impression management or self-presentation refers to the process of influencing the impressions an audience forms about oneself (Joinson, A., McKenna, K.Y.A., Postmes, T., 2007). Internet relations have several differentiating factors that impact self-presentation, they include (Joinson, A. et al., 2007):

  • Greater anonymity
  • Diminution of the importance of physical appearance
  • Greater control over the time and pace of interactions
  • Ease of finding similar others

The Internet and online social networks have laid the groundwork for users to have greater control over how they present themselves. This freedom has been fertile ground for research and new discussions around WHY and HOW identity is shaped.

According to Mark Leary (1995) there are two processes that aide with impression management, impression motivation and impression construction. There are three primary factors that impact impression motivation and help to determine WHY users want to create a particular impression. These factors include “the extent to which the desired impression will contribute to the attainment of a goal, the value of that goal and the discrepancy that exists between the desired image and the image the audience already holds (Joinson, et al., 2007, p.225).”

Online social network users can have unique goals for each social channel, thereby strategically crafting their presented self to help attain that goal. This ability to have multiple selves across many different platforms was explored by Sherry Turkle in her book ‘Life on the Screen’. She compared these multiple selves to windows, stating “windows have become a powerful metaphor for thinking about the self as a multiple, distributed system. The self is no longer simply playing different roles in different settings at different times. The life practice of windows is that of a decentered self that exists in many worlds, that plays many roles at the same time (Turkle, S., 2011, p.14).”

When examining my own social media profiles and online behavior, the concept of windows really resonates for me. I have different facets of myself that are visible across many different ‘windows’ that are operating all at one time. Each of my social profiles helps me attain a different goal whether it be finding work, connecting with friends, learning about new restaurants or seeing beautiful images. These goals have helped to shape my online profiles, often unconsciously, and allowed for increased self-expression and self-exploration.



Joinson, A., McKenna, K. Y. A., Postmes, T., & Reips, U.-D. (Eds.). (2007). The Oxford Handbook of Internet Psychology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Lisa Peyton is a writer, teacher and digital marketing consultant based in Portland, Oregon. She teaches digital marketing strategies at Portland State University and acts as Executive Editor for TMMPDX.COM. She has been working with clients for almost a decade, helping them meet the needs of their online communities.

Most recently Lisa has been studying media psychology in hopes of improving online user experience and examining the future of digital media.

Visit for more information on her executive coaching and consulting services or contact her directly at

Contributor: Lisa Peyton

Published here on: 15-Sep-13

Classification: Communication, Marketing, Social Media

Website:, TMMPDX.COM


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