On Display Instagram, the Self, and the City

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On Display Instagram, the Self, and the City by Boy, John D.; Uitermark, Justus, 9780197629444
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  • ISBN: 9780197629444 | 019762944X
  • Cover: Paperback
  • Copyright: 12/14/2023

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Two billion people around the world use Instagram, but so far social scientists have done little research on the platform. Despite Instagram's reputation for shallowness, the ongoing self-presentation it demands confronts users with profound dilemmas. Who are we? What do we want to show of ourselves? What do we aspire to be?

On Display is a book about how people remake their worlds through social media. John D. Boy and Justus Uitermark provide an encompassing account of how a platform that is unfailingly polished and ruthlessly judgmental shapes us and our environments. They examine how personalities, relations, social movements, urban subcultures, and city streets change as they are represented on Instagram. Interviews and ethnographic vignettes render an intimate account of the desires and anxieties that animate the platform. Just as importantly, Boy and Uitermark reveal how Instagram is implicated in social inequalities.

While previous accounts have argued that social media promote polarization, On Display shows that this is not the case for Instagram where users belong to large and diverse networks, compelling them to take many, often contradictory expectations into account. This means users shy away from producing statements or images that may cause offense as a way to preserve their public image and their social connections. Drawing on sociological theory, long-term qualitative inquiry in Amsterdam, and computational analyses, Boy and Uitermark argue that grasping the power of Instagram--and other social media platforms--requires seeing them not as digital networks of communication and sharing, but as a stage for the expression and affirmation of social status.
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