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ln 1be NetwotkeJ 5elf. lJeotlty, commoolty ooJ coltote oo 5oclol Netwotk 5ltes,
Zlzl apacharlssl (Ld.), 2010, 8ouLledge.


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Andrew L. Mendelson
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hlladelphla, A 19122
213.204.3020
213.204.1974 (f)
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ln recenL years Lhe popularlLy of soclal neLwork slLes (SnSs), such as lrlendsLer,
MySpace and lacebook, has expanded, enabllng a culLure of remoLe connecLlvlLy for young
adulLs malnLalnlng a varleLy of soclal Lles Lo prlmary and secondary groups of conLacL. 1hls ls
especlally Lrue for college-age adulLs who use SnSs Lo sLay connecLed wlLh frlends and famlly
dlspersed across remoLe or nearby locaLlons. 1hese neLworked plaLforms of soclally orlenLed
acLlvlLy permlL an lnLroducLlon of Lhe self vla publlc dlsplays of connecLlon (boyd & Llllson,
2007, uonaLh & boyd, 2004, apacharlssl, 2002a&b, 2009). A subsequenL neLworked
presenLaLlon of Lhe self lnvolves performaLlve elemenLs, uslng a varleLy of Lools and sLraLegles
Lo presenL LasLes, llkes, dlsllkes, afflllaLlons, and ln general, personallLy. Such a performaLlve
paleLLe on slLes llke lacebook mlghL lnclude llsLlngs of lnLeresLs and favorlLe muslc, fllms, and
books, llnklng Lo groups sharlng polnLs of vlew or lnLeresLs, posLlng of commenLs and
responses, and, relevanL Lo Lhls paper, posLlng and labellng of phoLographs of one's self and
one's frlends. 1he purpose of Lhls paper ls Lo examlne Lhe use of phoLo gallerles as an
lnsLrumenL of self presenLaLlon and a means of vlsual auLoblography onllne.
hoLographs have long served a slgnlflcanL funcLlon of preservlng blographlcal
memorles. Albums of phoLographs -- from LlnLype and cablneL card albums ln Lhe mld and laLe
1800s Lo dlglLal gallerles ln Lhe 21
sL
cenLury - are used Lo Lell and reLell experlences shared by
members of one's famlly and by one's wlder soclal clrcle. 1hese phoLographs serve as
mnemonlc devlces for Lhe momenLs LhaL bond us LogeLher, sparklng larger conversaLlons wlLhln
3
famllles (Chalfen, 1987). lurLher, Lhey allows us, as 8arLhes (1981) suggesLs, Lo search Lhrough
Lhe pasL and redlscover Lhe LruLh of our loved ones. Slmllarly, Lhe manner ln whlch college
sLudenLs porLray Lhemselves and Lag oLhers Lhrough phoLographs on lacebook ls a
conLemporary means of lnLroduclng Lhe self and performlng one's ldenLlLy. Pow do Lhe phoLos
selecLed, presenLed, and Lagged help relfy Lhls medlaLed performance? lf phoLos are Laken for
Lhe purpose of belng dlsplayed and Lagged, does Lhls render Lhe experlences and Lhe soclal
relaLlonshlps presenLed more real? College sLudenLs consclously upload and Lag dlsplayed
phoLographs, Lhus selecLlng cerLaln sub[ecLs and evenLs Lo emphaslze. lnsplred by Chalfen's
(1987) examlnaLlon of how we consLrucL, manlpulaLe, lnLerpreL, llve wlLh, parLlclpaLe ln, and
generally use vlsual symbollc forms" (p. 3), we examlne how vlsual lmagery ls employed Lo
presenL Lhe self and everyday college llfe vla lacebook phoLo gallerles. ln Lhls sLudy, we
lnLerrogaLe Lhe phoLographs college sLudenLs presenL of Lhemselves as lmporLanL forms of
symbollc creaLlon of Lhelr worlds.
Self-presenLaLlon and Soclal neLwork SlLes (SnSs)
ln everyday llfe, people consclously and unconsclously work Lo deflne Lhe way Lhey are
percelved, hoplng Lo engender poslLlve lmpresslons of Lhemselves. 1hls efforL enLalls
emphaslzlng cerLaln characLerlsLlcs, Lhrough dress, halrsLyle, behavlor and/or speech, whlle
hldlng or dlmlnlshlng oLher characLerlsLlcs percelved as flawed, dependlng on conLexL. Coffman
(1939) uses Lhe Lerm performance" Lo refer Lo all Lhe acLlvlLy of a glven parLlclpanL on a glven
occaslon whlch serves Lo lnfluence ln any way any of Lhe oLher parLlclpanLs" (p. 13).
ConLemporary scholars from a varleLy of dlsclpllnes argue LhaL ldenLlLy ls performed, ln lLs many
4
lLeraLlons, ln conLexLs LhaL are boLh vlrLual and real, medlaLed or noL, offllne or onllne
(8ucklngham, 2008, 8uLler, 1990, 1urkle, 1996).
8esearch on self-presenLaLlon has moved from examlnlng lnLerpersonal lnLeracLlons, Lo
dlsplays Lhrough mass medla (Mendelson, 2007, MeyrowlLz, 1983) Lo more recenL forms of new
medla ln whlch elemenLs of lnLerpersonal and mass communlcaLlons are merge, llke personal
homepages and blogs (uomlnlck, 1999, apacharlssl, 2002a, 2002b, Walker, 2000). new medla,
such as Lhe World Wlde Web, allow people Lhe opporLunlLy Lo presenL varlous forms of
Lhemselves Lo oLhers aL a dlsLance. eople are able Lo posL only LhaL lnformaLlon whlch
presenLs a deslred lmage. Whlle people are purporLedly presenLlng Lhemselves, Lhey are
presenLlng a hlghly selecLlve verslon of Lhemselves. Soclal neLwork slLes (SnSs) presenL Lhe
laLesL neLworked plaLform enabllng self presenLaLlon Lo a varleLy of lnLerconnecLed audlences.
boyd and Llllson argue (2007), SnSs consLlLuLe an lmporLanL research conLexL for scholars
lnvesLlgaLlng processes of lmpresslon managemenL, self-presenLaLlon, and frlendshlp
perfomance" (p. 10). lndeed, SnSs afford a varleLy of Lools LhaL poLenLlally exLend and
compromlse lmpresslon managemenL. ln some cases, people creaLe mulLlple verslons of
lacebook or MySpace pages for dlfferenL audlences (noL unllke how we presenL dlfferenL
verslons of ourselves ln face-Lo-face conLexLs), one for peers and one for parenLs.
Soclal neLwork slLes connecL neLworks of lndlvlduals LhaL may or may noL share a place-
based connecLlon. SNSs support varying types of interaction on diverse and differing platforms.
Some of the popular SNSs include MySpace, Facebook, Cyworld, LinkedIn, and Bebo, among
others, in terms of millions of users attracted, but also in terms of public attention and
scholarship focus. Even though most SNSs are structured around a profile and a display of
connections or friends, they may vary to the extent that they support additional services such as
5
blogging (e.g., LiveJournal), audio/visual content sharing (Flickr, Last.FM, YouTube),
professional orientation (LinkedIn), focus on status updates online and mobile connectivity
(Twitter, Dodgeball), exclusive membership (ASmallWorld), or specific ethnic, religious, sexual
orientation and/or particular content genres (Orkut, CyWorld). uonaLh & boyd (2004) deflne
SnSs as on-llne envlronmenLs ln whlch people creaLe a self-descrlpLlve proflle and Lhen make
llnks Lo oLher people Lhey know on Lhe slLe, creaLlng a neLwork of personal connecLlons.
arLlclpanLs ln soclal neLwork slLes are usually ldenLlfled by Lhelr real names and ofLen lnclude
phoLographs, Lhelr neLwork of connecLlons ls dlsplayed as an lnLegral plece of Lhelr self-
presenLaLlon" (p. 72).
eople use SnSs Lo presenL aspecLs of Lhemselves Lo Lhelr neLwork. 1hese expresslons
can slmulLaneously express unlqueness and connecLlon Lo oLhers. 1hese slLes are abouL
esLabllshlng, presenLlng and negoLlaLlng ldenLlLy, Lhrough Lhe LasLes and lnLeresLs expressed
(Llu, 2007), Lhose who we frlend and hlghllghL (uonaLh and boyd, 2004), Lhrough Lhe
appllcaLlons we add Lo our SnS pages, and Lhrough Lhe plcLures of us and our frlends (boyd,
2004, uonaLh, 2007). ln addlLlon, Lhese ldenLlLy presenLaLlons are supporLed by commenLs from
oLher users.
SnSs are mosL ofLen used Lo connecL wlLh lndlvlduals people know from offllne
envlronmenLs, raLher Lhan for meeLlng new people onllne, dlfferenLlaLlng SnSs from onllne
daLlng slLes (Lampe, Llllson, & SLelnfleld, 2007, LenharL & Madden, 2007). 1he number of
people llnked Lo on SnSs ls generally larger Lhan Lhose would communlcaLe wlLh on a regular
basls and cerLalnly beyond Lhose who would see one's personal phoLo albums (boyd & Llllson,
2007, uonaLh, 2007). LlLLle of Lhe research lnLo SnSs has examlned Lhe posLed phoLographs
beyond acknowledglng Lhem as elemenLs of self-presenLaLlon. SLlll, phoLos play a large role ln
6
how ldenLlLy ls presenLed (uomlnlck, 1999). Accordlng Lo one sLudy of Leen use of soclal
neLwork slLes, lncludlng lacebook, mosL users do posL phoLos of Lhemselves and Lhelr frlends
(LenharL & Madden, 2007), wlLh Lhls acLlvlLy belng more popular wlLh glrls Lhan boys.
lacebook's publlshed sLaLlsLlcs, aL presenL, reporL over 230 mllllon acLlve users and more Lhan 1
bllllon phoLos uploaded every monLh (lacebook ress 8oom, SLaLlsLlcs, 2009). 1he phoLographs
on a lacebook pages presenL a serles of performances sLraLeglcally chosen by an lndlvldual.
1he phoLographlc llfe of young adulLs, lncludlng college sLudenLs, ls noL much undersLood, and
relevanL research ls presenLed ln Lhe followlng secLlon. 1hus, lacebook presenLs a useful case
sLudy lnLo how college sLudenLs consLrucL Lhelr llves Lhrough phoLographs.
ersonal hoLography
ersonal phoLographs are phoLographs made by ourselves, members of our famlly or
peer group for our own use, noL by professlonal phoLographers and noL for mass audlences
(Chalfen, 1981, SlaLer, 1993). 1hese lmages are parL of a larger soclal pracLlce whlch Chalfen
(1987) refers Lo Lhls as Lhe kodak culLure," whaLever lL ls LhaL one has Lo learn, know, or do ln
order Lo parLlclpaLe approprlaLely ln whaL has been ouLllned as Lhe home mode of plcLorlal
communlcaLlon" (p. 10).
Whlle we Lhlnk of personal phoLographs as raLher haphazard, Chalfen (1987) and
Musello (1980) argue LhaL Lhey are hlghly rlLuallzed and convenLlonallzed, wlLh a raLher llmlLed
range of sub[ecLs and evenLs belng recorded. Whlle Lhere ls LheoreLlcally an unllmlLed range of
sub[ecLs Lo documenL, culLural pracLlce dlcLaLes a raLher more llmlLed seL of sub[ecLs and
momenLs. ersonal phoLographs presenL ldeals, emphaslzlng how we wlsh our llves Lo be
remembered (Polland, 1997). 1he poslLlve ls always recorded over Lhe negaLlve, wlLh momenLs
7
of celebraLlon emphaslzed (klng, 1986, SlaLer, 1993), especlally Lhose assoclaLed wlLh llfeLlme
mllesLones: blrLhdays, holldays, weddlngs. As Polland (1991) argues, Lhese prlvaLe plcLures are
enLangled wlLhln and lnfluenced by larger culLural sLorles abouL communlLy, famlly and gender.
ersonal phoLographs reafflrm culLurally sLrucLured values" (Chalfen, 1987, p. 98), Lhrough
whaL ls shown (Crhn, 1973).
8elaLlonshlps are also key aspecLs of personal phoLography, demonsLraLlng lmporLanL
bonds beLween famlly and frlends. 1here ls an evldenLlary purpose Lo personal phoLographs,
provldlng proof of experlences and relaLlonshlps for ourselves and for oLhers (8arLhes, 1981,
!acobs, 1981). 1hese momenLs and Lhe relaLlonshlps become sancLlfled Lhrough Lhelr
documenLaLlon. 1hey are deemed worLhy of recordlng and preservlng. ulglLal phoLography has
expanded Lhe range of sub[ecLs deemed phoLoworLhy, wlLh more emphasls on Lhe everyday
and banal (Ckabe & lLo, 2003, Murray, 2008). Polland (1997) suggesLs LhaL lcLures of lelsure
acLlvlLles lncreaslngly lnclude Lhe carnlvalesque - cross-dresslng for Lhe lasL-nlghL parLy, sldllng
up Lo Lhe Creek walLer, Lhe club ouLlng when everyone was lmposslbly drunk, Lhe rlsque nude
lmage" (p. 137).
1here ls normally a sLrong lnLeracLlon beLween sub[ecL and phoLographer ln personal
phoLographs. 1he phoLographer ls mosL ofLen known lnLlmaLely by Lhe sub[ecL, and boLh share
an lnLeresL ln maklng phoLographs LhaL emphaslze how people would llke Lo be seen. lurLher,
personal phoLography ls a soclal acLlvlLy, where people acLlvely pose for each oLher. Polland
(1991) argues LhaL: 8ecordlng an evenL has become parL of LhaL evenL - and perhaps Lhe mosL
lmporLanL parL, for" (p. 2, see also 8oerdam & MarLlnlus, 1980). MosL sub[ecLs pose dlrecLly
before Lhe lens, looklng sLralghL ahead, hlghly aware of belng phoLographed. 1he phoLographer
8
holds Lhe camera aL eye level, emphaslzlng Lhe normalness of Lhe vlewpolnL (!acobs, 1981).
Whlle Lhe Lechnology of personal phoLography allows plcLures Lo be made wlLh Lhe sub[ecL
unaware, Lhls seldom occurs (Polland, 1991).
We Lherefore consclously and unconsclously Lransform ourselves before Lhe camera,
porLraylng a verslon of ourselves we hope Lo be (8arLhes, 1981, !acobs, 1981, SlaLer, 1993).
8oerdam & MarLlnlus (1980) also draw on Coffman: eople glve a 'performance' when Lhey
allow Lhemselves Lo be phoLographed, ln Lhe sense LhaL Lhey make allowance for a publlc LhaL
wlll ulLlmaLely see Lhe phoLograph" (p. 109).
1he presenLaLlon of personal phoLos ls also hlghly rlLuallzed. 1he soclal process dlcLaLes
noL only how Lhese phoLos are made, buL also Lo whom Lhey are shown. 1hese are noL meanL
for mass audlences. 1hey are meanL for people who were known personally" Lo Lhe sub[ecLs ln
Lhe lmages (Chalfen, 1987, klng, 1986). 1he phoLos are produced for and consumed by Lhose
sub[ecLs and phoLographers and sllghLly larger clrcle of frlends and relaLlves. Chalfen sLaLes
LhaL: Crdered collecLlons of home mode lmagery are repeaLedly Lelllng Lhe same 'sLorles'
accordlng Lo some masLer scenarlo-sLorles based on Lhe plcLorlal renderlng and unfoldlng of an
lnLerpreLaLlon of experlenced dally llfe and Lhe 'puncLuaLlon' of speclal experlences" (p. 142).
1hese collecLlons dellver culLurally slgnlflcanL Lales and myLhs abouL ourselves Lo ourselves"
(p. 142).
MosL people's phoLographs are edlLed dependlng on Lhe vlewlng audlence. Some
lmages are dlsplayed aL work, some ln frames ln Lhe home, some ln albums, and sLlll oLhers are
kepL for personal vlewlng only or desLroyed. ersonal phoLo albums are generally organlzed
chronologlcally from oldesL Lo newesL, as well as around speclflc evenLs (Mlller & Ldwards,
9
2007). Albums are noL sLrucLured around a narraLlve. As Chalfen (1987) suggesLs: 1he narraLlve
remalns ln Lhe heads of Lhe plcLuremakers and on-camera parLlclpanLs for verbal Lelllng and re-
Lelllng durlng exhlblLlon evenLs" (p. 70, see also Polland, 1991).
1he producLlon and presenLaLlon of personal phoLographs connecLs wlLh Carey's (1973)
noLlon of Lhe rlLual vlew of communlcaLlon: ln a rlLual deflnlLlon, communlcaLlon ls llnked Lo
Lerms such as sharlng, parLlclpaLlon, assoclaLlon, fellowshlp, and Lhe possesslon of a common
falLh" (p. 6). 1hese Lypes of phoLos help bulld and susLaln soclal groups by communlcaLlng
shared values and sLorles. 1hese lmages play an lmporLanL role ln perpeLuaLlng memorles for a
group, calllng up momenLs for reflecLlon and remlnlscence. 1hey are Lhe vlsual myLhs, capLurlng
Lhe besL momenLs Lo be Lold and reLold, or as SLurken (1999) says, phoLos are an arLlfacL[s]
used Lo con[ure memory, nosLalgla, and conLemplaLlon." (p. 178, see also Plrsch, 1999).
LlLLle research has examlned Lhe phoLographlc worlds from Lhe early adulLhood Llme of
llfe afLer hlgh school graduaLlon. 1hls ls cerLalnly because Lhe albums Chalfen examlned were
conLrolled by parenLs and noL Lhe young adulLs Lhemselves. 1lnkler's (2008) overvlew of
research on young people's phoLographlc pracLlces echoes Lhls. She suggesLs unLll recenLly,
however, mosL chlldren had llLLle say over how Lhey were represenLed ln amaLeur, commerclal
or lnsLlLuLlonal phoLographs" (p. 238). She goes on Lo argue: 1oday, young people from across
Lhe soclal-class specLrum have a wlder range of opporLunlLles for phoLographlc self
represenLaLlon due Lo Lhe avallablllLy of cheap .cameras" (p. 238). ulglLal Lechnology has
placed cameras and phoLographs ln Lhe hands of almosL all. And lacebook, lllckr, Snapflsh and
oLher slLes allow for sharlng of phoLographs easlly wlLh oLhers.
10
ln neLworked envlronmenLs LhaL blend prlvaLe and publlc boundarles, llke soclal
neLwork slLes, personal phoLographs can Lraverse a mulLlpllclLy of audlences, Lo whlch Lhese
phoLographlc narraLlves are of varlable coherence and relevance. ?eL, slnce Lhey all emanaLe
from Lhe ego-cenLered basls of soclal neLwork slLe llke lacebook, Lhey lnadverLenLly
communlcaLe conLenL of a performaLlve naLure Lo a varleLy of audlences. ln order Lo beLLer
undersLand Lhe worlds and accompanylng narraLlves college sLudenLs vlsually consLrucL for
Lhemselves, our analysls ls gulded by Lhe followlng general LhemaLlc quesLlons: WhaL klnds of
vlsual narraLlves do college sLudenLs consLrucL Lhrough Lhe dlsplay of phoLo gallerles on
lacebook? WhaL are Lhe deflnlng elemenLs of Lhe vlsual rheLorlc presenLed by lacebook phoLo
gallerles? llnally, whaL sense of self ls presenLed vla Lhe vlsual sLoryLelllng medla of lacebook?
8y examlnlng vlsual deplcLlons of behavlors broadcasL Lo a slmulLanelLy of publlc and prlvaLe
audlences, we hope Lo beLLer undersLand Lhe naLure of ldenLlLles LhaL are performed on onllne
spaces on Lhe basls of experlences llved offllne.
MeLhod
We chose Lo analyze college sLudenLs' phoLos quallLaLlvely uslng meLhods based ln
vlsual anLhropology and semloLlcs ln order Lo capLure Lhe rlchness of Lhe lmages, ln addlLlon Lo
Lhe more subLle aspecLs of Lhe presenLaLlons. 1hls quallLaLlve analysls was gulded prlmarlly by
Chalfen's (1987) evenL-componenL framework" for analyzlng home mode forms of
communlcaLlon. 1hls framework conLalns Lwo axes - evenLs and componenLs - each made up
of flve elemenLs. 1he evenLs Chalfen deLalls are: lloooloq - any acLlon(s) ln whlch Lhere ls a
formal or lnformal declslon regardlng Lhe producLlon of a phoLographlc lmage(s)" (p. 20),
5bootloq. oo-cometo - any acLlon(s) LhaL ln some way sLrucLures Lhe person(s) or Lhlng(s) LhaL
11
happens" ln fronL of Lhe operaLlng camera" (p. 21-22), 5bootloq. bebloJ cometo - any
acLlon(s) noL ln fronL of Lhe camera by whlch ln some way sLlll sLrucLures Lhe use and operaLlon
of lL" (p. 22), Jltloq - any acLlon(s) whlch Lransforms, accumulaLes, ellmlnaLes, arranges or
rearranges lmages" (pg. 23), and xblbltloo - any acLlon(s) whlch occurs afLer shooLlng, ln
whlch phoLographlc.lmagery ls shown and vlewed ln a publlc conLexL" (p. 23). We adopLed
Chalfen's accompanylng deflnlLlon of publlc as any audlence LhaL conslsLs of more Lhan Lhe
plcLure-Laker or edlLor" (p. 23). We focused on Lhe lasL evenL, Lhe exhlblLlon, ln our analysls of
phoLo albums as presenLed Lhrough lacebook. We also employed hls flve componenLs of home
mode lmagery, as a gulde for our analysls: lottlclpoots - Lhls concerns ldenLlfylng people who
Lake plcLures, appear ln plcLures, and look aL plcLures" (p. 27), 1oplc descrlbes lmage conLenL
ln Lerms of Lhe sub[ecL maLLer, acLlvlLles, evenLs, and Lhemes LhaL are presenLed ln plcLures" (p.
29), 5ettloq refers Lo when and where a parLlcular communlcaLlon evenL Lakes place" (p. 30),
Messoqe fotm - Lhe physlcal form, 'shape' or klnd of plcLure" (p. 31), and coJe lncludes Lhe
characLerlsLlcs LhaL deflne a parLlcular message form or 'sLyle, of lmage consLrucLlon and
composlLlon," focuslng on Lhe convenLlons LhaL deflne Lhe naLure of Lhe phoLographlc lmages
(p. 32). ln addlLlon, Chalfen suggesLs LhaL Lhe vlsual alone ls noL enough Lo undersLand how
Lhese forms of communlcaLlon are used. Scholars musL also examlne verbal lnformaLlon
lncluded wlLh Lhe lmages, such as capLlons or LlLles. 1o Lhls end, we examlned vlsual
ldenLlflcaLlons of phoLographed sub[ecLs or 'Lags,' and commenLary accompanylng all
phoLographs.
ln addlLlon Lo Chalfen's framework, Lhls analysls was lnformed by semloLlc analysls,
whlch aLLempLed Lo quallLaLlvely place conLenL ln a larger culLural conLexL of meanlng, looklng
12
for recurrlng paLLerns of presences and absence (Pall, 1973, 8ose, 2001). 1he cholce of one
sub[ecL over anoLher frames our undersLandlng of an evenL. 1hus, lL ls also necessary Lo
conslder whaL was noL chosen for lncluslon ln Lhe phoLographs (llske 1990, Szarkowskl 1966,
1rachLenberg 1989, van Leeuwen 2001). Cholces of whaL Lo lnclude are only one aspecL, we
musL also examlne how Lhe dlfferenL cholces are comblned. Meanlng ls creaLed by Lhe
relaLlonshlps among Lhe presenL slgns (llske 1990). 1he enLlre body of work musL be examlned
Lo ascerLaln Lhese paLLerns of represenLaLlon. Whlle people are LheoreLlcally free Lo record and
posL plcLures of anyLhlng, Lhere are llmlLaLlons based on Lhese norms or convenLlons of whaL ls
accepLable or reasonable. 8ased on Chalfen, we examlned Lhe arLlclpanLs, 1oplcs, SeLLlng,
lorm, Code (aesLheLlcs), as reveal Lhrough Lhe phoLos exhlblLed when cllcklng on Lhe proflle
llnk, See hoLos of".
arLlclpanLs ln an onllne survey on lacebook uses (apacharlssl & Mendelson, 2008)
were conLacLed by a graduaLe asslsLanL for Lhe purpose of accesslng Lhelr phoLos. 1he
parLlclpanLs were lnformed LhaL Lhelr phoLos would be kepL confldenLlal. All phoLos of Lhose
agreelng Lo parLlclpaLe ln Lhls porLlon of Lhe sLudy were collecLed by produclng porLable
documenL flles of Lhelr phoLo pages. lor Lhls sLudy, we examlned Lhe phoLos of" each person
Lo geL a sense of how college sLudenLs are porLrayed by Lhemselves and Lhelr frlends Lhrough
Lhe processes of posLlng and Lagglng phoLographs. 1hls examlnaLlon dld noL focus on
speclflcally on Lhe albums each person posLed, buL on Lhe overall collecLlon of phoLos feaLurlng
Lhe person whose pages we were examlnlng. CurrenLly, Lhe archlLecLure of lacebook groups all
Lagged phoLos of a person LogeLher, regardless of wheLher Lhey are posLed by Lhe sub[ecL or by
oLhers. When a sub[ecL's lacebook page opens, Lhere ls a llnk under Lhelr proflle phoLo whlch
13
says, vlew hoLos of me," conLalnlng all Lhe lmages we analyzed. 8ased on Lhe above meLhod,
Lhe lead auLhor examlned every phoLograph found when cllcklng on Lhe hoLos of" from Lhe
sLudenL's lacebook homepage and every commenL posLed abouL Lhe phoLos, produclng a LoLal
N = 20,962 phoLos examlned, and n = 13,343 commenLs analyzed.
Analysls
8efore golng furLher lnLo Lhe quallLaLlve analysls, we begln wlLh some descrlpLlve resulLs
from Lhe close-ended survey of college sLudenLs (n = 333) from whlch Lhls sample was drawn ln
order Lo provlde a descrlpLlve sense of Lhe popularlLy of phoLo posLlng and Lagglng. Women
reporLed havlng more phoLos on Lhelr pages (4.36 vs. 3.48, on a 1 Lo 3 scale, l(1) = 38.18, p =
.000), belng more llkely Lo posL phoLos (3.22 vs. 2.31, l(1) = 47.26, p = .000), and more llkely Lo
Lag phoLos Lhan men (3.02 vs. 2.3, l(1) = 20.6, p = .000). lurLher, Lhe slze of one's soclal group,
as deflned by Lhe number of frlends parLlclpanLs reporLed havlng was poslLlvely correlaLed wlLh
Lhe number of phoLos a person reporLed havlng (t = .39, p = .000). llnally, Lhe number of phoLos
correlaLed mosL sLrongly wlLh malnLalned (t = .23, p = .000) and bondlng soclal caplLal (t = .20, p
= .000) measures, reflecLlng Lhe exLenL of pasL Lles susLalned and close Lles sLrengLhened
respecLlvely on lacebook. As we wlll see, Lhe college sLudenLs' phoLographs are focused mosL
sLrongly on soclal relaLlonshlps.
CuallLaLlve analysls
LlghLy-nlne sLudenLs who parLlclpaLed ln Lhe above survey were wllllng Lo have Lhelr
phoLos more closely examlned. 1hls sample lncluded 37 males and 32 females. lor Lhls group,
Lhe number of phoLos ranged from 1 Lo 1,323 (meoo = 236, sJ = 3.11, meJloo = 124), whlle Lhe
number of commenLs ranged from zero Lo 1,348 (meoo = 132, sJ = 2.11, meJloo = 83). noL
14
surprlslngly, women had more phoLos of Lhemselves (wheLher posLed by Lhemselves or oLhers),
averaglng 337 Lo men's average number of phoLos of 93 (t(38) = 4.6, p = .000). Llkewlse women
(meoo = 213) had more commenLs abouL Lhelr phoLos Lhan men (meoo = 66, t(69) = 3.9, p =
.000). 1he number of phoLos was hlghly correlaLed wlLh Lhe number of commenLs (t = .716, p =
.000). 8ecause Lhese sLudenLs were enrolled ln an lnLroducLory mass communlcaLlon class,
mosL were freshmen or sophomores.
1he resulLs of Lhls paper are organlzed around Chalfen's caLegorles of analysls: Lhe
sub[ecL maLLer presenL ln Lhe phoLographs (parLlclpanLs, Loplcs and seLLlngs) as well as whaL
sub[ecL maLLer doesn'L show up or show's up very llLLle, Lhe behavlor of sub[ecLs, Lhe
phoLographlc aesLheLlcs of Lhe lmages, Lhe organlzaLlon of Lhe phoLographs and flnally an
analysls of Lhe commenLs.
Aoolysls - lottlclpoots, toplcs, settloqs
8elaLlonshlps are Lhe domlnanL sub[ecL maLLer ln all Lhe phoLographs. 1he vasL ma[orlLy
of Lhe phoLos are of palrlngs or groups of frlends, mosLly of Lhe same gender, poslng for Lhe
camera aL formal or planned evenLs, such as parLles or sporLlng evenLs. 1hls lncludes phoLos
Laken by a separaLe phoLographer and Lhose shoL by one of Lhe sub[ecLs holdlng a camera ouL
Lo phoLograph hlm or herself wlLh a frlend or frlends, and was Lhe norm for boLh men and
women. Men were mosL ofLen phoLographed wlLh male frlends, and women wlLh women.
1he domlnance of Lhe same-sex sub[ecLs ln phoLos can mosL sLrongly be seen ln hlgh
school prom phoLos encounLered ln Lhe analysls. Whlle Lhere were phoLos of a person poslng
wlLh hls or her daLe, plnnlng on a bouLonnlere or corsage, or group shoLs of a serles of couples
poslng ln fronL of a house, Lhe vasL ma[orlLy of phoLos presenLed elLher groups of female
15
frlends poslng ln Lhelr dresses LogeLher, or groups of male frlends poslng LogeLher ln Lhelr
Luxedos. 1he bondlng of same sex frlends even aL a couples' evenL was of Lhe mosL lmporLance.
Slmllarly, hlgh school graduaLlon occaslons ofLen feaLured lmages of Lhe sub[ecL poslng wlLh
same sex frlends ln Lhelr caps and gowns.
1he prevalence of same-sex group phoLos does noL lmply Lhe absence of phoLos of
people of Lhe opposlLe sex LogeLher. AL parLy seLLlngs, boLh male and female parLlclpanLs
phoLographed wlLh members of Lhe opposlLe sex, poslng ln a plaLonlc manner, or LogeLher, ln
large group phoLos feaLurlng everyone presenL aL Lhe parLy. 8uL overall, phoLographs revealed
Lhe lmporLance of one's peer group, mosL ofLen for Lhese underclassmen, members of Lhe
same gender. lcLures wlLh members of Lhe opposlLe sex were posed ln much of Lhe same way
as Lhose wlLh same sex frlends. 1hey revealed mosLly frlendshlps over romanLlc connecLlons or
even slgnlflcanL fllrLaLlon.
Cnce a person has a slgnlflcanL oLher of Lhe opposlLe sex, Lhe conLenL of Lhe posLed
phoLographs do change. ln Lhose cases, Lhe relaLlonshlp became Lhe maln focus of Lhe
phoLographlc narraLlve, Lhrough Lhe frequenL posLlng of plcLures of Lhe couple alone (Laken by
a Lhlrd parLy or by Lhemselves holdlng a camera ouL), or poslng wlLh a group of one of Lhe
parLner's same-sex frlends. 1he romanLlc relaLlonshlps were also demonsLraLed and conflrmed
vlsually Lhrough Lhe amounL of physlcal conLacL, usually reflecLed Lhrough slLLlng on Lhe oLher's
lap, hugglng each oLher, and heads LogeLher.
CerLaln evenLs were repeaLed wlLhln and across Lhrough mosL of Lhe college sLudenL
phoLo collecLlons. 1hese mosLly lncluded Lyplcal planned hlgh school and college acLlvlLles or
rlLuals: parLles, road Lrlps wlLh frlends (Lo Lhe beach, Lo new ?ork ClLy), dances and proms,
16
school-year holldays (such as Palloween and SL. aLrlck's uay), college sporLlng evenLs, and, Lo a
lesser exLenL, professlonal sporLlng evenLs, and hlgh school graduaLlon. 1he recordlng and
posLlng of a sub[ecL's parLlclpaLlon ln Lhe soclal rlLuals of college ls cenLral. lor example, a serles
of a group of male frlends palnLlng Lhelr chesL ln Leam colors, each wlLh a leLLer of Lhe school on
hls chesL, was phoLographed, boLh durlng Lhe palnLlng process and aL Lhe acLual sporLlng evenL.
SLlll, almosL any momenL shared by frlends ls worLhy Lo be recorded. Several oLher phoLos
deplcLed drlvlng ln a car or rldlng on Lhe subway or walklng someplace or eaLlng aL a fasL food
resLauranL. lrlendshlps were conflrmed Lhrough Lhe lncluslon of road Lrlp phoLos, showlng
frlends poslng on Lhe beach ln swlmmlng sulLs, aL slLes ln Lhe locaLlon belng vlslLed, such as
1lmes Square ln new ?ork ClLy, or ln resLauranLs around a Lable.
arLles presenLed by far Lhe mosL common seLLlng for phoLos. 1hese were mosL ofLen
posed phoLographs of groups of frlends, ofLen wlLh boLLles of beer or plasLlc cups ln hand.
Cccaslonally Lhere were boLLles of hard llquor shown. lew phoLos showed clgareLLe smoklng.
urug usage or paraphernalla were also noL presenL. 8ecause of Lhe age group under sLudy, bars
were less ofLen Lhe seLLlng for drlnklng. SLlll, Lhere was llLLle or no efforL Lo hlde or avold
phoLographlng underage drlnklng. ln facL, lL was mosL ofLen blaLanLly lncluded ln Lhe frame, by
holdlng Lhe boLLle or class up hlgh or ouL Loward Lhe camera.
1he lmporLance of parLles ls reflecLed ln Lhe prevalence of cerLaln holldays, such as such
as Palloween and SL. aLrlck's uay, boLh holldays assoclaLed wlLh parLles and drlnklng. 1he vasL
ma[orlLy of sLudenLs had phoLos of Palloween, mosL ofLen poslng before a parLy ln one's
aparLmenL or resldence hall ln cosLume wlLh one's same sex frlends. CuLflLs were lmporLanL for
SL. aLrlck's uay as well, as phoLos reveal Lhe Lyplcal brlghL green shlrL and green parLy haLs.
17
Apparel becomes lmporLanL Lo Lhe varlous rlLuals of college llfe. CosLumes were naLurally
promlnenL ln Palloween parLy phoLos, green ouLflLs for SL. aLrlck's day, whlle sporLlng evenLs
phoLos feaLured sub[ecLs donnlng Leam wear, dlsplaylng Leam or college afflllaLlon. hoLos
would Lyplcally be Laken ln sald ouLflLs beforehand aL one's aparLmenL or dorm, on Lhe subway
or ln a car golng Lo Lhe evenL, LallgaLlng beforehand ln Lhe parklng loL and slLLlng ln Lhe sLands.
1hese rlLuals of college llfe seemed largely gender neuLral, belng equally common for
male and female phoLographed sub[ecLs. ln conLrasL, a vlslble gender dlvlde became apparenL
ln hanglng ouL" phoLos, LhaL ls phoLos of relaxaLlon or down Llme" ln one's aparLmenL or
dorm, ln casual cloLhlng, such as sweaLs and L-shlrLs (l,e., noL dressed Lo go ouL), mosL ofLen
agaln wlLh members of one's gender. Women were much more llkely Lo have phoLos of Lhese
momenLs, and Lhese lncluded laughlng LogeLher, eaLlng plzza, dylng someone's halr and [usL
Lalklng. AnoLher common phoLo for women was Lhe reflecLlon shoL wlLh anoLher frlend ln a
baLhroom mlrror. 1hls could be ln an aparLmenL baLhroom, buL Lhls was also seen ln bar
baLhrooms. MosL ofLen Lhese presenLed a serles of aL leasL Lhree or four phoLos wlLh Lhe
sub[ecLs playlng wlLh poses. Some women produced Lhese mlrror phoLographs of [usL
Lhemselves. Men were llkely only Lo have plcLures of acLual formal evenLs.
orLralLs of Lhe sub[ecLs alone were presenL, Lhough Lhey dld noL ouLnumber phoLos
wlLh frlends. orLralLs were boLh Laken by Lhe sub[ecL by holdlng ouL a camera, by uslng a
mlrror or by uslng a compuLer camera. Some men and women, would play wlLh poses of
Lhemselves, posLlng a serles of phoLos made aL Lhe same Llme wlLh dlfference body poslLlons or
faclal expresslons.
18
CerLaln Lypes of seLLlngs were noL encounLered ofLen, alLhough lL bears repeaLlng LhaL
Lhe phoLos of each sub[ecL are noL necessarlly all Lhe phoLos Laken of Lhls sub[ecL, buL only Lhe
selecLlon of phoLos LhaL have been posLed and Lagged. WlLh Lhls ln mlnd, mosL of Lhe sLudenLs
dlsplayed no lmages of Lhemselves wlLh famlly members, speclflcally wlLh famlly members of
older generaLlons, lncludlng parenLs or grandparenLs. Slmllarly, few people had phoLographs
wlLh very young chlldren. 1he few cases where parenLs appeared were aL famlly funcLlons such
as hollday parLles or weddlngs or of parenLs soclallzlng wlLh Lhe sub[ecL and hls/her peer group.
ln one case, a moLher and faLher were playlng beer pong wlLh Lhelr college-aged daughLer and
her frlends aL Lhelr house. lamlly members, when Lhey dld appear, were more ofLen Lo show up
ln phoLos before college sLarLed, up Lhrough Lhe summer before freshman year. A few (Lhough
very few) new baby plcLures were presenL, ln Lhe form of chlldren of slbllngs. Clder people dld
appeared ln Lhe form of a celebrlLy, an aLhleLe, or servlce personnel aL a resorL or resLauranL
wlLh whom Lhe frlends are poslng.
negaLlve evenLs, such as lllnesses or serlous accldenLs were absenL from Lhese gallerles.
Powever, oLher, less somber yeL embarrasslng or bad" phoLos remalned, even when someone
commenLed LhaL Lhls was awful or LhaL Lhey could noL belleve a phoLo was posLed. 1he facL LhaL
Lhe lmages and Lhe commenLs were seen suggesL LhaL Lhe commenLer was noL concerned
enough Lo remove Lhe lmage. Cne example ls of a serles of a glrl danclng crazlly wlLh a drlnk ln
her hand, llcklng a glrl's face and llcklng Lhe Lop of a glrl frlend's chesL. 1he facL LhaL Lhe lmage
remalns posLed suggesLs she dld noL feel Lhls was Loo embarrasslng Lo Lake down, posslbly
conLalnlng some Lype of meanlng for her and her peer group. 1o anoLher embarrasslng phoLo,
Lhe sub[ecL commenLed: 8ad halr!!!! uLS18C?! uLS18C?!" Slmllarly, anoLher person
19
commenLed on a dlfferenL phoLo: LMAC hey hey. l LhoughL we had an undersLandlng LhaL Lhls
nlghL never happened. shush, [name removed] babe. Lrylng Lo flnd our burled secreLs." uesplLe
Lhe prlvaLe naLure of Lhe evenL descrlbed and Lhe lnformaLlon revealed, Lhese plcLure remaln
on publlc dlsplay, suggesLlng LhaL Lhelr publlclLy surpasses Lhe sLaLed dlsconLenL or
embarrassmenL broughL on by Lhe dlsplayed lmage.
Landscapes and clLyscapes wlLhouL people ln Lhem were seldom posLed. Landscapes
were seen ln phoLos of Lhe sub[ecL or Lhe sub[ecL and frlends poslng ln Lhe foreground of a
wlder lmage whlle on a Lrlp, Lhus documenLlng Lhe shared experlence of belng someplace
LogeLher. MosL of Lhe Lravel lmages were llkewlse lmages of Lhe sub[ecL wlLh hls or her frlends,
for example, poslng wlLh characLers aL ulsney World along wlLh frlends. MosL of Lhe sub[ecLs
never appeared wlLh anlmals, wheLher peLs from Lhelr parenL's house or peLs Lhey own ln
school. 1hls laLLer example ls noL surprlslng slnce mosL of Lhe sub[ecLs were sLlll llvlng ln a dorm
where peLs are noL allowed. llnally, lmages of sLudenLs ln classes or oLher academlc campus
bulldlngs, or sLudylng anywhere were absenL, Lhus vlsually removlng Lhe academlc slde of Lhe
college experlence from Lhe college based presenLaLlon of Lhe self.
Aoolysls - 8ebovlot
8eyond sub[ecL maLLer, we looked aL Lhe Lypes of acLlvlLles and behavlors sub[ecLs were
pursulng ln Lhe phoLos. WhaL became lmmedlaLely apparenL was LhaL sub[ecLs were almosL
always aware of and lnLeracLlng wlLh Lhe camera/phoLographer. 1here were few candld phoLos
Laken or phoLos where Lhe sub[ecLs were caughL compleLely unaware. MosL of Lhe behavlor
was lnLenLlonally phoLographlc ln whaL would be consldered a formal pose, sLandlng and
smlllng faclng Lhe camera. Sub[ecLs were mosL ofLen physlcally close Lo each oLher, wlLh parLs
20
of Lhelr bodles Louchlng and Lhelr heads leanlng lnLo each oLher. Whereas women were more
llkely Lo be hugglng someone ln Lhe phoLo wlLh Lhem, men would merely sLand physlcally close
Lo each oLher or have Lhelr arms around each oLher. 8uL even Lhls dlfference dlmlnlshed aL
parLles (presumably Lhrough Lhe presence of alcohol), as men can ofLen be seen hugglng as
well.
lurLhermore, Lhere was much exaggeraLed behavlor dlrecLed Lo Lhe camera, reflecLlng
a varleLy of poses and a playful aLLlLude. 1hls was apparenL Lhrough broad gesLures (e.g., arms
up above Lhe head), exaggeraLed poses and faclal expresslons, such as large grlns or laughlng,
sLlcklng ouL one's Longues aL Lhe camera. CLher behavlor dlrecLed aL Lhe camera was overL
drlnklng, whlch lncluded belng phoLographed drlnklng wlLh a frlend, playlng drlnklng games
such as beer pong or drlnklng from a llquor boLLle. MosL of Lhese sLudenLs are underage, and
dld noL appear overly concerned wlLh Lhe lllegallLy of underage drlnklng. 1he few candld phoLos
were Lyplcally of play aL a parLy, lncludlng drlnklng and drlnklng games, danclng and playlng,
ofLen ln a serles where aL leasL one lmage showlng an awareness of Lhe camera. eople were
also phoLographed ouLslde of parLy slLuaLlons, [usL gooflng around wlLh frlends, playlng ouLslde,
[umplng on a frlend's back, or laughlng wlLh frlends.
Women were more llkely Lo sLrlke poses LhaL were fllrLaLlous or sexy. Women ofLen
posed ln exaggeraLed sexy poses wlLh each oLher, showlng leg or exaggeraLlng Lhelr cleavage.
1hey also were more llkely Lo canL Lhelr heads LogeLher for a pose. 1helr sexy poses were ofLen
recognlzed and compllmenLed Lhrough commenLs from boLh male and female frlends.
Many sLudenLs generally have developed clear ways of poslng for phoLographs by Lhe
end of Lhelr hlgh school years. 1hls ls especlally Lrue for women. 1here are ofLen serles of
21
lmages of women alone or wlLh frlends ln a non-evenL seLLlng, pracLlclng poslng. Mlrror shoLs
allow lmmedlaLe feedback on how one ls poslng before Lhe camera. ln one example, a young
women pracLlces poslng, a sllghL arch Lo her back, hand on hlp, head sllghLly canLed, even ln self
shoLs. 1hls becomes her conslsLenL poses LhroughouL college lmages. AnoLher guy ls referred Lo
ln commenLs as always belng ln plcLure mode", have a speclflc look for Lhe camera even ln
casual slLuaLlons.
1here was seldom overL sexual behavlor, lncludlng few phoLos of people klsslng on Lhe
llps. Llp Lo llp klsslng was an lndlcaLor of a more serlous relaLlonshlp, and llmlLed Lo Lhose wlLh
slgnlflcanL oLhers. Cn Lhe oLher hand, Lhe klsslng of anoLher person's cheek was very common,
boLh across and wlLhln Lhe same gender. klsslng on Lhe cheek was almosL always hlghly
exaggeraLed and comlcal, wlLh laughLer on Lhe faces of boLh people. Whlle Lhls was very
common for women, men could also be seen klsslng Lhe cheeks of women and, Lo a lesser
exLenL, men (Lhe laLLer was usually aL a parLy and Lhus followlng Lhe consumpLlon of a cerLaln
amounL of alcohol). 1he cheek klss seemed Lo lndlcaLe a slgn of close frlendshlp.
Sexual behavlor of any sorL beLween non-serlous couples was noL phoLographed. 1here
was only one phoLograph LhaL showed a male sub[ecL aL a dlsLance klsslng a glrl. CommenLs
revealed Lhls was a one-Llme occurrence, wlLh no oLher such hook ups" documenLed and
posLed.
Aoolysls - Aestbetlcs
1he ma[orlLy of Lhe phoLos were cenLered and Laken sLralghL on wlLh Lhe sub[ecLs
posed, looklng aL Lhe camera/phoLographer. 1hls ls noL surprlslng glven LhaL mosL of Lhe
phoLographers were noL professlonals and Lhey were uslng polnL-and-shooL cameras. WhaL
22
would be consldered more sophlsLlcaLed composlLlon (e.g., rule of Lhlrds, selecLlve use of focus,
foreground framlng, eLc.) was seldom seen. MosL were Laken aL a medlum Lo close dlsLance,
Lhus llmlLlng Lhe amounL of background ln Lhe phoLos. 1he conLexL of Lhe phoLos maLerlallzed
largely ln Lhe mlnds of Lhe parLlclpanLs and vlewer(< Cne parLy Lends Lo look much llke anoLher
Lo ouLslders. CapLlons can reveal conLexLual lnformaLlon ldenLlfylng a speclflc parLy, buL llke
famlly phoLo collecLlons, capLlons weren'L always lncluded, beyond Lhe Lagged names of Lhe
sub[ecLs ln Lhe phoLos. 1he dlsLance beLween Lhe sub[ecLs and Lhe phoLographer malnly
depended upon Lhe number of people Lo be lncluded ln Lhe phoLographs. 1he ma[orlLy of group
shoLs were a slngle horlzonLal llne faclng Lhe camera: Lhe more sub[ecLs Lhe furLher back Lhe
phoLographer had Lo sLand. Wlder shoLs were used when proof of a shared experlence was
needed, such as a wlder shoL wlLh a fooLball sLadlum ln Lhe background or a wlder shoL of
frlends poslng ln 1lmes Square.
AnoLher common aesLheLlc formaL was Lhe self shoL", holdlng Lhe camera ouL Lo
capLure one's self and, aL Llmes, frlends. 1he phoLographer/sub[ecL's arm was Lhus seen
exLendlng Lo Lhe corner of Lhe frame and Lhls ofLen led Lo a sllghLly LllLed horlzon llne. 1he acL
of lncludlng oLhers ln a self-shoL phoLo demonsLraLes boLh a cerLaln sponLanelLy (we musL
capLure Lhls momenL now) and conflrms Lhe closeness of Lhe frlends (l wanL Lo Lake a phoLo
wlLh you). Where as a phoLo Laken by someone else could be seL up, self shoL phoLos revealed a
greaLer agency ln deLermlnlng Lhe sub[ecL maLLer.
Web cam shoLs were ofLen manlpulaLed uslng Lhe dlsLorLlon conLrols of Lhe lmage
capLure sofLware. 1hese allow for ldenLlLy play by sLreLchlng or compresslng one's lmage. CfLen
Web cam phoLos appear ln a serles, reveallng dlfferenL faclal expresslons ln each shoL. llnally,
23
phoLos whlch were badly composed, such as Lhose where people were cuL off or LlLled, and
Lhose whlch were under- or over-llL, were sLlll posLed, assumlng Lhe conLenL was of lnLeresL.
eople would sLlll be Lagged ln a phoLo, even lf only parL of Lhem could be seen.
Aoolysls - Otqoolzotloo
Slmllar Lo Weblogs Lhe phoLographs of each sub[ecL were ln a reverse chronologlcal
order, wlLh Lhe mosL recenL lmages flrsL. lurLher, llke mosL famlly phoLo albums, Lhere was no
clear sLrucLured narraLlve, buL plcLures were [usL organlzed around Llme. unllke mosL famlly
albums, whlch are based around a slngle phoLographer, Lhe phoLos of" each person are
collecLlve, based on all Lhe lmages posLed by Lhe sub[ecL and hls or her frlends Lhrough Lags.
1he currenL archlLecLure of lacebook groups all plcLures Lagged wlLh a person's name under
proflle plcLures, alLhough lndlvlduals do have Lhe opLlon of 'unLagglng,' and Lhus removlng Lhelr
name, buL noL Lhelr lmage, from Lhe phoLograph. ln mosL famlly albums, Lhe phoLographer ls
noL ofLen ln Lhe album or collecLlon as ofLen. WlLh lacebook, Lhe sub[ecL ls ofLen ln Lhe mosL of
Lhe phoLos ln a collecLlon.
1he collecLlve naLure of Lhls phoLo collecLlon can creaLe a devlaLlon from chronologlcal
orders, dependlng on when dlfferenL people posL plcLures from Lhe same evenL. lurLher,
people ofLen posL lnLenLlonally nosLalglc" phoLos from chlldhood or even earller ln hlgh school,
before lacebook. As we wlll see ln Lhe nexL secLlon examlnlng commenLs, frlends reacL Lo Lhese
lmages ln a nosLalglc way, remember good Llmes LogeLher ln Lhe pasL.
llnally, ln all phoLos, Lhe camera becomes parL of Lhe evenL. A number of people have
and use cameras, as evldenced by Lhe number of people posLlng lmages from Lhe same evenL.
1hus, Lhere ls a cerLaln LrlangulaLlon of Lhe frlendshlp clrcle, slnce Lhe same grouplngs appear
24
Lhrough Lhe lens of mulLlple cameras. 1hls ls Lrue for all evenLs, even Lhe mosL formal such as
proms. Moreover, Lhe phoLographer ls clearly known by and a member of Lhe soclal cohorL
deplcLed. oses LhaL would be unllkely Lo an unknown phoLographer are qulLe common,
lncludlng Lhe hammlness and fllpplng off Lhe phoLographer ln [esL.
Aoolysls - commeots
1he commenLs posLed by frlends relnforce group coheslveness and closeness.
CommenLs are Lled Lo Lhe plcLures, noL Lo Lhe lndlvldual, meanlng LhaL everyone Lagged ln Lhe
phoLos wlll have Lhe same seL of shared commenLs. 1he group naLure of commenLs can be seen
Lhrough Lhe conslsLenL use of nlcknames, references Lo lnslde [okes or pasL evenLs, sLaLemenLs
of affecLlon and compllmenLs, and genLle rlbblng of each oLher. All Lhese examples are
undersLood by Lhose ln Lhe know. 1he conLexL of frlendshlp allows for sLaLemenLs LhaL Lhose
ouLslde Lhe group cannoL make or would posslbly flnd offenslve. CommenLs allow frlends Lo
rellve Lhe plcLured evenLs, emphaslzlng Lhe shared good Llmes. Lxamples of Lhls lnclude
sLaLemenLs, such as CMC 1PlS lS SC SWLL1! l remember Lhls! We were lnLervlewedddddd!"
(slc). 1here are also references Lo longlng or mlsslng members of one's frlendshlp clrcle away aL
oLher schools, such as, aww l mlss Lhls" or l mlss you guys". CommenLs relnforce Lhe group's
parLlclpaLlon ln college rlLuals, for example Lhls serles of commenLs abouL poslng wlLh alcohol:
erson a: waLer???"
erson b: lf LhaL's whaL you llke Lo call lL."
erson c: and mommy and daddy Lhlnk your sooo lnnocenL. noL falr"
erson b: LhaL's why l'm Lhe favorlLe :) " (slc)
25
eople also rellve embarrasslng momenLs Lhrough commenLs, especlally relaLed Lo
behavlor whlle drunk, such as crazlness and passlng ouL. lor example, .lefL LhaL shlrL aL my
crlb when u passed ouL ln a bush." (slc). Cr WhaLs LhaL mark on my sweaLshlrL?" ln reference
Lo a sLaln from Lhrowlng up.
Many sLaLemenLs reflecL a deslre Lo be lncluded ln Lhe group, wheLher Lo be lncluded ln
Lhe evenL plcLured or Lo be Lagged lf one ls plcLured. can someone please explaln why no one
Lagged me ln Lhls!!!!" or ..lL sLlll means ur ass needs Lo geL Lhe hellzz down Lhere woman."
1hls lasL quoLe supporLs Lhe group of frlends Lhrough Lhelr absence, by expresslng Lhe deslre for
Lhe lefL ouL lndlvldual Lo come vlslL.
1yplcally, Lhe same recurrlng group of people wlll Lend Lo commenL on Lhe phoLos, agaln
demonsLraLlng Lhe LlghLness of Lhe soclal group. CommenLs are noL always abouL Lhe conLenL of
Lhe phoLos. 1he phoLos ofLen brlng up Lhe opporLunlLy for an exLended conversaLlon abouL
lndlvlduals ln Lhe soclal group. 1he conversaLlons sparked by a phoLo can encompass many
posLs exLendlng over a perlod of Llme (even more Lhan a year beLween Lhe flrsL and lasL
commenL on a phoLo). CommenLs conLlnue a dlalogue for Lhose aL a speclflc evenL and Lhose
who were noL Lhere buL are parL of Lhe exLended soclal neLwork. 1hus, Lhese phoLo collecLlons,
llke lacebook ln general, allow vlcarlous parLlclpaLlon ln frlend's llves even aL a dlsLance. eople
use commenLs and Lhe phoLos Lo keep updaLed on Lhelr frlends, such as wLf bro when was
Lhls?" (slc). hoLos can be used Lo llnk up wlLh more dlsLanL frlends - adorable! how ya been
chlca?"
ulscusslon
26
Carey (1973) emphaslzed a rlLual vlew of communlcaLlon, whlch helps fosLer communlLy
lnLegraLlon Lhrough Lhe sharlng of common experlences and values. 1hls ls clearly cenLral Lo
whaL ls revealed ln Lhe collecLlons of lacebook phoLos of college sLudenLs. 1he commonallLy of
Lhe lmages wlLhln each sLudenL's collecLlon and beLween all Lhe sLudenLs demonsLraLes LhaL
whlle Lhe ouLflLs and locaLlons change, Lhe Lypes of evenLs documenLed and Lhe naLure of Lhe
poses do noL. 1he same sLorles are Lold and reLold ln Lhese phoLographs. 1hese lmages are
hlghly convenLlonal, boLh ln Lerms of Lhelr sub[ecL maLLer and Lhelr aesLheLlcs. 1hese lmages
record soclal rlLuals of college llfe, wlLh llLLle of Lhe academlc slde.
1hese lacebook phoLos do noL necessarlly represenL all phoLos Laken by or of a person.
1hese merely represenL Lhose lmages whlch a sLudenL or a frlend has chosen Lo posL and Lag for
oLhers. 1hus, Lhese phoLos represenL a sLraLeglc represenLaLlon of a soclal group and soclal llfe
ln college. More Lhan anyLhlng Lhese phoLos allow colleges sLudenLs Lo speak Lo each oLher
vlsually, playlng ouL Lhelr college llves for each oLher. 1hese phoLos esLabllsh proof of an
auLhenLlc college experlence, one fllled wlLh frlends and Lhe rlLuals of college llfe, drlnklng,
sporLs, and Lhe closeness of a peer group. 1hey do more Lhan merely documenL Lhe rlLuals. 1hls
ls readlly apparenL by noLlclng whaL ls lacklng, lmages of parenLs and lmages wlLh ouL frlends.
1hese phoLos help conflrm one's lndependence from famlly and chlldhood.
1hese lmages demonsLraLe Lhe prlmacy of relaLlonshlps. 1he phoLos are all abouL Lhe
connecLlon among college sLudenLs, and for Lhese prlmarlly flrsL and second year sLudenLs,
among Lhose of Lhe same gender. 1hls echoes oLher auLhors who have argued LhaL frlends are
especlally lmporLanL for members of CeneraLlon ? (PunLley, 2006), especlally same-sex frlends.
lL ls lnLeresLlng Lo see Lhe change ln focus of Lhe phoLos as a serlous relaLlonshlp wlLh a member
27
of Lhe opposlLe sex occurs. lmages of Lhe couple begln Lo domlnaLe. Chalfen (1987) had polnLed
ouL LhaL college llfe was absenL ln Lhe albums he examlned. 1hls sLudy allows a gllmpse aL Lhe
LranslLlon from belng parL of a famlly Lo an lndependenL phoLographlc enLlLy ln one's own rlghL.
lurLher, Lhe LranslLlon Lo a couple reflecLed Lhe posslble beglnnlngs of a famlly collecLlon of
phoLos, focused around a dyad and noL a larger peer group. lor Lhe larger peer group, lmages
of embarrassmenL as well as [oy draw frlends LogeLher, helplng supporL Lhe auLhenLlc college
experlence and Lhe bond one's frlends. Close frlends are expecLed Lo share boLh poslLlve and
negaLlve momenLs, and only close frlends would appreclaLe and decode embarrasslng lmages ln
Lhe correcL splrlL of group-bondlng. 1hese lmages are Lhe equlvalenL of Lhe genLle rlbblng seen
ln Lhe commenLs. lurLher, openlng up oneself Lo poLenLlal rldlcule demonsLraLes Lhe LrusL
exLended Lo one's peer group.
roof of Lhe closeness of one's peer group ls conflrmed by boLh Lhe quanLlLy and naLure
of plcLures dlsplayed. 1he closer Lhe relaLlonshlps shared among frlends, Lhe more frequenLly
Lhey appear ln phoLos wlLh a sLudenL. Llkewlse, Lhe more Lhey appear, Lhe more Lhelr
frlendshlp ls conflrmed. 1he poses and momenLs also reveal Lhe closeness of frlends. lor
women, Lhls lncluded momenLs of lnformal hanglng ouL ln one's resldence. lor boLh genders,
Lhls lncluded physlcal closeness (lncludlng hugglng and cheek klsslng) and exaggeraLed poses.
hyslcal closeness was mosL sLrongly seen when a sLudenL enLered a serlous relaLlonshlp
hyslcal closeness lndexes emoLlonal closeness.
As sLaLed earller and conslsLenL wlLh prevlous work on personal phoLographs, Lhe
meanlng of Lhese lmages ls consLrucLed largely ln Lhe mlnds of Lhe vlewers and ls lnLended for
members of one's soclal group. ConLexLual lnformaLlon abouL locaLlon and Llme was largely
28
absenL. 1hese phoLos faclllLaLe Lhe recall of already exlsLlng memorles, as evldenced by Lhe
posLlng of older phoLographs from chlldhood, whlch requlred no capLlon was needed. Members
of Lhe peer group recognlzed and responded Lo Lhese nosLalglc phoLos. 8y undersLandlng Lhe
meanlng ln Lhe phoLos, Lhe coheslveness of Lhe soclal group was enhanced. ConLexLual
elemenLs, Lhrough backgrounds, are de-emphaslzed, suggesLlng Lhe prlmacy of Lhe human
relaLlonshlps and Lhe exlsLlng knowledge ln Lhe head of vlewers requlred for decodlng Lhe
lmages. lacebook lmages were clearly approprlaLed by a closed group, used Lo relnforce
membershlp and coheslveness. Croup membershlp affords a full undersLandlng of Lhe overL
and laLenL meanlngs of phoLos, and subsequenLly, ldenLlfylng Lhese overL and laLenL meanlngs
poLenLlally enhanced one's sense of belonglng.
1he phoLos porLray college sLudenLs suspended ln soclallLy, perpeLually bondlng wlLh
frlends and LoasLlng Lhe besL of Llmes. LvenLs are opporLunlLles Lo connecL wlLh frlends, and by
represenLlng Lhose momenLs ln posLed lacebook phoLos relnforces Lhe bonds of Lhe
relaLlonshlps. Whlle one game blurs ln anoLher and one parLy lnLo anoLher, Lhe phoLographs of
Lhem Lell a larger sLory of Lhe lmporLance of shared experlences of college llfe wlLh one's
closesL frlends. Cnce posLed, Lhese phoLographs creaLe lnsLanL good old days," upon whlch
frlends can remlnlsce and feel nosLalglc, even lf Lhe evenL occurred [usL lasL nlghL. lor men, Lhe
soclallLy ends aL formal evenLs, emphaslzlng Lhe lmporLance of drlnklng buddles," for women,
soclallLy exlsLs ln boLh formal and lnformal momenLs. Women's frlendshlps are bullL as much aL
parLles as Lhey are lounglng ln dorm rooms, relnforclng prevlous work on Lhe lmporLance of
glrl's bedroom culLure ln esLabllshlng ldenLlLy and frlendshlps (nayak & kehlly, 2008).
29
8ecause plcLures are posLed by mulLlple people, Lhe phoLo gallerles are dynamlc. 1hese
collecLlons of phoLos are poLenLlally always changlng, Lhus presenLlng a confluenL plane of
acLlvlLy upon whlch performances of Lhe self are enacLed, and 'Lagged'. !usL as people remove
lndlvlduals from Lhelr home phoLo albums when dlvorce happens, lacebook collecLlons can also
change as lndlvlduals remove phoLos. 1hls acLlon removes Lhe phoLos from Lhe collecLlons of all
who are Lagged on Lhe phoLos, as well as Lhe commenLs aLLached Lo Lhe phoLos. 1hus, Lhe
convergenL naLure of Lhe plaLform allows Lhese performances Lo consLanLly evolve and forever
elude permanence, as Lhey are sub[ecL Lo Lhe mulLlple redacLlons of numerous audlences. 1hls
convergenL conLexL slmulLaneously references spaces and evolves beyond space, presenLlng
whaL de CerLeau (1984) has Lermed o movloq mop, upon whlch vlsual deplcLlons of memorles
are pleced lnLo narraLlves Lhrough Lhe pracLlce of 'Lagglng.' 1he fluld conLexL upon whlch
performances of Lhe self are enacLed affords reflexlvely shaped personal narraLlves of Lhe self,
whlch are lndlcaLlve of whaL soclologlsLs have descrlbed as a consLanL sLaLe of flux or llquld
modernlLy (8auman, 2003, Clddens, 1990).
lnLeresLlngly enough, Lhe aesLheLlcs and Lhe form of Lhe dlsplayed phoLos place Lhe self
or mulLlple sub[ecLs aL Lhe cenLer, frequenLly Lhrough camera placemenL LhaL may appear
awkward or unprofesslonal. 1he emphasls on Lhe self ls hlghllghLed by Lhe absence of
conLexLual lnformaLlon, medlum Lo close dlsLance, llmlLed background, awareness of Lhe
camera and behavlors produced speclflcally for Lhe camera by a slngle or several sub[ecLs. 1he
LoLallLy of Lhese behavlors reflecL a collecLlvely performed narclsslsm, Lhrough whlch a slngle or
mulLlple sub[ecLs exhlblL self-referenLlal behavlor, LhaL ls Lhen exponenLlally Lagged, re-Lagged,
commenLed and referenced ln furLher lnLrospecLlve momenLs LhaL culmlnaLe Lo group
30
coheslon. 1hese Lraces of narclsslsm are presenL ln phoLographs LhaL conLaln a slngle, Lwo, or
mulLlple sub[ecLs, Lhe Lheme ln common, reflecLlve of narclsslsm, ls Lhe connoLed enamormenL
wlLh Lhe sub[ecL, dyad, or group phoLographed.
Clven Lhe general conLenL of Lhese vlsual gallerles, whlch are sLrucLured around
arLlculaLlng lndlvldual auLonomy and slgnallng lndependence from famlly and afflllaLlon wlLh
peer groups, lL would be more meanlngful and accuraLe Lo lnLerpreL Lhese narclsslsLlc lapses as
a sLep Loward self-reflecLlon and self-acLuallzaLlon, raLher Lhan lnsLances of unconLrollable self-
absorpLlon. Lasch (1979) connecLed narclsslsLlc behavlors Lo hedonlsLlc Lendencles reflecLlve of
a maLerlallsLlc culLure, buL also clarlfled LhaL whlle narclsslsLlc behavlor may be sLrucLured
around Lhe self, lL ls noL moLlvaLed by selflsh deslre, buL by a deslre Lo beLLer connecL Lhe self Lo
socleLy. AlLernaLlvely, ln SenneL's (1974) Lerms, narclsslsm Lakes Lhe ldea of Lhe lnvolunLary
dlsclosure of characLer Lo lLs loglcal exLreme," Lhus affordlng ldenLlLy play and Lhe performaLlve
exLremes LhaL we ldenLlfled ln Lhls sLudy. Moreover, Lhe aesLheLlcs of Lhese phoLographs reflecL
whaL MlLchell (1993) calls meLa-phoLography, LhaL ls, phoLographs LhaL reveal Lhe process of
plcLure-maklng. 1hese meLa-phoLographs demonsLraLe Lhe manner ln whlch Lhe camera
becomes an exLenslon of Lhe body for Lhese young people, mosL expllclLly demonsLraLed ln Lhe
self-shoL phoLographs. ln addlLlon Lo Lhe narclsslsLlc overLones, Lhe form of Lhese plcLures ls
almed aL furLher blurrlng Lhe llne beLween producer and sub[ecL, Lhrough group phoLos ln
whlch plcLure-Lakers and plcLure-posers dynamlcally roLaLe, and audlences vlewlng Lhe phoLos
parLlclpaLe ln phoLographlc meLa-consLrucLlons Lhrough commenLlng and Lagglng.
1hls sLudy suggesLs some lnLeresLlng dlrecLlons for fuLure research. llrsL, lL bullds on Lhe
llLeraLure of personal phoLography by examlnlng Lhe more publlc use of personal phoLographs
31
on soclal neLwork slLes. MosL of Lhe llLeraLure on personal phoLography has focused on how
and whaL people presenL ln Lhe more prlvaLe seLLlngs of Lhe home. 1he lnLerneL, as oLher medla
have before, blurs Lhe dlsLlncLlon beLween prlvaLe and publlc, Lhus upseLLlng convenLlons of
sLoryLelllng and mnemonlc recollecLlon vla phoLography. Second, Lhls plece expands on lnLerneL
sLudles of self-presenLaLlon by focuslng more closely on Lhe phoLographlc represenLaLlon
people offer of Lhemselves. llnally, Lhls papers aLLempLs Lo place Lhe phoLographlc
presenLaLlon college sLudenLs offer ln Lhe conLexL of a larger vlsual youLh culLure.
Cf course Lhe sample sLudled ls llmlLed Lo lacebook phoLos and ls noL meanL Lo be
represenLaLlve of all college sLudenLs. SLlll Lhe conslsLency of Lhe phoLo Lypes allows us Lo draw
concluslons abouL how college sLudenLs use phoLos Lo speak Lo each oLher vlsually. luLure
research could aLLempL Lo Lrack Lhe changlng naLure and uses of Lhese phoLographlc
reposlLorles, followlng a smaller sample of college sLudenLs as Lhey phoLographlcally move
Lhrough college years and beyond. ln-depLh lnLervlews would help galn undersLandlng of Lhe
roles LhaL phoLographs play ln Lhese sLudenL's llves. 1hese lnLervlews also could help
dlfferenLlaLe people who posL a many phoLos from Lhose who do noL.
lacebook Lagged phoLographs presenL more Lhan random momenLs ln a person's llfe.
1hey presenL a suspended Lake on college-llfe soclallLy, Lhrough a collage of scenes celebraLlng
Lhe self, group culLure and membershlp LhaL are played ouL over and over agaln. 1he same
scenes are repeaLed ln a varleLy of phoLographed occaslons as we flnd Lhem comforLlng and
reassurlng. 1hey provlde vlsual evldence of soclal neLworks. lcLures reveal Lhe LranslLlon from
hlgh school Lo college, buL Lhey do more Lhan documenL, Lhey allow phoLographed sub[ecLs Lo
prove or conflrm Lhese mllesLones for each oLher, Lhey valldaLe Lhe sense of a teol college
32
experlence. lacebook plcLures are where college sLudenLs vlsually play ouL Lhelr llves for each
oLher, demonsLraLlng Lhelr ldenLlLy as college sLudenL. 1hese pracLlces serve as performaLlve
exerclses of ldenLlLy and belonglng, slmulLaneously declarlng and corroboraLlng shared
experlences.

33
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