social media
impression management
context collapse
social networking sites

How to Cite

Hollenbaugh, E. E. (2020). Self-Presentation in Social Media: Review and Research Opportunities. Review of Communication Research, 9. Retrieved from https://rcommunicationr.org/index.php/rcr/article/view/71


This paper reviews existing research on self-presentation in social media in order to inform future research. Social media offer seemingly limitless opportunities for strategic self-presentation. The composition of an impression manager’s audience from one platform to the next varies across social media platforms, impacting and often complicating the attainment of self-presentation goals in the midst of context collapse. Social media users can employ a variety of strategies in an attempt to reach their goals and successfully influence how others perceive them. Although we have learned much from this body of literature, a more comprehensive theory of self-presentation in the hypermedia age is needed to further advance this area of research. Recommended variables to consider in online self-presentation include individual variables, culture/group membership, motivations, channel-specific variables, self-presentation content generated by self and others, as well as effectiveness of self-presentation.



Bazarova, N. N., Taft, J. G., Choi, Y. H., & Cosley, D. (2012). Managing impressions and relationships on Facebook: Self-presentational and relational concerns revealed through the analysis of language style. Journal of Language and Social Psychology, 32(2), 121-141. doi:10.1177/0261927X12456384

Bertel, T. F. (2016). ‘Why would you want to know?’: The reluctant use of location sharing via check-ins on Facebook among Danish youth. Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies, 22(2), 162-176. doi:10/1177/1354856514543250

Birnholtz, J., Burke, M., & Steele, A. (2017). Untagging on social media: Who untags, what do they untag, and why? Computers in Human Behavior, 69, 166-173. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2016.12.008

Birnholtz, J., Fitzpatrick, C., Handel, M., & Brubaker, J. R. (2014). Identity, identification, and identifiability: The language of self-presentation on a location-based mobile dating app. Proceedings of ACM MobileHCI, Toronto, ON, Canada: Association for Computing Machinery.

Blackwell, C., Birnholtz, J., & Abbott, C. (2014). Seeing and being seen: Co-situation and impression formation using Grindr, a location-aware gay dating app. New Media & Society, 17(7), 1117-1136. doi:10.1177/1461444814521595

boyd, d. (2007) Why youth <3 social network sites: The role of networked publics in teenage social life. In D. Buckingham (ed.), Youth Identity and Digital Media (pp. 119-142). Cambridge MA: MIT Press.

boyd, d. (2011). Social network sites as networked publics: Affordances, dynamics, and implications. In Z. Papacharissi (Ed.), A networked self: Identity, community, and culture on social network sites (pp. 39-58). New York: Routledge.

Boz, N., & Guan, S.-S. A. (2017). ‘Your profile is so rad’: Self-presentation strategies in Turkish adolescents. Communications, 42(1), 23-46. doi:10.1515/commun-2017-0003

Brunswik, E. (1956). Perception and the representative design of psychological experiments. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Burke, M., Kraut, R., & Marlow, C. (2011). Social capital on Facebook: Differentiating uses and users. Proceedings of ACM CHI ‘11 (pp. 571-580). Vancouver, BC, Canada: Association for Computing Machinery.

Carr, C. T., Hayes, R. A., & Sumner, E. M. (2018). Predicting a threshold of perceived Facebook post success via likes and reactions: A test of explanatory mechanisms. Communication Research Reports, 35(2), 141-151. doi:10.1080/08824096.2017.1409618

Chen, Y.-N. K. (2010). Examining the presentation of self in popular blogs: A cultural perspective. Chinese Journal of Communication, 3(1), 28-41. doi:10.1080/17544750903528773

Child, J. T, & Petronio, S. (2011). Unpacking the paradoxes of privacy in CMC relationships: The challenges of blogging and relational communication on the Internet. In K. B. Wright and L. M. Webb (Eds.), Computer-mediated communication in personal relationships (pp. 21-40). New York: Peter Lang.

Child, J. T., Petronio, S., Agyeman-Budu, E. A., & Westermann, D. A. (2011). Blog scrubbing: Exploring triggers that change privacy rules. Computers in Human Behavior, 27, 2017-2027. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2011.05.009

Choi, T. R., & Sung, Y. (2018). Instagram versus Snapchat: Self-expression and privacy concern on social media. Telematics and Informatics, 35, 2289-2298. doi:10.1016/j.tele.2018.09.009

Choi, Y. H., & Bazarova, N. N. (2015). Self-disclosure characteristics and motivations in social media: Extending the functional model to multiple social network sites. Human Communication Research, 41, 480-500. doi:10.1111/hcre.12053

Cramer, H., Rost, M, & Holmquist, L. E. (2011). Performing a check-in: Emerging practices, norms and ‘conflicts’ in location-sharing using Foursquare. Proceedings of ACM MobileHCI, Stockholm, Sweden: Association for Computing Machinery.

Davis, J. L., & Jurgenson, N. (2014). Context collapse: Theorizing context collusions and collisions. Information, Communication & Society, 17(4), 476-485. doi:10.1080/1369118X.2014.888458

de Souza e Silva, A. (2013). Location-aware mobile technologies: Historical, social, and spatial approaches. Mobile Media & Communication, 1(1), 116-121. doi:10.1177/2050157912459492

DeAndrea, D. C., & Walther, J. B. (2011). Attributions for inconsistencies between online and offline self-presentations. Communication Research, 38(6), 805-825. doi:10.1177/0093650210385340

DeVito, M. A., Birnholtz, J., & Hancock, J. T. (2017). Platforms, people, and perception: Using affordances to understand self-presentation on social media. Proceedings of ACM CSCW ’17 (pp. 740-754). Portland, OR: Association for Computing Machinery. doi:10.1145/2998181.2998192

Dominick, J. R. (1999). Who do you think you are? Personal homepages and self-presentation on the World Wide Web. Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, 76(4), 646–658. doi:10.1177/107769909907600403

Duguay, S. (2016). ‘He has a way gayer Facebook than I do’: Investigating sexual identity disclosure and context collapse on a social networking site. New Media & Society, 18(6), 891-907. doi:10.1177/1461444814549930

Ellison, N. B., Hancock, J. T., & Toma, C. L. (2011). Profile as promise: A framework for conceptualizing veracity in online dating self-presentations. New Media & Society, 14(1), 45-62. doi:10.1177/1461444811410395

Ellison, N., Heino, R., & Gibbs, J. (2006). Managing impressions online: Self-presentation processes in the online dating environment. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 11, 415-441. doi:10.1111/j.1083-6101.2006.00020.x

Evans, S. K., Pearce, K. E., Vitak, J., & Treem, J. W. (2017). Explicating affordances: A conceptual framework for understanding affordances in communication research. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 22(1), 35-52. doi:10.1111/jcc4.12180

Facebook. (2019). What names are allowed on Facebook? Retrieved from https://www.facebook.com/help/112146705538576/

Fitzpatrick, C., Birnholtz, J. & Gergle, D. (2016). People, places, and perceptions: Effects of location check-in awareness on impressions of strangers. Proceedings of ACM MobileHCI (pp. 295-305). Florence, Italy: Association for Computing Machinery. doi:10.1145/2935334.2935369

Fox, J., & Mooney, M. C. (2015). The Dark Triad and trait self-objectification as predictors of men’s use and self-presentation behaviors on social networking sites. Personality and Individual Differences, 76, 161-165. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2014.

Frame, A., & Brachotte, G. (2015). Le tweet stratégique: Use of Twitter as a PR tool by French politicians. Public Relations Review, 41, 278-287. doi:10.1016/j.pubrev.2014.11.005

Goffman, E. (1959). Presentation of self in everyday life. Garden City, NY: Doubleday.

Guha, S., & Birnholtz, J. (2013). Can you see me now? Location, visibility, and the management of impressions on foursquare. Proceedings of ACM MobileHCI (pp. 183-192). Munich, Germany: Association for Computing Machinery.

Haas, S. M., Irr, M. E., Jennings, N. A., & Wagner, L. M. (2010). Communicating thin: A grounded model of online negative enabling support groups in the pro-anorexia movement. New Media & Society,13(1), 40-57. doi:10.1177/1461444810363910

Hall, J. A., Pennington, N., & Lueders, A. (2014). Impression management and formation on Facebook: A lens model approach. New Media & Society, 16(6), 958-982. doi:10.1177/1461444813495166

Hayes, R. A., Smock, A., & Carr, C. T. (2015). Face[book] management: Self-presentation of political views on social media. Communication Studies, 66(5), 549-568. doi:10.1080/10510974.2015.1018447

Hearn, A. (2017). Verified: Self-presentation, identity management, and selfhood in the age of big data. Popular Communication, 15(2), 62-77. doi:10.1080/15405702.2016.1269909

Heston, M., & Birnholtz, J. (2016). (In)visible cities: An exploration of social identity, anonymity, and location-based filtering on Yik Yak. iConference 2016 Proceedings. Retrieved from: https://www.ideals.illinois.edu/bitstream/handle/2142/89297/

Heston152.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y doi:10.9776/16152

Hogan, B. (2010). The presentation of self in the age of social media: Distinguishing performances and exhibitions online. Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society, 30(6), 377-386. doi:10.1177/0270467610385893

Jeong, H. J., & Lee, M. (2013). The effect of online media platforms on joining causes: The impression management perspective. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 57(4), 439-455. doi:10.1080/08838151.2013.845824

Jin, S.-A. A. (2013). Peeling back the multiple layers of Twitter’s privacy disclosure onion: The roles of virtual identity discrepancy and personality traits in communication privacy management on Twitter. New Media & Society, 15(6), 813-833. doi:10.1177/1461444812471814

Jung, T., Youn, H., & McClung, S. (2007). Motivations and self-presentation strategies on Korean-based ‘Cyworld’ weblog format personal homepages. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 10(1), 24-31. doi:10.1089/cpb.2006.9996

Jyrkiäinen, S. (2016). Online presentation of gendered selves among young women in Egypt. Middle East Journal of Culture and Communication, 9, 182-198. doi:10.1163/18739865-00902005

Katz, J. E., & Crocker, E. T. (2015). Selfies and photo messaging as visual conversation: Reports from the United States, United Kingdom and China. International Journal of Communication, 9, 1861–1872.

Kim, H., & Papacharissi, Z. (2003). Cross-cultural differences in online self-presentation: A content analysis of personal Korean and US home pages. Asian Journal of Communication, 13(1), 100-119.

Kim, J. W., & Chock, T. M. (2017). Personality traits and psychological motivations predicting selfie posting behaviors on social networking sites. Telematics and Informatics, 34, 560-571. doi:10.1016/j.tele.2016.11.006

Koliska, M., & Roberts, J. (2015). Selfies: Witnessing and participatory journalism with a point of view. International Journal of Communication, 9, 1672-1685.

Laing, A. (2017). Authors using social media: Layers of identity and the online author community. Publishing Research Quarterly, 33, 254-267. Doi:10.1007/s12109-017-9524-5

Leary, M. R., & Kowalski, R. M. (1990). Impression management: A literature review and two-component model. Psychological Bulletin, 107(1), 34-47.

Leavitt, A. (2015). ‘This is a throwaway account:’ Temporary technical identities and perceptions of anonymity in a massive online community. Proceedings of ACM CSCW ’15 (pp. 317-327). Vancouver, BC, Canada: Association for Computing Machinery. doi:10.1145/2675133.2675175

Lee, S., Quigley, B. M., Nesler, M. S., Corbett, A. B., & Tedeschi, J. T. (1999). Development of a self-presentation tactics scale. Personality and Individual Differences, 26(4), 701-722.

Lemay, D. J., Doleck, T., & Bazelais, P. (2017). ‘Passion and concern for privacy’ as factors affecting Snapchat use: A situated perspective on technology acceptance. Computers in Human Behavior, 75, 264-271. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2017.05.022

Litt, E. (2012). Knock, knock. Who’s there? The imagined audience. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 56(3), 330-345. doi:10.1080/08838151.2012.705195

Litt, E., & Hargittai, E. (2016). The imagined audience on social network sites. Social Media + Society, 2, 1-12. doi:10.1177/2056305116633482

Lyons, E. J., Mehl, M. R., & Pennebaker, J. W. (2006). Pro-anorexics and recovering anorexics differ in their linguistic Internet self-presentation. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 60(3), 253-256. doi:10.1016/j.jpsychores.2005.07.017

Macek, J. (2013). More than a desire for text: Online participation and the social curation of content. Convergence, 19(3), 295-302. doi:10.1177/1354856513486530

Manago, A. M., Taylor, T., & Greenfield, P. M. (2012). Me and my 400 friends: The anatomy of college students' Facebook networks, their communication patterns, and well-being. Developmental Psychology, 48(2), 369-380. doi:10.1037/a0026338

Marder, B., Joinson, A., Shankar, A., & Thirlaway, K. (2016). Strength matters: Self-presentation to the strongest audience rather than lowest common denominator when faced with multiple audiences in social network sites. Computers in Human Behavior, 61, 56-62. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2016.03.005

Marwick, A. E., & boyd, d. (2010). I tweet honestly, I tweet passionately: Twitter users, context collapse, and the imagined audience. New Media & Society, 13(1), 114-133. doi:10.1177/1461444810365313

Meyrowitz, J. (1986). No sense of place: The impact of electronic media on social behavior. New York: Oxford University Press.

Mou, Y. (2014). Presenting professorship on social media: From content and strategy to evaluation. Chinese Journal of Communication, 7(4), 389-408. doi:10.1080/17544750.2014.938669

Norman, D. A. (1988). The psychology of everyday things. New York: Basic Books.

Ongun, E., & Demirag, A. (2014). An evaluation of Facebook users’ blocking tendencies regarding their privacy and secrecy settings. Global Media Journal: Turkish Edition, 5(9), 263-279.

Pavalanathan, U., & Eisenstein, J. (2015). Audience-modulated variations in online social media. American Speech, 90(2), 187-213. doi:10.1215/00031283-3130324

Pearce, K. E., & Vitak, J. (2016). Performing honor online: The affordances of social media for surveillance and impression management in an honor culture. New Media & Society, 18(11), 2595-2612. doi:10.1177/1461444815600279

Pounders, K., Kowalczyk, C. M., & Stowers, K. (2016). Insight into the motivation of selfie postings: Impression management and self-esteem. European Journal of Marketing, 50(9-10), 1879-1892. doi:10.1108/EJM-07-2015-0502

Quinn, K. (2014). An ecological approach to privacy: ‘‘Doing’’ online privacy at midlife. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 58(4), 562-580. doi:10.1080/08838151.2014.966357

Rui, J. R., & Stefanone, M. A. (2013). Strategic image management online. Information, Communication, & Society, 16(8), 1286-1305. doi:10.1080/1369118X.2013.763834

Saker, M. (2017). Foursquare and identity: Checking-in and presenting the self through location. New Media & Society, 19(6), 934-949. doi:10.1177/1461444815625936

Schlenker, B. R. (1985). Identity and self-identification. In B. R. Schlenker (Ed.), The self and social life (pp. 65-99). New York: McGraw-Hill.

Schwartz, R., & Halegoua, G. R. (2015). The spatial self: Location-based identity performance on social media. New Media & Society, 17(10), 1643-1660. doi:10.1177/1461444814531364

Scott, C. R. (1998). To reveal or not to reveal: A theoretical model of anonymous communication. Communication Theory, 8(4), 381–407.

Sheer, V. C. (2011). Teenagers’ use of MSN features, discussion topics, and online friendship development: The impact of media richness and communication control. Communication Quarterly, 59(1), 82-103. doi:10.1080/01463373.2010.525702

Smith, A., & Anderson, M. (2018, March). Social media use in 2018. Pew Research Center.

Retrieved from http://www.pewinternet.org/2018/03/01/social-media-use-in-2018/

Smith, L. R., & Sanderson, J. (2015). I’m going to Instagram it! An analysis of athlete self-presentation on Instagram. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 59(2), 342-358. doi:10.1080/08838151.2015.1029125

Stanyer, J. (2008). Elected representatives, online self-presentation, and the personal vote: Party, personality, and webstyles in the United States and United Kingdom. Information, Communication, & Society, 11(3), 414-432. doi:10.1080/13691180802025681

Storsul, T. (2014). Deliberation or self-presentation? Young people, politics, and social media. Nordicom Review, 35(2), 17-28.

Suler, J. (2004). The online disinhibition effect. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 7(3), 321-326.

Sundar, S. S., & Limperos, A. M. (2013). Uses and grats 2.0: New gratifications for new media. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 57(4), 504-525. doi:10.1080/08838151.2013.845827

Taylor, P. (2014). More than half of Millenials have shared a ‘selfie.’ Pew Research Center. Retrieved from http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/03/04/more-than-half-of-millennials-have-shared-a-selfie/

Tiidenberg, K., & Whelan, A. (2017). Sick bunnies and pocket dumps: ‘Not-selfies’ and the genre of self-representation. Popular Communication, 15(2), 141-153. doi:10.1080/15405702.2016.1269907

Toma, C. L., Hancock, J. T., & Ellison, N. B. (2008). Separating fact from fiction: An examination of deceptive self-presentation in online dating profiles. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 34(8), 1023-1036. doi:10.1177%2F0146167208318067

Turkle, S. (1997). Life on the screen: Identity in the age of the Internet. New York: Simon and Schuster.

van Oosten, J. M. F., Vandenbosch, L., & Peter, J. (2017). Gender roles on social networking sites: Investigating reciprocal relationships between Dutch adolescents’ hypermasculinity and hyperfemininity and sexy online self-presentations. Journal of Children and Media, 11(2), 147-166. Doi:10.1080/174.82798.2017.1304970

Veltan, J. C., Arif, R. & Moehring, D. (2017). Managing disclosure through social media: How Snapchat is shaking boundaries of privacy perceptions. The Journal of Social Media in Society, 6(1), 220-250.

Vitak, J. (2012). The impact of context collapse and privacy on social network site disclosures. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 56(4), 451-470. doi:10.1080/08838151.2012.732140

Vitak, J., Blasiola, S., Patil, S., & Litt, E. (2015). Balancing audience and privacy tensions on social network sites. International Journal of Communication, 9, 1485-1504.

Walden, J. A., & Parcha, J. M. (2017). ‘This is a stage’: A study of public relations practitioners’ imagined online audiences. Public Relations Review, 43, 145-151. doi:10.1016/j.pubrev.2016.11.002

Walther, J. B. (1996). Computer-mediated communication: Impersonal, interpersonal, and hyperpersonal interaction. Communication Research, 23(1), 3-43.

Walther, J. B., Van Der Heide, B., Hamel, L. M., & Shulman, H. C. (2009). Self-generated versus other-generated statements and impressions in computer-mediated communication: A test of warranting theory using Facebook. Communication Research, 36(2), 229-253. doi:10.1177/0093650208330251

Walther, J. B., Van Der Heide, V., Kim, S.-Y., Westerman, D., & Tong, S. T. (2008). The role of friends’ appearance and behavior on evaluations of individuals on Facebook: Are we known by the company we keep? Human Communication Research, 34, 28-49. doi:10.1111/j.1468-2958.2007.00312.x

Waltorp, K. (2013). Public/private negotiations in the media uses of young Muslim women in Copenhagen: Gendered social control and the technology-enabled moral laboratories of a multicultural city. The International Communication Gazette, 75(5-6), 555-572. doi:10.1177/1748048513491912

Zhao, C., & Jiang, G. (2011). Cultural differences on visual self-presentation through social networking site profile images. Proceedings of ACM CHI ‘11 (pp. 1129-1132). Vancouver, BC, Canada: Association for Computing Machinery.

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Copyright (c) 2020 Array