Constructing the Self through the Photo selection - Visual Impression Management on Social Networking Websites


This article takes as a point of departure Erving Goffman`s (1959) ideas and the self-discrepancy theory of Higgins (1987) in order to introduce the habits of self-presentation of young people in the online environments. The aim of my article is to examine the reasons for joining SNS and the aspects young people would hope to emphasize on their profile images in social networking sites (SNS). I also focus on the qualities that are considered to be crucial by the 11 to 18-year-olds in order to become popular among their peers in the online community. The analysis is based on the findings of a questionnaire survey carried out in comprehensive schools in Estonia among 11 to 18-year-old pupils (N= 713). The results show that motives with a distinctly social focus dominate among the reasons for creating a profile in SNS. However, visible gender differences occur in the reasons for selecting particular profile images. The findings reveal that girls creating their visual self value both the aesthetic, emotional, self-reflecting as well as aesthetic-symbolical aspects of photographing more than their male counterparts. Furthermore, visual impression management in SNS varies according to the expectations of the reference group at hand, as the profile images of the young are constructed and re-constructed based on the values associated with “the ideal self” or “the ought self”.

Bibliographic citation

Siibak, A. (2009). Constructing the Self through the Photo selection - Visual Impression Management on Social Networking Websites. Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace, 3(1), Article 1. Retrieved from


Social networking sites; profile images; self-presentation; identity; Estonia

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