The Platformization of Beauty on Instagram
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Slutsky, Sophie Elena
Instagram’s pitch to the public is that it allows users to freely choose how to present themselves digitally. And yet, both the media and critics note that there’s something we think of as an Instagram “aesthetic”, which is aspirational and curated (Lorenz, 2019). This aesthetic comes from the vast majority of people conforming to the same beauty standards and laws of self-presentation. To explore how users understand and make sense of ideas of self-presentation and beauty, I conducted in-depth interviews with 22 college students who use Instagram on a regular basis. Through this data, I show how Instagram fosters a pressure to “look good” and present one’s “best life”, which often leads users to edit their digital bodies in the name of beauty. Through my data I explore what I call the platformization of beauty, which is defined by the technological affordances of editing, long standing social pressure and gendered expectations, and the pursuit of metric gains. Even though Instagram users could in theory present themselves in more personalized and unique ways through images than ever before in the history of self-presentation, the data suggests that there is even more conforming as people, especially women, continue to prescribe to the same beauty and self-presentation habits. I close by exploring the implications for notions of self-presentation, identity politics, gender dynamics, and beauty standards.
Bachelor of Science
dissertation or thesis