The (Ellison et al, 2007). There is little

The present study explored…

Social Networking Sites (SNS)
allow individuals the opportunity to present a carefully curated and edited
version of their lives online to portray their ‘ideal self.’ This type of
online presentation will often be in the form of a ‘perfect’ life, showcasing
the individuals socialising often, aesthetically beautiful settings and
desirable possessions. Teenagers and young adults can reinvent their
personalities (Boyd, 2007) to attracts followers and likes, which in turn
provides an individual with the confidence boost and motivation to post more
such selective posts. There are numerous considerations when analysing how
individuals present themselves online. Research shows that the selective and
curated online version is very often misrepresentative of the individuals life.

Since the emergence of online
platforms, it allows self-presentation to take place beyond face-to-face interactions
onto online platforms (Yang & Brown, 2015). Existing literature has focused
on social networking sites such as Facebook, which has shown to influence individual’s
psychological well-being for users with low self-esteem (Ellison et al, 2007). There
is little work around filtering and its use in the photo sharing community. The
photo sharing communities, such as Instagram, which has 800 million monthly
active users (Statista, 2017) has little scholarly work.

Instagram is one of the platforms
individuals may have access to, which allows people to apply filters that can
dull the light to a soft glow for an aged, vintage appearance, whilst some can
enhance the colours (Bakshi, Shamma & Gilbert, 2014). The present study
explored how individuals present themselves in the online world and whether
there are factors (presentation of online self, perception control and
self-esteem) which can predict ones use of filtering on Instagram and the
reasoning behind their filter use.


The process which individuals go
through to communicate their image to others is termed ‘self-presentation
(Leary & Kowlaski, 1990). This is a central element in one’s identity
development which now extends from face to face situations to social networking
sites (Yang & Brown, 2015). Individuals may be inclined to experiment with
self-presentation online as they may want to leave a desirable impression (Fullwood,
2015). Self-presentation can either be done consciously or unconsciously to
help the functioning of social interactions (Leary, 1996). For example, when
meeting someone new, it can be difficult to keep a conversation going without
knowing information about a conversation partner. The knowledge does not need
to be a detailed account of one’s life story or social network, but could also
be sex, age, personality or any other observable characteristics (Zarghooni,
2007). These characteristics help form an impression of a person, which is why
it is important that one manages them as well as they can (Zarghooni, 2007).

Zarghooni (2007) argued, if no
one cared about the impression they made on others, people who do sport on a
regular basis would take fewer showers or lawyers could go to the court-rooms
in casual clothing instead of formal suiting attire. When people want to
achieve a desirable outcome, such as initiating relationships or doing well on
a job interview, self-presentation becomes more important (Zarghooni, 2007). Individuals
on SNS can manage the impression they portray through applying filters on their
photos or using retouching apps to change the appearance of the image. They can
choose photos which they want to upload to achieve a certain impression from
their followers which in turn follows to likes and comments on the post. The
present study investigated Instagram activity which will provide information as
to whether participants apply filters on their Instagram posts and the
reasoning for their use of filters.

Literature suggest people
actively engage in self-presentation or impression management on SNS or whilst
dating online (Pempek, Yermolayeya & Calvert, 2009; Gibbs, Ellison Heino,
2006). Pempek et al. (2009) results showed over 80% of undergraduate students reported
removing the link between their profile and photos of them posted by others
(e.g. tagging/untagging). In terms of gender differences, females were more
likely to ‘untag’ photos compared to males, who reported untagging no photos (Pempek
et al, 2009). Reasoning included ‘displeasure with appearance’ and images
portraying behaviours students did not want advertised (Pempek et al. 2009). Participants
in the present study may actively engage in impression management and
self-presentation by manipulating the photos they post (e.g. applying filters,
enhancing/lowering brightness) to portray themselves in a different manner to
their followers. The present study further explored personal identity and
self-presentation but on Instagram, participants reasoning for filter use will
be questioned to gain qualitative responses.

One’s self-presentation online
may be able to predict their use of filtering on Instagram. Fullwood et al.
(2016) investigated self-concept being associated with adolescents’ use of
experimenting with their online presentation. Findings showed that adolescents
who possess a less stable sense of self report experimenting with their online
self-presentation more regularly (Fullwood et al. 2016). Whereas, adolescents
with a more stable self-concept, reported to present an online self which was
more consistent with their offline self-presentation (Fullwood et al. 2016). Additionally,
the findings showed a difference between younger and older adolescents. Older
adolescents presented themselves more consistently whereas younger adolescents
were more likely to present an inconsistent self across different communication
contexts (Fullwood et al. 2016). In relation to the present study, this will be
further explored through using the presentation of online self-scale (POSS)
(Fullwood et al. 2016) to analyse how participants portray themselves online.
Participants ‘ideal self’ was measured to see if it can predict filter use.


Self-esteem refers to the
confidence one has of themselves, in terms of their abilities or self-worth
(Tazghini & Siedlecki, 2013). Researchers have taken an interest in
self-esteem and its relation to SNS to see if there is a relationship between
the two (Tazghini & Siedlecki, 2013). The present study used Rosenberg (1965)
self-esteem scale to assess participant’s self-esteem to see if it can predict
their filter use on Instagram posts.

Literature suggests individuals
with low self-esteem may constantly post photos for attention and may also
filter their photos to present themselves in a more aesthetically beautiful
manner (Zhaeo, Grasmuck & Martin, 2014), which could be categorised as
their ‘ideal’ self. Whereas,
individuals with high self-esteem only post photos as their online friends provide
a support network around them, encouraging them to post more through likes and
comments (Yang & Brown, 2016).

Having a social networking
account, such as Facebook makes it easier for individuals with lower
self-esteem to engage with others outside of their personal networks than for
higher self-esteem individuals, who may find it easier to engage with others in
face to face interactions (Steinfield, Ellison & Lampe, 2008). Likewise,
individuals with low self-esteem on Facebook are more likely to communicate
with people online than in face to face interactions, as a rapid response is
not expected (Steinfield et al. 2008).  Relating to Instagram, it could be argued,
participants with low self-esteem are more likely to apply filters and use
retouching apps before uploading content onto their account. This is because it
is easier for individuals with low self-esteem to portray themselves in a
different way online to gain more likes from their followers and boost their

Strasburger, Wilson & Jordan
(2014) further provide an explanation into self-esteem and online presentation,
by stating individuals may also be more predisposed to experiment with
self-presentation online if they have low levels of self-esteem. This is
because individuals have access to apps (e.g. photoshop) and online editors
which allow one to manipulate their appearance, through filtering and editing
one’s features. Relating to the present study, individuals who have a low
self-esteem should apply filters to their Instagram photos by comparison to
individuals with high self-esteem, who will not use filters or retouching apps
to create a false impression on their Instagram posts.

Tazghini & Siedlecki (2013)
provide further evidence showing individuals with lower self-esteem create an
image they want to portray to others, to achieve a desired outcome (e.g.
gaining more ‘friends’). The results provide further empirical literature
supporting Pempek et al (2009). Findings indicated, Facebook users with lower self-esteem,
more frequently untagged themselves from photos to preserve the desired image
they were creating (Tazghini & Siedlecki, 2013). The desired image one
creates, could lead to an increase of ‘friends’ and an increase in confidence in
one’s self. Lee, Moore, Park & Park, (2012) argued the number of friends
one has on SNS, could be viewed as an indication of popularity. This in turn
compensates for one’s lack of self-esteem, as individuals could view the
increase of friends on their SNS as an expansion to their social connection and
feel a sense of belonging (Lee et al. 2012). The present study will question
the participants activity on Instagram, which can be analysed to see if there
if the predictors, e.g. self-esteem influence the amount of content
participants upload.

studies provide an insight into the relationship between the use of SNS and
self-esteem (Vogel, Rose, Roberts & Eckles, 2014). The results of Vogel et
al (2014) indicated, individuals who used Facebook more often had lower
self-esteem. This is because they had greater exposure to Facebook and
evaluated themselves more poorly (Vogel et al. 2015). Although the present study
is not looking at the relationship between SNS and self-esteem, it is rather
exploring whether filter use can be predicted from the three predictors,
self-esteem, POSS and perception control.  

Nyagah et al. (2015) concluded SNS to be very common amongst students, with
Facebook topping the list of the most common social site used. Further
conclusions were made, which stated social networking influenced student’s self-esteem
and psychological wellbeing. Having their own profile on SNS gave students the
sense of freedom and felt important to their friends offline and with their
social networking friends (Nyagah et al. 2015).

literature has indicated social networking to be associated with self-esteem, showing
low self-esteem individuals use of SNS (e.g. engaging in self-presentation and
impression management) (Pantic, 2014).  Conflicting
evidence has shown the positive impact of SNS on self-esteem when individuals
engage in self-presentation online. Gonzales & Hancock (2011) found if one can
edit the information they share on their Facebook profile, it enhances
self-esteem. This is because participants in their study reported higher
self-esteem when editing their profile than those who did not change their
profile (Gonzales & Hancock, 2011). Thus, the data suggests because social
network profiles allow more time and energy to construct positive self-presentations
(‘ideal self’) and is one’s optimal self on display, it prompts positive,
rather than negative effects of self-esteem (Gonzales & Hancock, 2011).