Constructing Online Identity Via Picture Sharing: Malaysian Youths' Experience with Social Networking Sites

Friday, July 18, 2014: 8:45 AM
Room: 417
Oral Presentation
Azrina HUSIN , Universiti Sains Malaysia, Penang, Penang, Malaysia
Constructing Online Identity via Picture Sharing: Malaysian Youths’ Experience with Social Networking Sites


Azrina Husin

School of Social Sciences, Universiti Sains Malaysia

Penang, Malaysia

By taking the position that youths’ identity is fluid and dynamic, this paper aims to look at the ways in which Malaysian youths construct and manage their online identities through visuals posted on popular social networking sites. A sample of 20 youths aged between 18 to 25 years old residing in urban Penang participated in this ethnographic study. Preliminary results show that these youths own several social networking sites with Instagram and Facebook being the more popular ones. While the medium may differ, the identities presented are almost the same and more importantly these visual identities feed from their offline identities. They are engaged in constant picture taking, usually using their mobiles. Uploading pictures on their social networking sites, and by extension, sharing these pictures with friends and followers online, validates their online existence. As these social networking sites can be used publicly, inviting a wider range of followers, pictures that are uploaded are managed (through a process of selection and editing) so as not to disrupt the presentation of online selves. More personal pictures are shared in closed sites among trusted friends where one can “let loose”. From these preliminary results, it can be concluded that online identity construction among this group of urban Penang youths is a reflexive activity. Furthermore, the identity that is portrayed online as well as the interactions that take place through the visuals posted need to be managed well so as to ensure that the preferred identity is not disrupted.  

Keywords: Online identities; social networking sites; visuals