Article published in:Sexuality and the discursive construction of the digital self in the Global South
Edited by Nell Haynes and Baird Campbell
[Journal of Language and Sexuality 9:1] 2020
► pp. 48–68
Communicating normative pressures and individual distinction on Facebook and Instagram
Social media is often assumed to espouse ego-centred networking. Yet by comparing posts to Facebook and Instagram, it becomes apparent that the experience and aspirations of the individual are often embedded in structures of family and other institutions that have been historically determined. This article locates images posted by women to two social media platforms, Facebook and Instagram, within the Caribbean island of Trinidad’s wider history of the significance of visibility and visuality. What individuals choose to make visible and its consequences form a visual language in which Trinidadians are entirely fluent. By extension, images are used to communicate forms of differentiated identity that are made visible through social media.The material gathered was based on 15 months of ethnographic research in a semi-urban town in Trinidad where, generally, uses of social media are expressive of a place-based sense of identity. The town is simultaneously a place that urban dwellers look down on and villagers look up to. Visual content posted to Facebook and Instagram reveal that while individuals seek to craft and shape images and aesthetics according to their own tastes, this must be done in a socially acceptable way; that is, placing emphasis on group conformity is far more of a social value than expressing individual distinction. Social media in this context communicates the imagination of oppositional futures and a divergence of lifestyles for young women: those who identify with being locally-oriented and those who identify with being globally-oriented.
Keywords: social media, ethnography, Caribbean, Trinidad, Facebook, Instagram, digital visual communication, digital images
Published online: 24 February 2020
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