Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Revealing Images as Facebook Profile Pictures: Influences of Demographics and Relationship Status

Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Revealing Images as Facebook Profile Pictures: Influences of Demographics and Relationship Status

Article excerpt

The popularity of social networking sites (SNS) has risen dramatically over the past decade. Alexa's (2015) ranking of websites according to their popularity shows no fewer than four SNS amongst the 10 most often browsed Internet websites. SNS allow individuals to manage a profile and a set of connections associated with different levels of access to others' profiles (Boyd & Ellison, 2007). With 1.65 billion users as of March 2016, Facebook is currently the leading SNS worldwide (Facebook, 2016).

In our study, we concentrated on one of the practices of Facebook usage, namely, self-presentation. Specifically, we examined what characterizes people who upload revealing pictures of their body to their Facebook public profile. Our aim was to identify by demographics and relationship status, Facebook users who choose to expose their physique to the world on this platform. This was done not just to satisfy statistical curiosity, but also because the sociodemographic profile of SNS users can influence the pictures they choose to upload (Oberst, Renau, Chamarro, & Carbonell, 2016), and these pictures can indicate motives for using SNS (Ong et al., 2011; Siibak, 2009).

Literature Review and Development of Hypotheses

Online Self-Presentation

Goffman (1959) differentiated between two kinds of signs that an individual may express to create a desired impression toward others: those that are given explicitly and those that are given implicitly. The latter are, according to Goffman, used when individuals try to control the impression they make.

Over the years, scholars have identified a wide array of self-presentation tactics, such as verbal communication about oneself, associating with other people or groups, and changing one's physical appearance (see, e.g., Leary, 1996). Scholarly attention has also been paid to the form of self-presentation tactics in computer-mediated online social life, with early studies in such contexts taking place in the 1990s and being focused on anonymous self-presentation in text-based environments, such as chat rooms and dating websites (Turkle, 1995). Anonymity was considered inherent to online communication to the extent that it shaped self-presentation by providing people with the opportunity to present themselves as having different external characteristics and a different persona from those put forth in the real world (Toma, Hancock, & Ellison, 2008). Later, SNS were acknowledged as a different online environment because they generally lack anonymity (Krämer & Winter, 2008). Zhao, Grasmuck, and Martin (2008) indicated that Facebook users' identity disclosure and potential offline connection to users with whom there is also online interaction, affect the personal online image users choose to maintain for self-presentation.

Some researchers have claimed that Facebook users have a tendency to stretch the truth to present socially desirable identities (Siibak, 2009; Yurchisin, Watchravesringkan, & McCabe, 2005). The practices used to establish such a desired persona are more often implicit (e.g., uploading pictures showing the users engaged in certain social activities, and refraining from uploading pictures shot in other settings) and less frequently explicit (e.g., articulating a clear narrative in the "About Me" section of their profile). However, the opposing view has been presented in studies published in the 2010s, whereby an extended real-life presentation aimed at creating a credible image is the more prevalent norm of self-presentation on Facebook (Back et al., 2010). Thus, for instance, users tend to refrain from posting a picture of someone else as a profile picture (Hum et al., 2011). Researchers have also shown that people's motives for using Facebook vary considerably and include, inter alia, keeping in touch with friends, making new contacts (both for romantic purposes and for nonromantic friendship), reconnecting with lost contacts (Joinson, 2008), promoting business (Kwok & Yu, 2013), political affiliation (Vitak et al. …

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