My Amazing Jet-Setting Self

Jordan Crook’s post on techcrunch.com called “The Hash-Hole, And 6 Other People that Ruin Instagram discusses those people.  By those people I mean the people we all know on Instagram whose posts annoy us in some way.  Crook mentions seven types of people that ruin Instagram including The Selfie Queen, The Inspagrammer, The I Message, The Stingy Liker, The Instagramoholic, The World Traveler, and The Hash-Hole.  For my post I will focus on The World Traveler who is your typical jetsetter. Image

            As Crook describes, The World Traveler is someone who “only pops up in your feed when he is doing something outrageously awesome, like driving a motorcycle in Paris or surfing in Bali”. In terms of self-presentation, The World Traveler presents themselves as a jetsetter with enough money to go where they want, when they want.  In Crook’s opinion, this ruins Instagram because it is not an accurate presentation of their lives and he would rather see their “Vacations and the everyday” rather than just amazing vacation moments.

            Although Crook criticizes these jet-setting people, I think there is something to their Instagram approach.  In Zizi Papacharissi’s Without You, I’m Nothing: Performances of the Self on Twitter, she summarizes Giddens saying that the identity of individuals today are “part of the ongoing story or the reflexive project of the self” (1990).  Giddens tells us that our “authentic” self is not something we are born with inside of us, but instead authenticity comes from being able to keep up coherency and consistency.  In a way, these world travelers have set up a very coherent, although maybe not realistic, self.  Their pages present pictures that are in line with a coherent story.  The story is that they travel the world, eat at exotic places, tan on the best beaches and enjoy nice hotels.  And by them posting only pictures of this, this is all we know of their story and it is very coherent.

            ImageAlthough we should believe that these peoples’ lives are always so fabulous, we often speculate about how real this presentation is.  It is possible that there are people out there whose lives are really that great where they can pick up and leave whenever they want.  However, picking up and going places all the time requires that you have little responsibility to a solid job but have enough money to constantly travel.  This story might lead us to think that The World Traveler’s presentation of themselves might be so coherent that we don’t believe them.  The idea of authenticity and coherence is explained by Hugo Liu in his essay, Social Network Profiles as Taste Performances.  Liu describes the degrees of coherence a social network site can have, from incoherent to moderately coherent.  He also mentions what he calls “disingenuous mistakes” which are things that may seem out of place, but actually might make someone’s self-presentation seem more real because no ones life is concretely coherent (Liu 258).  In relation to the world traveler, having a picture of them doing something utterly boring like sitting in their house watching television might lead to their self-presentation being more believable.

            In my personal opinion, I don’t judge The World Traveler too harshly because we all have an identity online that doesn’t fully correlate to our lives offline.  As Sandra Weber discusses in Imaging, Keyboarding, and Posting Identities: Young People and New Media Technologies, social network sites are often places where youth try out different identities. Her example was of the boys “trying on” different identities in the Rape video.  The concept can be applied to the World Traveler as well.  The World Traveler probably went through the process of trying on the different identities they have, and chose the jetsetter identity as the part of them they wish to present themselves as.  I also am jealous of the world traveler because although that is not all they do, they do really get to do awesome things in awesome places.

I personally think that sometimes the most effect social networking profiles are the very coherent ones, whether they are an accurate portrayal of that person’s offline life or not.  My point can be supported by a number of celebrities.  Celebrities will often only post when they are doing something elaborate when we all know they have to do mundane tasks as well.  Pictures of them at red carpet events are much more frequent than pictures of them in the grocery store.

In the end, we can both complain about and praise the World Traveler.  We might criticize this person for being inauthentic and presenting only the exciting things in life.  But we can also praise them for having a very coherent story on their social networking profiles.

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