Selfies and health identity: exploring health identity in young people via self-representation on social media.

Year: 2019

Author: Marsden, Linda, Rossi, Tony, Taylor, Nicole

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Australia leads the world in the number of selfies taken and uploaded to social media platforms, and young people between the ages of 18 – 24 are the most frequent selfie-takers. Statistics such as these, combined with the ubiquity of the smartphone and social media in young people’s lives, has led to divergent fields of research into the health impacts of these cultural shifts.

In spite of this growing research interest the selfie has received only limited consideration from a health perspective. A notable silence is a discussion of the nexus between identity, young people’s health, and the selfie; and commensurately, whether the selfie is a tool used by young people to curate, perform, exhibit, or create their health identities.

Drawing on the sociology of health in young people in a digital society, this study though currently in its early stages, will explore young people’s consumption and production of social media content as it relates to their health. Specifically, this project will address the missing link by exploring health identity and the enactment of this identity through the selfie from the perspective of young people.

This project will combine the disciplinary areas of health, digital media and sociology, and will invite young people to co-explore the concept of health identity from a visual perspective. Some researchers have suggested health identity offers predictive value concerning the future use of health services or technologies; others suggest health identity influences a person’s willingness to adopt or engage in health behaviours. This work has largely been limited to textual analysis. This study however acknowledges young people, as co-constructors of knowledge, and through ethical and innovative digital media research methodologies will examine the enactment of their health identity in digital online platforms.

The construct of health identity provides opportunities for shedding new light on young people’s health behaviours, particularly in digitally mediated environments in order to contribute to a broader understanding of how young people consume and produce social media content as it relates either directly or peripherally to their health.