A Filtered Life is the first comprehensive ethnographic account to explore how college students create and manage multiple identities on social media.
Drawing on interviews and digital ethnographic data gleaned from popular social media platforms, the authors document and make visible routinized practices that are typically hidden and operating behind the scenes. They introduce the concept of "digital multiples," wherein students strategically present themselves differently across social media platforms. This requires both the copious production of content and the calculated development of an instantly recognizable aesthetic or brand. Taylor and Nichter examine key contradictions that emerged from student narratives, including presenting a self that is both authentic and highly edited, appearing upbeat even during emotionally difficult times, and exuding body positivity even when frustrated with how you look. Students struggled with this series of impossibilities; yet, they felt compelled to maintain a vibrant online presence.
With its close-up portrayal of the social and embodied experiences of college students, A Filtered Life is ideal for students and scholars interested in youth studies, digital ethnography, communication, and new forms of media.
Table of Contents
Acknowledgments Introduction 1. Media Landscape 2. The Editing Imperative 3. The Body Imperative 4. The Positivity Imperative 5. Covid-19: Emergent Imperatives Conclusion Index
Nicole Taylor is an associate professor of anthropology at Texas State University and the author of Schooled on Fat: What Teens Tell Us about Gender, Body Image, and Obesity.
Mimi Nichter is professor emerita of anthropology at the University of Arizona. She is the author of Lighting Up: The Rise of Social Smoking on College Campuses and Fat Talk: What Girls and their Parents Say about Dieting.
"A Filtered Life moves beyond simple denunciations of online sociality, exploring the promise and perils of our emerging digital age. This in-depth ethnographic analysis reveals how young adults craft selfhood and community through social media, with lessons for understanding an era in which digital technologies are part of everyday life from the outset."
Tom Boellstorff, Author of Coming of Age in Second Life and Ethnography and Virtual Worlds
"Taylor and Nichter show how complicated it can be to navigate the demands of authenticity in a competitive climate where everyone is editing themselves into a digital perfection. Read this book to learn the emotional costs of seeing and being seen as a 20-something under our contemporary online regime of self-branding."
Ilana Gershon, Author of The Breakup.20
"This lively study provides both compelling detail on a human level—the stories of young people who find themselves drawn into social media—and reflections on the broader implications for American culture. This book will interest all those who wonder about the impact of this enormously significant but little-understood aspect of contemporary life."
Peter Stromberg, Author of Caught in Play
"This engaging, timely, ground-breaking book provides important information about the smartphone-centered lives of today’s emerging adults. It is a welcome and valuable contribution toward understanding the meanings that smartphones hold for emerging adults and will help them—and the rest of us—use them more wisely."
Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, Author of Emerging Adulthood: The Winding Road from the Late Teens Through the Twenties