Public lecture

The Good, Authentic Life: Gendered normativity of Instagram

  • 2 June 2021
  • 13:00-14:00
  • Virtual IAS

Dr Marie Heřmanová, Institute of Sociology, Czech Academy of Sciences in Prague is visiting the IAS to give a guest lecture on The Good, Authentic Life: Gendered normativity of Instagram.

The notion of authenticity has gained prominent place in the latest research on social media and digital communication platforms as well as in cultural and communication studies in general. In the 'influencer culture' on Instagram authenticity has become the main criteria of success and influencers employ different strategies to produce an authentic self-presentation. Being authentic means being relatable and it creates a sense of belonging and mutual trust between influencers and their followers. In this way, authenticity is also economically productive for influencers, as it enables them to successfully sell products and recommend brands to their followers. The “authenticity bind” of social media thus creates a paradoxical situation in which “authentic” can no longer be constructed in opposition to “staged” or, in the vernacular language of social media, “fake”, because all performance (not only) on social media is staged and curated.

In my talk I will look at how the authenticity bind on Instagram is gendered. In my research on influencer culture in the Czech Republic, I have identified two dominant authenticity strategies used by the influencers. The intimacy strategy reinforces the sense of community and belonging among the influencers and their followers and is mostly used by women. Men on the other hand often deploy the opinion-leader strategy, which is based on reinforcing leadership via performing one’s social and economic status, giving advice about various areas of life (career, family relationships, creativity) and engaging in political discussion about current topics. The analysis suggests that being authentic on social media means something different for men and women and in this way, the authenticity strategies deployed by influencers reproduce gendered normative assumptions about what lifestyle choices could be considered authentic, relatable, and conforming to the ideal of good life worthy of following.

Dr Marie Heřmanová is a postdoctoral researcher at the Institute of Sociology, Czech Academy of Sciences in Prague and currently visiting scholar at the School of Social Sciences and Humanities at Loughborough University, UK. She holds a PhD in social anthropology from Charles University in Prague. Her research focuses on internet communities, influencer cultures, authenticity on social media and gender politics of hate speech and disinformation online. She is interested in the methodology of digital social research, combining digital ethnography perspective with communication studies approach. She is the co-editor of a forthcoming collection Cultures of Authenticity (Emerald Publishing, 2022).

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