I am not who you think I am.
You see, behind this blog and the various other student profiles of mine, I lead another online life. Like most other people my age I have a Private Facebook account under my full legal name– that is nothing unusual.
Mainly for friends, family, and the odd friend of a friend, its main purpose is to keep up to date with the lives of those who I am interested in.
A user who is browsing an acquaintance’s profile is likely to see an idealized version of that individual’s life that makes the person seem very happy, likable, and successful (Vogel et al. 2014).
I would have to agree with this – looking on my profile you find me mainly sharing my “life highlight” moments that would be of interest to those who know me.
If you were to google Jess Rae King however you’d find a couple of social media profiles- Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat and a Website. (I think it’s important to note the fact that these platforms aren’t what you would consider academic or professional- they suit the modelling industry but some posts would potentially be NSFW and you’re not going to find a Linkedin account under Jess Rae King, for example.)
Again this in itself is nothing unusual- it’s the way in which I self present on these platforms. When I am not studying I work full-time in the fashion industry as a “Plus Size” model. In the last couple of years the importance of being present and seen online as a model has become the biggest selling point when it comes to getting booked by a client. My agency Bella Management, like many others, feature each models up to date social media statistics on their website. In this post I am going to evaluate a couple of aspects of my “Jess Rae King” social media identity (Instagram in particular) and how I used it in a way that is appropriate for the fashion industry.
What’s in a name?
I often think of life after modelling and get nervous at the prospect of a future employer in the digital world googling me and finding shots of me in various states of undress. Professionally (moving forward in my future digital career) I go by Jessica King, but I wonder if it is dissimilar enough from Jess Rae King, to avoid digging up my entire modelling portfolio. Perhaps something I should have thought about earlier…
Maybe she’s born with it. Maybe it’s an Instagram filter.
Authenticity is a tricky one when you’re dealing with someone who is literally selling themselves. Everyone likes to think that their Instagram is representing their offline self truthfully, but is that really possible when you’re selling yourself as a product? It would make sense to put your best foot (or selfie!) forward even if that’s not always an accurate representation of the offline you. However in the case of the online body positive community it can actually be a good thing to highlight what are often considered as your flaws.
This particular post that I uploaded received a very high level of engagement despite the fact that I uploaded a photo that wouldn’t be considered attractive according to beauty standards. The ironic thing is, in the caption I addressed this very thing. The idea that our social media identities are simply highlight reels. Because of the success of this post (it went on to get reposted by various accounts and appear in an article by Revilist) and others before it that followed a similar structure- I began to upload these types of posts more frequently. I discovered that posts featuring what would be considered self-deprecating imagery, or posts that address common/relatable insecurities amongst women alongside body focused shots worked really well in my feed. I guess you could say I learnt to manipulate, manufacture and stage manage my authenticity online in a way, as Graxian explains (cited in Poletti & Rak 2014, p.75). I am posting imagery that I wouldn’t normally post because it has proven to be engaging, and in turn boost my follow count, which at the end of the day, in my business = MONEY.
In 2015 I entered into an online working relationship with a high profile Australian tanning product company. They would send me products in exchange for me posting about their brand and products on Instagram. At the time I was living in London and happily accepted the products because a: Who doesn’t love free stuff, b: They were products that aligned with my brand and I had used them previously. We agreed that I would post one photo per product and they would then repost those photos on their social media platforms (Instagram & Facebook). Some months into this relationship I received a call from a couple of close friends saying they had seen selfies that I had taken (using the product) printed on a full page in two different well known Australian magazines.
The ease in which they had swiped a photo from my Instagram account and printed it without my permission astounded me. Upon escalating it through my management they offered a weak excuse- and blamed it on their intern. This experience has taught me the importance of establishing ground rules and contracts when entering into commitments with brands online. It just shows that there is always a risk when you are putting your imagery out there- someone might just go ahead and use your photos without permission. I have found this to be one of the biggest downfalls of attempting to build up a larger online following (particularly on Instagram). Although it has allowed me many benefits in terms of furthering my modelling career, ‘the broader social consequences will be less freedom and personal control’ (Waite 2013, p.5).
It is clear that my current @jessraeking identity is a relatively successful and suitable online construction for the modelling world; however my biggest concern would be how its digital footprint will affect me when I no longer have use for it. With the accessibility of information on the internet, I’m thinking my best option will be a name change and to move very, very far away.
My broader ALC708 related online activity
Earlier in the semester I identified that I wasn’t tweeting as much as I should. I increased my Twitter presence, but there is always room for improvement in other areas too. For example- I struggle with engaging in discussion with my peers online, out of the fear that my contributions are irrelevant. I also avoided creating a Linkedin account- I don’t come from a professional industry like a lot of my peers, and felt it was pointless. My opinion now is that it’s better to be seen online, and I think there are ways in which I could create a profile that is relevant and suitable for my career in digital media.
Vogel, E, Rose, J, Roberts L & Eckles, K 2014, ‘Social Comparison, Social Media, and Self-Esteem’, Psychology of Popular Media Culture, vol. 3, no. 4, pp. 206–222, retrieved 5 April 2017, PsycARTICLES.
Smith, S and Watson, J 2014, ‘Virtually Me: A Toolbox about Online Self-Presentation’, in Poletti, A and Rak, J, Identity Technologies: Constructing the Self Online, The University of Wisconsin Press, Madison, pp. 70-95
Waite, C 2013, The Digital Evolution of an American Identity, Routledge, New York.
*Consent form from Evan Pottenger attached.