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Instagram As A Tool For Self-Extension

Self-Extension of an individual is a concept explained thoroughly by theorist Marshall McLuhan and will be mentioned in regards to the use of popular social network platform Instagram. McLuhan's (2013) notion that "technology is an extension or self-amputation of our physical bodies" (p67) is looked at closely to examine how Instagram users portray their networked self.

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The networked self is one which portrays a particular identity of an individual - which they choose the world to see. As thoroughly discussed by McLuhan (2013) selfies/images of ourselves in everyday life are used to form a particular perception of ourselves, i.e. an extension of the self.

Instagram's editing tools (Hochman and Manovich 2013) enhances an image and inevitably makes it more visually pleasing; highlighting McLuhan's (2013) argument of self-extension where selfies; among other images, are taken to represent the lifestyle/image of an individual they wish other Instagram users to see.

Instagram as a platform used for individual' self-extension is a concept which is reiterated by the argument that individuals make conscious decisions when uploading images to their profile. This is seen above where the non-staged image of Kylie Jenner was not shown on her own profile; rather a fan page. This in comparison to the one shown on her Instagram highlights how self-extension on Instagram is “improvised and causal” (Saltz, 2014) where images are taken by individuals to selectively represent themselves.

Mcluhan (2013) details the myth of Narcissus as Narcosis, where the argument can be shown that an individual doesn't recognise their own image; therefore utilising filters and editing features on Instagram as an approach to see a somewhat better version of themselves, as well as an image others would want to see. There are in fact Instagram pages devoted solely to promoting a luxurious life, such as the one seen above.

Self-Extension (McLuhan, 2013) on Instagram in the form of selfies generally has the recurring theme of being of a particularly happy nature. Saltz (2014) describes this as a characteristic of the selfie, where these images have a primary purpose; usually being to selectively portray a particular personality of one's self online; i.e. a "more attractive version" (Souza et al., 2015)

Saltz (2014) further elaborates on McLuhan’s (2013) concept of self-extension, where individuals take selfies generally to make themselves look good, being never accidental as these are carefully staged. Above you can see an example of self-extension where an Instagram user captions her selfie ‘tired’ – although looks done up and has clearly staged the picture.

Selfies taken to portray a particular image can be seen as gender based to an extent; where typical approaches are used by both males and females (Saltz, 2014). It is quite popular to see men taking selfies to show off their muscles, whereas girls are stereotyped to generally pout.

McLuhan's (2013) argument of self-extension is seen throughout Instagram where users represent a more favourable part of themselves - which can be seen as their networked self. Self-Extension through Instagram is seen as causal and with a primary purpose (Saltz, 2014) of portraying a particular self-image. This is achieved on Instagram through the elaborate use of selfies which can be partially gender based (Saltz, 2014) or through promotion of luxurious lifestyles.

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