Five teenagers talk identity and social media

Figuring out your identity is a huge part of being a teenager. Digital and social media can amplify internal and external pressures. In my after school classes we talk a lot about how others perceive us versus what the real truth is. This project takes that concept one step further to focus specifically on digital identity versus students’ real identity. On a rainy Thursday afternoon, the amazing and thoughtful students in my after school digital photography class, sat down to talk about identity IRL (in real life, for you old folks) and digital identity. Through a series of group discussion and individual interviews the students considered internal and external pressures they feel to present a certain way online and how that may or may not be reflected in their actual identity. Some talked about the desire to post only the good stuff or how they would never post a photo of themselves without, “wearing makeup”, others felt frustrated by the pressures put on them by their peers and society at-large and asked, why we can’t accept ourselves they way we are? Another has a casual approach to their feed and doesn’t take it too seriously. The range of perspectives is fascinating and informative particularly to adults interested in working with young people on digital media projects.

As high school students begin to learn about media literacy, mass media, and its impacts, this webpage can serve as a launching-off point to prompt discussions about how students present online versus IRL. How digital identity can evolve, how race, class, and gender come into play in digital identity. It’s also an opportunity for students to hear directly from young people their own age dealing with similar issues.

Teacher Resources: Digital Identity vs. IRL Lesson Plan

All portraits taken by students.

JenniferMuy_Portrait copy.jpg

100% there’s pressure, especially in this generation. there’s a bunch of people posting pictures that don’t show who they really are. if you scroll down through the comments you’ll see, “oh my gosh you’re so pretty”, “your life is so perfect”, “i wish i could be like you”, and that just shows how we’re all living in a lie.

- Jennifer

HectorEstrella_Portrait copy.jpg

I put up whatever I want to put up. I put up things I do on the daily and things i do on the daily are pretty fun. i just like to share it.

I don’t like making my image look a certain way when i know I’m not personally like that. It’s immature.

- Hector

EmilyZhen_Portrait copy.jpg

Right now, I’m only posting photos mostly of me. Because i just feel like everybody on instagram posts photos of themselves. plus, when i post a landscape, people barely like my picture. only when i post a selfie do people like my picture.

- Emily


I don’t want to present myself like my life is perfect because i know a lot of people know that it’s not. so i don’t want to fake everything about me, but i also don’t want to be so unfiltered by putting everything out there

- Judith

AlexiaSantamaria_Portrait copy.jpg

i realize I only post myself when I’m wearing make up because I look nicer with makeup on.

There’s always pressure about how i should look. I don’t want other people to see me tired or with pimples. I want to look my best even though that’s not who I am.

- Alexia