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Self-Tracking Health Over Time: From the Use of Instagram to Perform Optimal Health to the Protective Shield of the Digital Detox

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
JournalSocial Media and Society
Issue number3
PublishedJul 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information: The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This research was funded by the European Research Council as part of the “Ego-Media” project held at King’s College London: Publisher Copyright: © The Author(s) 2020.

King's Authors


Instagram and self-tracking technologies enable multiple ways to perform and represent the body and health. No research has yet explored how self-tracking technologies and self-representations of health identity on social media, in particular Instagram, influence health “sharing” online and individual health management offline. To enable a thorough investigation of how self-tracking mediations of identity construction work in practice, through a textual and thematic analysis of empirical ethnographic data from online content, reflexive diaries and semi-structured interviews with 14 participants, this research examines the use of these converged technologies to share health-related data on Instagram in the performance of optimal health identities. Participants identified pressures that arose from this continual performative identity of being a healthy role model under persistent self- and community surveillance, which also led to the development of powerful compulsions to use these technologies to document and share many aspects of health and lifestyle. Over time, the participants attempted to disengage and detox either temporarily or permanently from Instagram, to enable a protective shield from the pervasive, normalized surveillance and community practices. Most interestingly, even when they removed these technologies and platforms from their daily lives, participants still felt neglectful to their devices, to themselves, and to their communities online in their abstinence and resistance to perform optimal health practices.

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