Two women sit on bench and take a selfie. Both are wearing face masks to protect against Covid-19.

CDCS Colloquium: Chelsea Butkowski

February 6, 2023 12:15pm-1:30pm
  • Annenberg School, Room 300
Audience Open to the Public

Identity (in) Crisis: Digital Self-Making During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Photo Credit: Gabriella Clare Marino / Unsplash.


About the Talk

The COVID-19 pandemic unevenly disrupted everyday life on a global scale, and, as a result, it also altered the fabric of personal storytelling in online spaces. Changing pandemic safety measures and social routines rapidly transformed norms of digital self-representation and impression management. For example, social media offers opportunities to document life in lockdown while also placing personal adherence to pandemic guidelines like mask-wearing and social distancing under networked scrutiny. Even as some of these alterations have already proven temporary, they also illustrate communication practices that stand to endure beyond the so-called “pandemic era.”

Chelsea Butkowski headshot
Chelsea Butkowski

Chelsea Butkowski studies these pandemic self-making practices through the lens of social media profiles, the platformed digital spaces dedicated to displaying our online interactions, memories, and identities. Butkowski uses social media scroll back interviews, a method that involves scrolling backward on research participants’ social media profiles alongside them. This presentation focuses on a series of 48 interviews conducted in late 2021 with social media users who experienced the pandemic in the U.S., largely located in Upstate NY. Ultimately, it traces how shifting social and safety pressures of pandemic life prompted participants to relearn what it means to “be oneself” online.

About the Speaker

Chelsea Butkowski is a post-doctoral fellow at the Center on Digital Culture and Society, having recently completed a Ph.D. in Communication at Cornell University. Her research investigates how people use digital media technologies to make sense of their identities during periods of widespread social change and crisis. This has led her to study elections, the COVID-19 pandemic, social movements, and the politics of digital storytelling in everyday life. Her work can be found in journals such as New Media & Society, Social Media + Society, Visual Communication, Feminist Media Studies, and Communication, Culture & Critique.

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