"Gendered Visibility on Social Media: Navigating Instagram’s Authenticity Bind." International Journal of Communication, 2019.

Brooke Erin Duffy and Emily Hund

Although the digital economy’s guiding logics of attention and visibility rouse social media users to put themselves out there, individuals experience digital visibility in profoundly uneven ways. For women, in particular, the public nature of online communication is fraught with risk, opening the potential for ridicule, hate, and harassment. This research explores the vexed nature of visibility among Instagram content creators, a community that is especially beholden to this so-called “visibility mandate.” Drawing on in-depth interviews with 25 aspiring and professional Instagrammers, we show how they attempt to stave off potential critique in patterned ways. In their efforts to project themselves as authentic, many sought to deflect accusations of being too real, and, alternatively, as being not real enough. We argue that this uniquely gendered form of a socially mediated “authenticity bind” indexes the wider policing of women and other marginalized communities in digitally networked spaces, wherein they must carefully toe the line between visibility and vulnerability.