Analyse a celebrity, sportsman/woman or an influencer’s public identity across two or three media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, livestreams, blog, film, television, newspapers, magazines, film clips etc.). How is this persona written into being? Analyse how identity and social presence are expressed differently across the platforms. Analyse modes and practices of self-presentation in play. How are persona, race, ethnicity, gender and other forms of cultural identity performed?
‘On the Internet, nobody knows you are a dog.’ This is a very representative and famous adage in the era of Internet anonymity. With the rise of the internet, more and more Internet users begin to freely play personalities and roles different from those in real life. Due to the rapid turnover of information on the Internet and the emergence of different social media platforms, celebrities are likely to be forgotten if they don’t try their best to appear in the audience’s daily lives, which leads to the need for them to establish a solid and sustainable persona and social presence on different media platforms.
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This essay uses Ouyang Nana, a celebrity who is now very popular in China, as an example to analyse her different identities on different social media platforms, Weibo and YouTube to explain how the characters are shaped. At the same time, this essay also analyses the different expressions and modes of her multiple identities on different media platforms and expounds how other aspects of cultural identity such as nationality is carried out.
Different identities on different social media platforms
The Internet takes users out of their physical bodies, and they are free to choose and construct their online identities (Lindgren, S. 2017). More and more celebrities are creating different online identities by Posting different content, Celebrity’s self-presentation mainly has three purposes, which are self-promotion, public and self-communication and attracting more levels of audiences (Chatchaiyan, P. N. 2016), these are the reasons why celebrities need to establish different public existence.
Ouyang Nana is one of the hottest celebrities of the new generation in China and one of the most talked-about names in fashion and entertainment in recent years. Ouyang Nana has multiple identities, she is an actress, a cellist, a 19-year-old student at music college in Berkeley and she is also a very distinctive vlogger. She has more than 1.6 million followers on Weibo, 2.6 million fans on Instagram and nearly 40 thousand subscribers on YouTube. Although she has gained a lot of controversy over her acting in recent years, she has successfully won a lot of attention and fame. She returned to Berklee College of Music to resume her studies in 2018, but has not disappeared from the public eye, as an excellent vlogger, she also attracted a lot of attention and adoring by sharing her work and school life in her video.
Ouyang Nana shares different content on different social media platforms. First, on Weibo, her public identity is a celebrity, and she especially strengthens her identity as an actress and spokesperson by posting relevant content, such as promotional photos and video of her TV series, she also posts relevant pictures of brand activities and advertising texts. With 1.6 million Weibo followers, each post gets a lot of replies and ‘like’. Not only that, but she also interacts with other celebrities and actors, either by posting comments in the comments section or sharing photos or videos of their collaborations, which further solidifies her presence as a celebrity in the public mind. Ouyang Nana is a professional celebrity, whose personal image can be seen from the advertisements and photos of many commercial activities, at the same time, her persona is cheerful and lovely. Posts sharing photos and funny moments in her life are often accompanied by cute emoticons or popular memes to bring her closer to the public and her fans. Occasionally she can be seen on Weibo performing as a cellist at commercial activities, but it is hard to tell that she is still a student, because she hardly posts anything about her school life or friends on this platform.
Ouyang Nana identified herself as a celebrity and spokesperson on Weibo, but on another media platform, YouTube, she is actively building her alternative social identity as a musician and a vlogger. After all, no two identities are the same, and each reflects a unique personality trait (Abelson, H., Lessig, L., Covell, P., Gordon, S., Hochberger, A., & Kovacs, J. 1998). As a vlogger, Ouyang Nana regularly publishes her vlog on video website and sorts out video contents. Most of her video content is about her cello concert tour backstage and school life records or music-related work clips. Her vlogs content, which shows her student identity, usually contains her college life, reviewing exams, attending Halloween party with her family, etc., and the persona she shows in her vlog is just like the ordinary girls around us, who are enthusiastic and interesting.
Identity in social media is usually expressed through customisation (Chatchaiyan, P. N. 2016). On YouTube, Ouyang Nana has her own fixed vlog title format and the same vlog editing style, these unique styles also make people remember her as a vlogger. People’s self-presentations are not the only information provided online. The online presence can be liked, tagged, mentioned and discussed by others (Lindgren, S. 2017). Based on Ouyang Nana’s online content about dressing, viewers can discuss her online and offline and share their opinions on her, which is also a propaganda method to increase fans and attention.
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Identities are flexible and variable, and people have excellent skills in changing their self-expression (Marwick, A. 2013). Ouyang Nana has different identities and images on different media platforms. For her, her social presence on Weibo is a celebrity, a qualified brand spokesperson, and her self-presentation mode is completed through commercial forms such as advertisements, stage photos and other activity posters. Weibo is more like a platform to enhance her commercial image, mainly involving her work and endorsement, while YouTube is more of a personal platform, where she can record her personal life through vlogs. On YouTube, she became a blogger and cello musician and a normal student, presenting herself by sharing her daily life clips. These transformations of identity are determined by publishing content differently and attract more audiences.
Other aspects of cultural identity
In addition to the identity of cellist, entertainer and vlogger, etc., Ouyang Nana’s cultural identity, on the other hand, is a young girl who likes fashion, just like young girls around the world, which is one of the reasons why she is so popular among young people. She is passionate about fashion collocation, her dressing style is in line with her lively and energetic identity. Her collocation holds a unique style and easy for young girls to imitate, because it is usually based on basic casual items that every girl has, which is also the reason why she is especially sought after by young girls. This persona is formed by posting selfies, usually including her whole look, and accessories and backpack, on her social media platforms, so that to get the attention and interaction of fans.
Another cultural identity is nationality. This cultural identity is reflected in her public statements and offline interviews on social media platforms. In March of this year, she publicly supported the ‘One China’ political standpoint through offline media interviews and declared that she was born in Taiwan, which is a Chinese, which directly indicates her support for this politic stance. Although mainland China and Taiwan are now in a sensitive period, she still posted this political statement, accompanied by pictures and text, on both Weibo and Instagram. This political statement has been much discussed in mainland China and Taiwan. Besides, she often expresses her support for some positive appeals from the Chinese government, as well as expressing her concern and care about China-related natural disasters and social news by forwarding or commenting. Ouyang Nana was born in Taiwan, her cultural identity with China made her welcomed and supported by more mainland people in China, and also brought her more opponents in Taiwan.
The Internet age has given people the freedom to express their identities. People can express different aspects of themselves on different websites, so as to establish different online presence. Based on this and a large fan base, influencers and celebrities get more advantages in constructing social identities. Identity is a ‘social product’ because the development of self-image depends on the environment in which people know themselves (Altheide, D. L. 2000), entertainers are unable to build their own public identity independently from the public and social media. People create different identities and display different persona on several media platform to attract different levels of audience and fans.
Ouyang Nana’s characteristics on Weibo is a celebrity, far away from the public and fans, her content is more commercialised, and most of the followers are fans and viewers of TV dramas. While on YouTube, her identity is a normal student and a cellist, her persona is more like a friend in our life, which is closer to the audience, her content on YouTube is also more in daily life and music, this social presence attracts younger fans group. Besides, her unique fashion style and special shooting and editing style are all symbolic signs of her personal identity (Papacharissi, Z. 2002), which is a good way to establish and display her different identities, in order to impress the audience so that people can remember her well. Ouyang Nana’s different social identities established on different media platforms show her various images to the public, giving people more opportunities to know more about her, and on the other hand attracting more fans for her.
- Abelson, H., Lessig, L., Covell, P., Gordon, S., Hochberger, A., & Kovacs, J. (1998). Digital identity in cyberspace. White paper submitted for, 6.
- Altheide, D. L. (2000). Identity and the Definition of the Situation in a Mass‐Mediated Context. Symbolic interaction, 23(1), 1-27.
- Chatchaiyan, P. N. (2016). Online Identities Presentation of Thai Celebrities via Instagram: Why and How. In Crafting Media Personas (pp. 15-24). Brill.
- Lindgren, S. (2017). Digital media & society. London ;: SAGE Publications Ltd.
- Marwick, A. (2013). Online Identity. In A Companion to New Media Dynamics (pp. 355–364).
- Papacharissi, Z. (2002). The Presentation of Self in Virtual Life: Characteristics of Personal Home Pages. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 79(3), 643–660. https://doi.org/10.1177/107769900207900307
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