How COVID-19 changed self-presentation on Instagram and its relation to user well-being

Mark Turner, Danna Ordonia

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Social media use increased during the COVID-19 pandemic with platforms providing an important forum for communication and self-expression. In this study, we explore shifts in online posting behaviors and self-presentation following the onset of lockdown. Content analysis of active Instagram accounts (n = 73) was conducted for the 3-month period before and immediately following the start of lockdown in the UK, and compared to psychological well-being, social media dependency and motives for online self-presentation during lockdown. Changes in the nature of images and captions used by profile owners were found following the start of lockdown, with more selfies and throwback photographs of past events being posted. Images in contexts depicting users as ‘social’, and positive or explanatory message captioning decreased during lockdown. Limited evidence was found to support the hypothesis that images posted were predictive of psychological well-being in lockdown. More followers and the degree to which online portrayals represented ‘real-self’ appeared more critical to well-being during lockdown.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages14
JournalInteracting with Computers
Early online date22 Feb 2023
Publication statusEarly online - 22 Feb 2023


  • selfies
  • COVID-19
  • Online self-presentation
  • Psychological well-being
  • Instagram

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