WhatShouldWeCallMe? Self-branding, individuality and belonging in youthful femininities on Tumblr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


As the use of social networks becomes increasingly commonplace, scholars have observed that associated requirements arise relating to how one’s digital self is
practised, worked on, and disseminated (Cover; Miller; Papacharissi). Since the earliest forms of online interaction, scholars have tracked the importance of the
question of “realness” in identity and social groupings (Burkhalter; Donath; O’Brien). More recently, as people become more connected, connect-able and subject to peer (as well as corporate and government surveillance) (van Zoonen), digital media cultures have increasingly demanded the performance of authenticity as part of the work of belonging online (Banet-Weiser; Keller). Drawing on Banet-Weiser’s and Keller’s work in particular, “authenticity” is defined here as the quality of being considered consistently “true to oneself” in a way which is socially legitimated. I suggest, online, that this demand for authenticity is manifested through two poles of authenticity: authentic individuality and authentic belonging.

In this paper, I discuss the interplay between authentic individuality and authentic belonging in (postfeminist) digital cultures, by using the case study of a set of meme blogs narrating youthful femininity on blogging social network Tumblr. This meme set, based on Tumblr blog “WhatShouldWeCallMe” (WSWCM), sets out a self-representative affective account of quotidian feminine experiences. In a set of six blogs of this meme set, including the “founder”, I consider the production of authenticities where the simultaneous importance of connection and imitative differentiation is foregrounded, tracking the way authenticity is practised in the founder and follower meme blogs. I contend that the WSWCM founder claims authentic individuality, producing itself through claims to originality, and pre-existing “best girlfriendship”. I then suggest that the follower meme blogs foreground authentic digital belonging, by exhibiting certain affective cultural literacies that demonstrate insider status in this intimate digital feminine public (Berlant). I surmise these strategies are used to manage the demands of tension between proving one’s true and individual self and the need to be recognised as belonging through commonality.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-3
Number of pages3
JournalM/C Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • authenticity
  • remix
  • youth
  • identity
  • postfeminism

Cite this