Precarious Popularity: Facebook Drinking Photos, the Attention Economy, and the Regime of the Branded Self

Social Media + Society. 2016;2 DOI 10.1177/2056305116628889


Journal Homepage

Journal Title: Social Media + Society

ISSN: 2056-3051 (Online)

Publisher: SAGE Publishing

LCC Subject Category: Language and Literature: Philology. Linguistics: Communication. Mass media

Country of publisher: United Kingdom

Language of fulltext: English

Full-text formats available: PDF, HTML



Ian Goodwin (Massey University, New Zealand)
Christine Griffin (University of Bath, UK)
Antonia Lyons (Massey University, New Zealand)
Timothy McCreanor (Massey University, New Zealand)
Helen Moewaka Barnes (Massey University, New Zealand)


Double blind peer review

Editorial Board

Instructions for authors

Time From Submission to Publication: 12 weeks


Abstract | Full Text

Young people are often accused of being foolhardy for posting photos on Facebook that depict drinking and intoxication. However, in this article, we argue young people’s predilection for posting Facebook drinking photos must be understood in relation to Facebook’s specific architecture and affordances, and is symptomatic of new forms of online sociality and “required” aspects of identity work which are tied to imperatives for self-promotion in the current conjuncture. Focusing on young people’s own accounts of Facebook drinking displays derived from 24 focus groups in Aotearoa New Zealand, we develop an interpretative thematic analysis which suggests drinking photos facilitate valued forms of “amplified,” “authentic” sociality, visibility, and popularity. Our analysis highlights young people as negotiating forms of social connection and precarious popularity online in an active effort to navigate the risks and opportunities associated with drinking as a site of pleasure, leisure, and self-display. However, their experiences remain differentiated and entail the uneven distribution of risks and opportunities due to elided structural power relations. Moreover, while individuating imperatives for self-promotion are in one sense unavoidable, they are also contested through forms of evasion, resistance, and broader struggles for value linked to articulations of alternate senses of selfhood.