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Date Permissions Signed


Date of Award

Summer 2021

Document Type

Masters Thesis

Department or Program Affiliation


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Pine, Judith M.S.

Second Advisor

Bruna, Sean

Third Advisor

Fisher, Josh


This study investigates how students at Western Washington University practice well-being through identity performance on the social media platform, Instagram. Data collection involved multiple qualitative methods, including an initial online survey, 25 semi-structured individual interviews, 5 focus group discussions, and photovoice analysis of participant submitted images. My analysis shows that the participants in this study use Instagram to perform multifaceted identities, and have an acute awareness of the specific affordances the application has to offer, and how that environment impacts overall well-being. Therefore, I argue that these participants have developed methods they perceive as beneficial to their own (definition of) well-being, by using Instagram to form and connect with communities, curate identities, and monitor perceived toxic habits. Through these methods, I conclude along with Boellstorff (2015) that the separation between physical and virtual realities is a dualistic perspective, and add that well-being can be viewed as a practice that is perpetually monitored, navigated, and maintained by the individual.




digital anthropology, Instagram, Identity, Well-Being, Performance


Western Washington University

OCLC Number


Subjects – Names (LCNAF)

Instagram (Firm)--Social aspects.

Subject – LCSH

Anthropology--Research--Washington (State)--Bellingham; Well-being--Research--Washington (State)--Bellingham; College students--Social networks--Washington (State)--Bellingham; Social media and society--Washington (State)--Bellingham; Identity (Psychology) in youth--Washington (State)--Bellingham

Geographic Coverage

Bellingham (Wash.)




masters theses




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