Having recently returned from ethnographic field work in Brazil, we’ve been reflecting on some of the things we saw and heard. One of the most interesting themes that emerged was around how young people (re)present themselves on social media. It seemed to be regarded in two ways; with vanity of image or vanity of intellect. I hadn’t thought of it in such a way before, but it made perfect sense. That displaying the ability of one’s mind is just as pertinent as showcasing the beauty of one’s body and surroundings.

Platforms such as Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook are often viewed as a means for indulging in your own physicality, with filtered selfies and carefully curated representations of yourself and your lifestyle. But equally, they are ways to communicate – and manipulate – how you want the world to view you as a mind and a person, not just a body.

One of the interesting examples of this is the recent trend for hiding your hashtags on Instagram. This video* is a guide to using the ‘5 dot’ method which aims to ‘make it a little less obvious that you’re trying to promote and market yourself’. Others just post their hashtags – which they have pre-saved as notes on their phone and copy across – as comments on their own posts, to avoid cluttering up their caption. It does the job of disguising your hunger for popularity, whilst still attaining those crucial likes and followers.

For the caption content itself, there are countless websites one can consult to obtain suitable inspiration. Such as Buzzfeed’s ‘47 Drake lyrics for when you need an Instagram caption’**. Ultimately, whether you’re doing it ironically or not, the quest for the perfect Instagram caption still contributes to the acquisition of more likes or the approval of your followers. As well as demonstrating your sense of worldliness, profoundness or sarcasm at the same time.

There are numerous ‘how to take a good selfie’ guides, filters and contour tutorials at your disposal for creating a striking or aesthetically pleasing visual of yourself. You can achieve what social media culture currently deems as ‘beautiful’ relatively easily. But selecting the right words, referencing the right cultural trends and having the right message is where the real skill lies.

* https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uqyxHzuZEdI

** https://www.buzzfeed.com/michelleregna/thank-you-six-god?utm_term=.yxP9YA8kP#.trbNWXlV0