Digital Self-Control and the Neoliberalization of Social Media Well-Being

Niall Docherty


Popular debates surrounding social media well-being target individual habit as the locus of critique and change. This article argues that this constitutes a commitment to responsibilized constructs of neoliberal well-being and moralized ideas of atomistic self-care. Empirical analysis reveals how such visions are discursively and materially embedded in both the well-being tools offered by social media platforms and in the mindful “hacks” of user praxis endorsed by their critics. This is shown to operate as part of a sociotechnical imaginary of self-control where the structural factors crucial to well-being are ignored. Well-being is instead aligned with personal choice. This article exposes the contingency of this view by presenting relational concepts of well-being, showing how critical, comparative interpretive analysis can better account for the psychic costs of the attention economy, thus reinvigorating the issue of social media well-being as a site of political action.


digital well-being, social media, health, neoliberalism, responsibilization, power, sociotechnical imaginaries

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