Conceptualizing “Filter-ing”: Affordances, Context Collapse, and the Social Self Online

Saesha Kini, Manisha Pathak-Shelat, Varsha Jain


Our article advances filter-ing as a vital affordance to understand how and which aspects of social lives dynamically manifest (or are excluded) from online settings. We demonstrate filter-ing’s conceptual potency in context-collapse studies, examining contextualization and context-collapse negotiations online. Drawing from Goffman’s writings on self, identity, and sociality, we demonstrate filter-ing in the self-presentational practices of young, urban Indians on popular online platforms: Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and WhatsApp. Our research illustrates the ongoing, relational, communicative, performative, situational, contingent, and boundary-drawing activities of filter-ing. We highlight the collaborative role enactments of relational friends through team filter-ing. Our discussion and coda discuss the influence of platform design and interface, normative and nonnormative filter-ing, the (in)stability of contextualization, the scope for context-specific inquiries and creative methods, and the strength of filter-ing in identifying excluded and privatized aspects of social life.


context collapse, self-presentation, platforms, affordances, social media, Instagram filters, privacy online

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