Curating a public self: Exploring social media images of women in the outdoors

Elizabeth Christie, Tonia Gray, Joelle Breault-Hood, Christine Norton, Nicole Taylor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Two recent social media posts about the authenticity of women’s experiences in the outdoors fuelled an intense dialogue among the authors of this paper. These posts sparked healthy debate and we asked ourselves, ‘Why does our apparel, our aesthetical appeal, our physicality, or even our motivations become subject to critique and judgment?’ The burgeoning use of social media, in particular, the use of Instagram and Facebook to curate a public self, has provided the catalyst for our study. This paper explores the use of online presence by women in the outdoors and examines how social media is portraying those women. In particular, we examined the authenticity of Instagram and Facebook in representing identities. We also interrogated the potential of social media to contribute to the commodification and aestheticisation of what it means to be a woman in the outdoors, using current social media literature as a point of departure and Goffman as a theoretical lens. Findings were mixed; some images perpetuated the aestheticisation of women outdoors, while others provided inspiring, strength-based portrayals. Such findings implicate the unremitting need to deconstruct negative aspects of social media images of women in the outdoors, and develop a new lens to a) assess the positive aspects of social media images of women in the outdoors; b) counteract the negative self-perceptions generated by mainstream media images; and c) allow for positive self-representation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)153-170
Number of pages32
JournalJournal of Outdoor Recreation, Education, and Leadership
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2 May 2018


  • social media
  • outdoor experience
  • outdoor pursuit
  • authenticity
  • outdoor women


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