Avatars in social media: Balancing accuracy, playfulness and embodied messages

Asimina Vasalou, Adam Joinson, T Bänziger, P Goldie, J Pitt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

75 Citations (SciVal)


This paper examines how users negotiate their self-presentation via an avatar used in social media. Twenty participants customised an avatar while thinking aloud. An analysis of this verbal data revealed three motivating factors that drive self-presentation: (1) avatars were used to accurately reflect their owners' offline self; participants chose to display stable self-attributes or idealised their avatar by concealing or emphasising attributes aligned to imagined social roles, (2) the diversity of customisation options was exploited by some participants who broke free from the social rules governing self-presentation offline; others used the avatar's appearance to emotionally provoke and engage the avatar viewer and finally, (3) avatars were used as proxies; participants designed their online self in order to convey a message to a significant other.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)801-811
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Human-Computer Studies
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2008


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