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Looking good is a civic responsibility

Alessandra normally uploads a photo of herself every two weeks or so, usually without any additional comment. Mostly she poses with a serious face and will focus on one feature of her appearance at a time: her dark brown hair, big eyes, or a special accessory. Each photo might receive between 20 to 40 ‘likes’, with the most successful reaching more than one hundred. Most of the comments praise Alessandra’s beauty, the quality of photos, and in the case of remote friends, express that they miss her. They are dominated by emoticons including sets of purple hearts and all kinds of smiley faces.

As with most teenagers in Grano, Alessandra takes selfies with her smartphone, usually inside her house, after taking great care over her appearance. She always takes a few shots, filters the photos carefully, and then edits them online. But many of her friends recognise that Alessandra’s image is actually quite different offline. In her photos on Facebook she portrays herself as being a few years older than she actually is and as more serious, while on the streets of Grano she is always jovial and wears casual clothes. The reason for this is that she feels a responsibility to adhere to social expectations when she posts online. She senses that it is her duty to look sharp and attractive. In particular, this behaviour is necessary because at this stage in her life Alessandra wants to find a fidanzato (‘fiancée’). She sees beauty not only as an essential step towards her future life but also as a civic responsibility. She also knows that, once married, she will be far more restrained in terms of the photos she posts of herself. So rather than self-expression, her selfies show how Alessandra must conform to society's expectations. was her way of doing just that.

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