Mary McGill, The Visibility Trap, Sexism, Surveillance & Social Media, New Island. 2021
A feminist guide to navigating self-representation on social media
Social media is a new type of public space that has revolutionised the way women express themselves, placing the power of representation in female hands like no technology before. But this increased visibility looks both ways, with the gazed upon also gazing back through platforms designed for judgement and surveillance.
A man-made tool, social media is now deeply entwined with women’s lives in an always-on culture where new and intrusive forms of comparison, shaming and watchfulness are completely normalised and women’s bodies, minds and emotions are picked apart. While many are acutely aware of this ‘visibility trap’, taking ownership of it remains a minefield.
In The Visibility Trap, Mary McGill blends feminism, media studies and lived experiences to explore the contradictions and dangers of online visibility for women, asking how we can build better, safer digital spaces for all. From current research to real-life testimonies, via the Kardashian Industrial Complex (KIC) to image-based sexual abuse — ‘revenge porn’ — and its belated criminalisation, she offers urgent and welcome insights into using social media more consciously, powerfully and positively. This is a must-read for anyone who loves or hates social media; for the guardians of future social media users and for anyone else who is still half-on, half-off this most twenty-first century of obsessions.
DR MARY MCGILL is a digital culture researcher and journalist. A former broadcaster, she is a regular media contributor in Ireland and the UK. Her work has appeared in a range of print, digital and broadcast titles in Ireland, the UK and the US including Broadly, BBC, British Vogue, VICE, Refinery29, The Pool, Sunday Business Post, Irish Independent, Irish Times, TV3 and RTÉ. From 2015 to 2020 she was a Hardiman Scholar at the National University of Ireland, Galway, where her doctoral study explored gender, surveillance and selfie-practices. Her 2016 TEDX Talk, ‘Young women, narcissism and the selfie phenomenon’, has been viewed almost 300,000 times.