Original Research - Special Collection: South African Science and Religion Forum

‘Who am I, really?’ – Self-help consumption and self-identity in the age of technology

Simphiwe E. Rens
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 75, No 1 | a5336 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v75i1.5336 | © 2019 Simphiwe Emmanuel Rens | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 17 November 2018 | Published: 26 August 2019

About the author(s)

Simphiwe E. Rens, Department of Communication Science, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa


This article offers an analytic exploration of self-disclosed accounts by consumers of self-help media with regard to how their engagement with these texts influences their self-identifying efforts. Relying on a thematic discourse analysis of data from in-depth interviews with 10 black avid self-help consumers, this article outlines in what ways, according to these individuals, their notions of self-identity are impacted by the self-help texts they consume. A relationship between self-help media consumption and self-identity, I argue, exists based on the grounds that the educational nature of the self-help text renders it a key tool of ‘guidance’ to these self-help consumers. It is a guidance that is intricately linked to the media’s endorsement of mediated experiences – through various communication technologies – from which consumers of these distant experiences vicariously ‘learn’ to ultimately attribute these lessons to their own social relations. This, in turn, allows for the carving of their own identities based on the ‘ideas’ they have at their disposal.


Self-help; Self-identity; Self-disclosure; Media; Technologies


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