In less than a decade, online social networks (OSN) have revolutionised social communications worldwide. Nowhere is this more evident than amongst today's young consumers, so called millennial teens, who have snapped up these identity-making digital social spaces claiming them as their own. This article examines the range of strategies and resources employed by UK millennials for self-presentation in OSNs and the resultant implications on teenage identity construction in the postmodern era. An in-depth qualitative content analysis of 20 teen OSN profiles was conducted and analysed against extant theories of impression management, self-identity and self-presentation.

Our analysis revealed that millennials were deeply immersed in self-presentation activities. They employed a wide range of ‘intentional’ self-presentation strategies and drew on colour, design and symbolism to create complex, elaborate and decorative versions of self, which we have termed the ‘aesthetic self’. OSNs satisfy teen needs for intense social interaction with their peers, offer potential for copious identity experimentation and reduce the need to consume physical symbolic items in order to convey meaning, thus acting as an accelerator in the teen identity-making process.

Our findings extend existing frameworks for teenage self-identity theory and moreover have significant implications for future marketing practice, particularly sourcing consumer behaviour data, brand management and marketing communications strategies.

Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.