A ‘selfie’ is a self-portrait, typically taken on a smartphone and shared via social media. Selfie’s dominate most social media feeds and can be used for promotion, and to showcase self-identity, worth and mood. Selfies allow us to control and dictate how others view us.
As popular as it is, selfie taking has developed quite a negative stigma. Take a photo of your own face? It’s narcissistic. But get someone else to take a photo of your face? It’s not the same, apparently. Somehow, these two different photo styles evoke a world of different responses. Does the effort of capturing, editing and posting selfies take away from the legitimacy of the photo? Why are people still being shamed for sharing them? These self-portraits today are very similar to what was being presented in the past. It’s not a particularly new ideal. They’re a way of us controlling how we are being portrayed in the online world. Herring (2015) states that “self presentation is generally considered to be motivated by a desire to make a favourable impression on others…”. Herring’s current research is concerned with how teenagers present themselves through social media. It considers the implications of social media use, profile constructions, visual and textual self-presentation, profile visibility, truthfulness, and other facets of teens’ self-presentation in relation to their gender. As much as we don’t like to admit it, we are constantly judging and monitoring others on our social media feeds. Social media and selfies are being used to gain status and carve the identity we always wished we had.
It’s still quite a new concept but status on social media is a big deal to some people. To Youtube and other online stars, it’s their livelihood. There are still a lot of people out there don’t care about their follower count at all but there are others who will delete photos from Instagram and status’ from Facebook if they don’t get over a specific number of likes. These people get trapped into thinking that their follower count reflects who they are in real life and how they are represented. Katrin Tiindenburg introduces us to the idea of a popularity paradox. These individuals feel the need to provide an excess amount of pictures and selfies, or perform in a particular way to gain more likes and followers on any given social media site (Tiindenburg, 2015). This kind of lifestyle contributes to their anxieties and nervousness of underperforming for their audience and not meeting their expectations. Tiindenburg (2015) argues that self-shooting, of selfie-taking, is a therapeutic act. While this may be the case, have we, as society, taken it too far?
A very recent example of this is Australian micro-celebrity Essena O’Neill. O’Neill was a very popular Instagram personality who has become an influential voice on the fakery that is Instagram. In 2015 she did an exposé on the lies behind every single one of her posts and what was required of her from companies. What once started as an innocent account to share photos, it quickly blew out of proportion. She had created, what turned out to be, a very fake and misrepresented online version of herself. O’Neill was being paid by companies to promote their products to her ever growing audience. She was living the ‘perfect life’. She has since gone back and changed the captions of posted photos to reveal what really went on behind the scenes.
Herring, Susan C., and Sanja Kapidzic. “Teens, gender, and self-presentation in social media.” International Encyclopedia of Social and Behavioural Sciences. 2nd ed. Oxford: Elsevier (2015): 1-16.
Tiidenberg, K. and E. Gomez Cruz. “Selfies, Image And The Re-Making Of The Body”. Body & Society 21.4 (2015): 77-102.