How Important Are Your Selfies?

“Status is: one’s value and importance in the eyes of the world” ~ Alain de Botton

A quick Google search of my name (below) doesn’t really reveal anything too surprising (thank god). Firstly, my Facebook profile. Secondly, my Do It In A Dress page, a fundraising campaign I participated in last year to raise money to educate girls in Sierra Leone. Third is Twitter, a platform I should probably use more but don’t. Then a lovely assortment of images from a variety of different sites. My blog sadly doesn’t appear until the bottom of the page, and then there’s a few other social platforms like Pinterest and LinkedIn. I’m always online, whether it’s Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat… I’m always looking for new things to share and to follow what people are up to.

Screen Shot 2016-03-12 at 12.27.21 pmScreen Shot 2016-03-12 at 12.27.37 pm

And why is this google search important? It’s a starting point for finding out more about myself. And how do people access this? Because I share it myself.

Self representation 

On Facebook this month (so far) I’ve shared 5 links to my blog, 2 articles to websites about social issues like women’s rights, uploaded 2 photos (1 photo with 60likes, and the other with 177likes), and been tagged in 4 photos (where 3 of them are incredibly unflattering – it looks like I’m a glitterfied zombie, or halfway through a lazy sneeze).

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The picture of my eyes that circulated my friends Facebook newsfeed and got a whopping 56 likes. Thanks guys…

According to The New York Times Customer Insight Group research conducted on ‘why people share,’ there are a number of different reasons why people share things online. And I’ve done all of them. Entertainment: a funny meme or dog video. Defining Ourselves: posting nice photos of myself or sharing a blog post. Relationships: sharing an old photo with a friend or posting on their wall for their birthday. Self fulfilment: satisfying the need to keep in touch with friends. And to support a cause: to show what you’re passionate about.

All of these aspects, while they appear in the interest the people around us, they’re  predominantly self centred. I share a post online because at the end of the day, I want certain people to perceive me in a certain way. And yes, even allowing the horrible photos (as demonstrated above) to be on my timeline is purposeful because (I hope) it demonstrates that I don’t take myself too seriously and can laugh at myself.

why-people-share-on-social-media
An infographic on why we share things online according to the New York Times Customer Insight Group. And I can acknowledge that I’ve shared things online for all of these reasons. Source

In fact, a recent study discovered that ‘self-shooting is an engaged, self-affirmative and awareness raising pursuit, where their body, through critically self-aware self-care, emerges as agentic, sexual and distinctly female. Thus, this is a reading of selfies as a practice of freedom’ (Tiidenburg & Cruz, 2015). However, an important question that arises from this research is what are these people being free or liberated from and how does this imply enslavement? On a fundamental note, Kim Kardashian has the ultimate freedom, she has a job (whatever it is), a roof over her head, food to eat and a family to be apart of. However, she is routinely criticised in the media, and some could say enslaved by the pressure to perform. Some may argue that her book Selfish is her way of owning what she has and refusing to let anyone define her.

kim-kardashian-selfish-cover
Kim Kardashian’s selfie which graces the cover of her book Selfish. Source

“The Like is the wordless nod of support in a loud room.” – Seiter, 2015

Perception of Others

However, how Kim K or I represent ourselves is somewhat benign as ‘our identity is powered and influenced by other people’ (Evans, 2016) where our status and importance is determined by the people around us. And if we are constantly worried about how people are perceiving us, then this can lead to status anxiety. Many times I have asked a friend, even text someone to ask if they think this filter looks ok on a photo, or if the caption is witty enough. It’s very rare that I’ll post a picture without with approval of one of my friends first. And whilst I don’t consider this a crippling anxiety that keeps me up at night, it’s definitely a routine I’ve got myself into when posting on social media.

As long as we’re sharing online to friends or strangers,  we’ll always have some sort of status anxiety. It’s only natural for us to want people to be interested in what we are doing and share a connection over a picture of a video. However, it’s a significant issue when people are caught up in the ‘popularity paradox'(Tiidenburg & Cruz, 2015) instead of photographing themselves for their ‘liberation.’ It’s also an issue when status anxiety starts to dictate who we are and how we present ourself online, because as soon as we start to give in to status anxiety, you lose your liberation.

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And if you’re not entirely convinced, let the following short clip illustrate all of the thoughts that flow through your mind when uploading and sharing a selfie.

References

Evans, N 2016, ‘Looking at ourselves’, BCM310, University of Wollongong, Lecture Slides, delivered 9 March

Seiter, C 2015, ‘The secret psychology of Facebook: Why we like, share, comment and keep coming back’, Buffer Social, 23 April, https://blog.bufferapp.com/psychology-of-facebook

The New York Times Customer Insight Group, ‘The Psychology of sharing: why do people share onine’, The New York Times, viewed 17 March 2016, http://nytmarketing.whsites.net/mediakit/pos/

Tiidenberg, K, & Gómez Cruz, E 2015, ‘Selfies, Image and the Re-making of the Body’, Body & Society, 21, 4, pp. 77-102, SocINDEX with Full Text, viewed 2 April 2016.

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