The duck face, ugly lip face and no makeup selfie have all been social media trends at one time or another. I am certain that I have participated in a few similar image sharing rituals myself. Dare I mention the time I took a drunk selfie and plastered it all over Facebook?
I am not so sure my family or colleagues were too happy about that either.
Selfies can reveal a great deal
“What selfies unmask about our real personality is shocking.” says Linda Roy, support worker on arousr.com who gets about a thousand selfies to review each and ever day. I thought I had seen just about everything, and then along comes another crazy trend to outdo the last one.
According to Williams and Marquez, co-authors of “The Lonely Selfie King: Selfies and the Conspicuous Presumption of Gender and Race,” a research paper from Texas A&M University, “It’s no secret that taking selfies has become part of the social media phenomenon.” Many psychologists believe that the photos an individual chooses to take can also reveal a great deal.
- Individuals such as celebrities who take them without makeup are likely to be confident in their looks.
- People who take a huge amount of photos of themselves tend to be narcissistic.
- People who shy away from the mere mention of a selfie may be harboring a deep sense of self-loathing.
- “Dic Pics” are indicative of a person trying to ascertain power and dominance over the receiver. That explains a lot!
While these points may seem obvious, there just might be more to this selfie story than it meets the eye.
It’s only a selfie – the new ego
The social messages behind selfies are considered part of normal social behavior. However, it is a kind of blind acceptance based entirely on the large number of them. Really, we have no choice. Either we go along with the crowd or get lost in the shuffle. It isn’t who is producing them but rather who is reacting to them that actually determines trends.
When a person posts a selfie, they will be rewarded through likes, approvals and in some cases rejections. This may actually be the motivation for people who post more selfies than others. They are seeking approval or disapproval of projected cultural, gender, and sexual norms. What motivates the people to like or dislike them also plays a huge part in this fame game. Their motivations are purely narcissistic in nature. In some ways, it is a socially acceptable way of being judge, jury, and executioner.
This also explains why some people don’t like to post selfies. They fear rejection. Therefore, it can be assumed that confident people are the ones most likely posting selfies. I can hear the sounds of “Material Girl” playing in the background as I read these words.
Establishing one’s own self-identity and social identity
These explanations go beyond sociopathic and narcissistic behaviors, though. There is another important reason as well. Social media is a forum for establishing one’s own self-identity and social identity.
Establishing who we are as individuals is based primarily on how people see us in the social media sphere.
For each individual, selfies convey a message about their racial identity, sexual orientation, masculinity or femininity, and the rituals they partake in.
In this context, it is seen as a form of performance art and self-expression. This has two outcomes.
- The art reflects the norms of the culture in which the “performer” is embedded. By continually participating in this ritual, the performer becomes accepted into this culture.
- Contributing to this set of rules and norms means they are shifting the norms of gender, sex, and race and forcing others to blindly accept them.
How often a person produces selfies plays a role in determining whether someone is narcissistic or not. How do you put a number on it? How much is too much? This has yet to be determined. But it is actually quite high. Some individuals post upwards of 20-30 selfies a day. Yes, Virginia, this is a bit excessive!
In 2015, Guntuki, Qiu, Lin, and Jakhetiya (other researchers) viewed the posting of a selfie as a type of self-portrait. This self-portrait depicted the poster’s wishes of how they wanted to be perceived by the viewer. Whether that happens or not depends solely on the viewer. You cannot make someone think or feel how you want them too. Doing so is simply an egotist approach to art.
“I think it’s pretentious to create art just for the sake of stroking the artist’s ego” – Lou Reed
The people behind the camera
These researchers ran an experiment to see if a computer model could guess the personality of the poster based on visual cues in the photos. The experiment used several categories and indicators or physical markers to make their predictions. The study found significant correlations between various visual indicators and a number of personality traits.
- Photos that showed emotional positivity predicted the agreeableness of the person.
- A smile is indicative of mutual acceptance.
- Using the duck face predicted neuroticism. Who knew the duck face could say so much?
- Conscientiousness was predicted by being in a public location when the selfie was taken.
- The amount of openness of the individual was indicated by eye contact with the camera.
- Nude selfies paint a completely different picture. They are not indicative of person’s desire to engage in sexual activity but rather his or her performance capabilities. A mating ritual of sorts.
The research clearly shows that selfies contain a wealth of visual information. Do you want that information to be used to determine your worth? Imagine what can be done with this information? This is a potential marketing strategy of the future (if that hasn’t already taken place)
No one knows for sure what will become of the selfie but one thing is for certain, they can be used to study how people judge others.
Other works cited: http://www.ntu.edu.sg/home/linqiu/publications/ACM2015.pdf