What Does Your Selfie Say About You?
Love ’em or hate ’em, but don’t bother trying to avoid ’em: selfies are popping up everywhere you look. Millions of them are taken every day, from carefully-filtered Instagram photos to goofy Snapchats. You’ve probably taken more than a few yourself. But there’s more meaning to be found in this phenomenon than meets your social media feed—it reveals a lot about our most basic human desires.
Social media is fun. It’s a great way to keep in touch with friends and family, and it has become an integral part of our culture. We make checking our Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter part of our daily (or hourly) routine. This allows us to keep up on the world and with the lives of those close—and not so close—to us. These aren’t bad things, but it’s always good to step back sometimes and ask “why?” The answer might reveal a lot about who we are and help us understand ourselves better.
Why do we post what we post? To get at the “why” question, it’s helpful to first start with the “what.”
My Selfie, My Self?
It used to be that if you wanted a self-portrait, you’d have to sit for hours while an artist painted or drew your face with painstaking detail. As technology has evolved, phones with front-facing cameras have made self-portraiture as easy as a single click (that is, if you can get that perfect angle on the first try). And with ease comes more opportunity. Taking a selfie takes so little effort that we do it without thinking about why. Everyone else is doing it. And so are you.
A selfie represents you to your followers. Different kinds of selfies convey different messages. On Snapchat, you might post a funny face. On Instagram, you’d be more likely to post a picture of yourself in a new outfit. With each selfie, you’re developing a social media self-image.
Self-image is important to us. We care what other people think. That’s why we dress and act in certain ways. We feel self-conscious when we think people perceive us differently than how we want to be seen.
Social media gives us a new way to manage our self-image, but it also creates even more pressure to present a perfect picture of ourselves to those around us. Cell phones allow us to take multiple pictures until we get just the perfect angle. And Instagram filters can take care of a lot.
Caring about your self-image isn’t always a bad thing. It becomes a problem when you take it too far—that’s why selfies are frequently critiqued as the ultimate example of narcissism gone wild in our culture. A narcissist is someone who is self-centered and desires lots of admiration and attention from others. Simply taking a photo of yourself doesn’t automatically make you self-centered. But maybe the great deal of time we spend posing for and prepping each selfie does reveal a deeper desire to present an idealized version of ourselves to the world. Even on Snapchat, where we send less manicured photos, each snap is still a calculated demonstration of “me” sent off only to close friends.