Social media has definitely become a major part of every day life. Not only in how we pick up our phones every two minutes to see what’s happening on our Facebook, Instagram or Twitter newsfeed; but also in how we create a self image of the way we want others to see us online too.
When discussing how we view ourselves as an individual in lecture and tutorial in week two, it was discovered that majority of the class post new selfies on social media quite often. The process is not instant though. We stand in front of the mirror, or turn the selfie camera on and end up taking at least ten photos before choosing the one we feel makes us look awesome. Then and only then do we hit up Instagram, possibly use a filter and send our photo off into the world of social media with hashtags describing our selfie.
When you initially think about it, posting a selfie online might seem a little narcissistic; but maybe it’s more than the narrow minded belief that people who take these photos are vain.
In the reading Selfies, Image and the Re-Making of the Body, Katrin Tiidenberg and Edgar Gomez Cruz discuss this particular judgement of selfies in the media saying “…news items about selfies are in the mainstream media daily. Posting or exchanging selfies is often dismissed as frivolous and self-absorbed…social use of those images seems to be more complex than this dismissal allows” (2015, p.78). In their research, Tiidenberg and Gomez discovered that many women post selfies on social media to understand and feel confident in how they look. That they no longer see themselves as flawed, but beautiful instead. They state:
“For our participants, selfies shape the ways of knowing, understanding and experiencing their bodies…This new, more body positive visual discourse at least somewhat confuses the dominant normative visual discourses” (2015, pp.94-95).
In other words, selfies are a way for people to feel good about themselves, which can be relatable for many others globally in the social media sphere. It helps individuals learn to resist critically comparing themselves to celebrities and models.
Apart from selfies, there are many other facets to social media, in particular how people, aside from celebrities, are able to gain media attention and popularity through a massive following on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Twitter. In Leaders and Followers: Status in the Tech Scene, Alice E. Marwick explains that in order to be relevant on social media, you need people to engage with the content you share, saying:
“…having a huge blog readership implies importance (since it means that people like to read what you have to say), high visibility and the ability to command an audience” (2013, p.77). Linking this idea slightly with the positive discourse conveyed through selfies, popularity status can easily be formed by how relatable shared content can be.
An example of this is conveyed by video blogger Cassandra Bankson, who shares her acne experiences via social media. In the video below that she posted in 2010, she revealed her acne to her viewers on YouTube. By doing this, she became popular, gaining followers who find her videos cathartic and relatable. In BuzzFeed’s article 9 Women Share The Harsh Reality Of Living With Severe Acne, Cassandra explains this idea saying, “It was so liberating to realize I wasn’t actually as alone as I felt and through the struggle found there are so many warriors who are cultivating love and success; it is the blemishes that make us beautiful” (Bankson 2015).
By sharing her videos and selfies on the different social media sites, Cassandra not only conveys a positive body image, but also inspires others to do the same.
Overall, from looking at why people share selfies, and how the self image can create a celebrity like status on social media – there is no denying now that our self image is not narcissistic; it is a form of self love and relating to others.
BuzzFeed 2015, 9 Women Share The Harsh Reality Of Living With Severe Acne, BuzzFeed Life, viewed 2 April 2016, http://www.buzzfeed.com/chrissymahlmeister/beauty-bloggers-with-acne#.jlDyKPo09
Marwick, A 2013, ‘Leaders and Followers: Status in the Tech Scene’, Status update: celebrity, publicity, and branding in the social media age, New Haven Yale University Press
Tiidenberg, K & Cruz E 2015, ‘Selfies, Image and the Re-Making of the Body’, Body and Society, Vol.21, no.4, pp. 77-102