The prevalence of the Selfies in today’s society is staggering to people like me – the Gen X and Baby Boomer brigade.
Despite being part of the generations that invented sex, drugs, rock-n-roll, the pill, materialism and excess, we struggle with the notion of excess being applied to self celebration. We are more than likely to consider the practice as being narcissistic and needy – when indeed there may be another side to the Selfie.
The Art of the Selfie
In my quest to understand I’ve checked out lots of Social media posts and marvelled.
I’ve chuckled along with one gorgeous girl who posted a picture of herself looking up into the camera captioned “Lets take a moment to appreciate my face” – and the pic is a stunner but its also right next to a post with her posing cross-eyed. Funny. Maybe this sort of approach actually helps normalise girls rather than objectifying them.? I’d like to think so. Naturally there will always be those who take things too far, do have low self esteem or are attention seekers – but that’s true in life.
AND – The Selfie is not just for girls (although I think they dominate). There is a particular gender -based selfie genre apparent.
For boys the Selfie usually takes place in the gym or in the car with a dog (Staffy /Rottweiler) or mate (looking stupid/tongue out) visible in the back seat.
For girls the setting is bathroom, bedroom, gym and a mirror is likely involved.
Accompanying the picture is usually a slightly humourous, wishful or ironic hash-tag commentary (the art of the hashtag needs to be the subject of another story). On top of that there are filters to be applied and other apps that can photoshop the picture into superb selfie-ness. The most interesting thing however, is that it’s not serious business.
The Cultural Shift
The obvious reality staring us in the face (whether we like it or not ) is that social media is helping create a new social context – one where it is perfectly ‘normal’ to capture, publish and share your daily life. And when you’re young and beautiful (even if you’re not!) this includes pictures of yourself doing, well, pretty much nothing. To the generations that have grown up with a cultural overlay of publicity being reserved for the famous, rich, powerful, freakishly good-looking or talented, we struggle to come to terms with the notion of visual self celebration and self publicity.
As a parent, social researcher and student of psychology I’ve tried to understand but must admit to falling short. That is until I read my 20 year old daughter’s article on Selfies. As a self confessed Selfie Queen (yes thats her in the top pic of the blog) she has an inside view of what’s going on, and to her it’s no big deal.
She says:” I’m going or trying to go to a place where Instagram doesn’t portray all of the goods of someone’s life, nor can it have the power to define someone… I want to see a world where a girl can take her best bloody Selfie or not and share it without feeling although she’s posted way too many times today – who gives a damn!!!!”
So what do the experts say?
Dr. Pamela Rutledge who writes for on-line magazine Psychology Today writes an excellent and thought provoking article on the subject and suggests it might just indeed be the ‘new normal’.
“Social technologies have redefined ‘normal’ as more public, shareable and searchable. Like most digital self-publishing, selfie-ing is easy. All you need is a camera phone and a Facebook page or Instagram app. This makes it ripe for exploration and identity experimentation, particularly among ages where identity formation and emancipation are key developmental tasks as well as for those who are still interested in looking at themselves. But the truth is, we all want to be able to ‘try’ on a new image and imagine how we would feel as that part of ourselves.”
At the end of the day, in a new world of ever evolving gender neutrality, with a generation of visual learners, where technology helps people meet others (whether Tinder or e-harmony), stay in touch, express themselves, self publish (hello!) – the Selfie is just another artifact of a changing culture.
So as a sign of the times Selfie #Likeagirl. (If you’re game that is!).
Implications for Marketing?
In marketing and advertising terms what can we do with this? In short – heaps. Many fashion and sporting brands are leading the way, wisely connecting their brands to hashtags and encouraging people to upload their selfies (naturally wearing their gear and then tagging their friends). Interestingly enough travel brands are lagging by comparison. Given the deluge of beautiful holiday snaps out there, travel brands really havent made the most of the Selfie. One possible exception is Hotel 1888 in Sydney, who set up a selfie space for people to start spruiking their trips to Sydney (and their accommodation experience in the establishment) and thus grow the Hotel’s brand footprint with that type socially connected traveller.
There are limitless ways to take advantage of this phenomenon especially when you’re targeting people with a more youthful and creative mindset.
The main thing however is not just to ‘tap into’ the idea of Selfies but importantly as a brand to add value to the selfie experience. So get out there and help make those Selfies, better, more newsworthy, funnier, different, ironic, more beautiful and most of all reflective of your brand story. Selfies are here to stay.
Tania is a Brand Strategist and Social Researcher at iSPY Research & Strategy.