Selfies, why are we taking them: a qualitative study

Written by Leonescu Claudia

In today’s world, selfies have become more than a trend. While some people view it as a method to express themselves or a way to overcome boredom, for some it turned into a daily routine, a part of their life, a need for self-objectification. With the continuous and growing use of social networks, especially in such an image-obsessed culture, selfies have become much more than simple snap shots.

This informal phenomenological study was elaborated in order to understand and discover the meanings behind the act of taking selfies. The qualitative research data collection methods used were online individual interviews. Research participants for the current study were recruited randomly. The session was conducted with an even number of participants, 16, both men and women.

On the contrary to previous studies, in Romania women seem more eager to take and post selfies ontheir social network account on an average of once a week, while men were more favorably disposed towards into answering that they never engage into such actions. Interestingly, only one of the male respondents answered that he takes and posts selfies on a daily basis. The idea of taking selfies for fun seemed to be the most appealing to most of the respondents as well as considering it a suitable way to create certain stories that can be afterwards shared with others.

The findings of this study have implications in discovering how Romanian people in their adult phase view the idea of selfies as well as the reasons, emotions and attitudes that are behind this action. Women tend to see the action of taking selfies as a part of the growing up digitally and a new kind of “identity development”, while in the same time they can have the luxury of depicting themselves in the way that was desired.

Carefully, selecting from a wide variety of shots and then applying filters, colors and other various editing settings, selfies are then uploaded on personal profiles awaiting for validation (likes and comments) from the people they are connected with. Thus this desire to be liked, valued and acknowledged is a type of normal narcissism which is needed in life, the exaggeration of hyper-posting becomes much more than this. It may a “social drug” effect, being constantly fixated with appearances, lifestyle, materialism and in a dejected way, gives the illusion of feeling special.

The impetus behind using a neutral response option shows that respondents actually slightly lean toward a favorable or unfavorable response and by choosing that response they mask these sentiments. When asked to review to what extent they agree with the fact that the reason behind posting selfies is getting compliments, getting attention from a specific person or simply showing off, the females respondents dwelled on answering neutral, while the rest agreed with the statement.

I believe a psychological phenomenon occurred here: while knowing the survey was completely anonymously, the women which took part it considered that answering in a truthful way might be the best way. While others chose to pick the “neutral” response which, as stated before, hides a different opinion. The idea of what is good and what is bad might be outlined inside their brains (by society, personal backgrounds, entourages or even personal beliefs) and this can make them lean towards not speaking their mind. Once again, the need of being validated and accepted has triggered the brain into choosing what they think is a right answer (although they were informed there is not right or wrong) instead of choosing what they really wanted.

Even though, recent studies had shown that men are more eager to taking and posting selfies developing narcissists or psychopathic tendencies, my research has concluded that this is not always the case. The male respondents have carefully defined the idea that for them taking selfies is merely a method of having fun. Only few inclined into agreeing with the idea of taking selfies as a way of placing their values on appearance and showing off.

The last section of the test gave the participants the freedom of expressing themselves, while some decide on communicating their frustration about the selfie trend, others described the contexts. By carefully looking into their answers, one might observe the tendency of using excuses as their weapon to guard themselves from being judged. A known fact is that women tend to use more words when describing a specific fact which helped me see better that they tried to inflict the idea of “a reason behind every selfie”. This is also applicable to the male respondents. Even if the reason is a surprise visit home, a vacation, a new haircut, a concert and so on, the participants in the research somehow masked their answer by thinking that if a selfie is somehow justified by circumstances, it seems like a reasonable motive to take it.

While both man and women show tendency to follow specific trends in order to get validated, some might chose to be on the other side of the fence tying themselves to the idea of going against the grain, emerging into anti-trends being their own way of validation. On the other hand, on the idea of selfies, men seem to view it as more of a way to have fun and enjoy themselves, while women are more prone to self-objectification.

About the author

Leonescu Claudia

Initially when I turned to writing it was a decision made on some pretty shallow grounds, first off it was Carrie Bradshaw building a fire under my writing juices. Spicing that up with some reading, somewhere in my 2nd year of collage I was already fascinated. Margaret Laurence once said ”When I say work I only mean writing. Everything else is just odd jobs.” and I find that painfully true.
If it's something you're drawn to, you reach for it in any of its forms, either it's in a newspaper, on a blog, maybe a book or a novel or you just go full-freelancing, you reach for it:)

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