Why Do People (Apparently) Feel Compelled To Take Selfies?

Clix Pix

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A serious question here, and I realize that probably no one is going to have a definitive answer but I'm raising the question anyway. This is just something which bugs me a bit. What is that apparently nudges people to take and post (often many) photos/snapshots of themselves, photos of their food, photos of their (ahem, usually mundane) everyday activities and promptly post the images for people to see on Facebook, Instagram and other online places? Is it being narcissistic or something else? Why do they think anyone else beyond close family and friends would care?
 

Scepticalscribe

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A serious question here, and I realize that probably no one is going to have a definitive answer but I'm raising the question anyway. This is just something which bugs me a bit. What is that apparently nudges people to take and post (often many) photos/snapshots of themselves, photos of their food, photos of their (ahem, usually mundane) everyday activities and promptly post the images for people to see on Facebook, Instagram and other online places? Is it being narcissistic or something else? Why do they think anyone else beyond close family and friends would care?

They are starring - or, playing a/the starring role - in their own life story.

However, for what it is worth, I am in complete agreement with you.

For that matter, I used to think this when mobile phones (cell phones) first became ubiquitous. For me, while a phone call was something that was either personal or professional, it was also always something that was private that was between you and the person at the other end of the reciever.

And, then, when mobile (cell) phones made an appearance, I recall my stupefaction at how loudly people spoke, - not bothering to moderate their voices - strolling through the city, mobile phone in hand, "hi mom, I'm in the market", insisting that the world play the role of the chorus (but, an unwitting chorus) in a Shakespearean play.

All of this - and more - apples to selfies.

And the other problem - or issue - with selfies, from the perspective of pictorial composition, is that so many of them are poor photographs; just because you can take shots, doesn't mean that there is any (pictorial) merit in them, apart from the fact that they may serve as props to pleasant or happy memories.
 

Clix Pix

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When I am out-and-about and receive a phone call I just let it go to voicemail because I am not going to stand in the middle of a store or on the sidewalk or in a parking lot having a phone conversation with someone about anything. I definitely am old-fashioned in that regard and agree that phone calls are meant to be between oneself and the other person, not something the whole world needs to eavesdrop on..... The guy below me in my condo development is one who talks quite loudly, and it is very annoying to be out on my deck and have him smoking away and yakking on his cell phone. I don't need to hear his conversation, I am not interested in his conversation, and it disturbs my peace and ability to enjoy my own deck. When at home and I receive a call, if I'm out on the deck I come in the house and close the deck door so that I can have the conversation in a reasonable expectation of privacy and not disturb the neighborhood....

Yes, poorly-lit, poorly-composed selfies are even more annoying, aren't they, and people don't seem to realize that they are not showing themselves in a flattering way at all. Sigh.....

Well, I guess selfies are here to stay, sad to say.....
 

Mark

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@Clix Pix @Scepticalscribe

i too have thought a lot about this phenomenon.

pre-mobile fon camera days, there was a great tradition of asking passersby to take yr picture in front of The Leaning Tower of Pisa, or, Niagara Falls. i have asked passersby to take a photo of me in these situations.
but even in these situations i didn't really go in for it much.
i preferred to keep my shots of the place i was visiting - not of me. no compelling need to see myself in front of it.

fast forward to the mobile fon era.

the front facing camera lens that allows for selfies has fueled a generation of self-image craving.
the 24/7 always-on i-me-my-ness of selfies allows people to showcase their worst character faults of self-importance.

i have noticed that women, more than men, use selfie mode more.
is this about women being traditionally thought about as objects actually objectifying themselves? always interested in how they look by others? needing that reassurance?

@Clix Pix , i too take my mobile fon calls away from others. its polite to do so. i get up and go into a hallway to take a call. always.
 

Clix Pix

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Yes, I think because I am older and of a different generation than many of those who seem to live with a cell phone permanently affixed to one hand and who do indeed seem to think the world should revolve around them, that this does make a difference.... It's an interesting thought about some women objectifying themselves, and wondering how they look to others, needing reassurance that they are indeed attractive and appealing...... As someone who is not and never has been a beauty, I don't feel the need to plaster images of myself all around the internet, but sure, I suppose if I had been from childhood on into adulthood praised for my looks and such, that I would have a different attitude and would be fascinated by my own appearance and wanting to share it.

I do recall the days of people asking someone to take a photo of themselves in front of some monument or historical marker or especially scenic location..... Now people sometimes hand a stranger their cell phone for the same purpose, especially if there is a group and they want to be included in that group photo.....
 

rdrr

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Another huge side effect of the selfie, are the selfish disruption of the iconic tourist spots. Recently when I was in Japan, I routinely was stopped from entering an area so I didn't become a part of their pristine selfie. Which usually meant about 20 minutes of multiple poses, often a few with tongues sticking out. My favorite is a pose of the thoughtful ponder, as if the subject got captured in some in-the-moment emotion.
 

Eric

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If I already know what one looks like why would I want to see more every single day? I like following certain celebrities on Instagram but if all they do is post selfies I will unfollow them, it's so self-indulging.
 

Clix Pix

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Yes, the whole selfie thing has pretty much wrecked "real" photographers' chances of getting decent shots of iconic spots, as either the darned people are shooting their selfies and at times using selfie sticks which then impede others' views of the scene whether or not the others want to actually take a photo and/or they trample down the grass or grounds, casually drop their litter everywhere and sometime even mutiliate historic and valued places by scrawling their initials somewhere..... Disgusting!

Yes, some celebrities do seem to be rather overfond of their own looks and post a lot of selfies, don't they?! I don't follow many celebrities but occasionally I'll look at someone's Instagram site for one reason or another and I have noticed this pattern.
 

Scepticalscribe

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@Clix Pix @Scepticalscribe

..........

i have noticed that women, more than men, use selfie mode more.
is this about women being traditionally thought about as objects actually objectifying themselves? always interested in how they look by others? needing that reassurance?

@Clix Pix , i too take my mobile fon calls away from others. its polite to do so. i get up and go into a hallway to take a call. always.

Interesting observations re gender and selfies, but I think it is a considerably more nuanced than @Mark - quoted above, or @Clix Pix in her thoughtful post, below, have suggested.

.... It's an interesting thought about some women objectifying themselves, and wondering how they look to others, needing reassurance that they are indeed attractive and appealing...... As someone who is not and never has been a beauty, I don't feel the need to plaster images of myself all around the internet, but sure, I suppose if I had been from childhood on into adulthood praised for my looks and such, that I would have a different attitude and would be fascinated by my own appearance and wanting to share it.
......

Women may well take more selfies than men do, - this is something I must keep a eye open for, it is not something that struck me - but, I do wonder whether this applies to many/most when or those who have deemed attractive, or whether the portability and sheer facility of mobile phones (cell phones) has democratised photography to such an extent that many women feel more comfortable taking pictures (capturing images) of themselves when they hold the camera, - and thus, are able to control what is shot, and how it is shot - rather than when it is held by someone else.

While this may well be a form of objectifying themselves, it is also taking control of how their image is presented to the world.

From what I can see, traditionally, photography was very heavily influenced by the fact that most professional (and serious hobbyist) photographers were male, and the "male gaze" determined what was photographed and how (and why).

In any case, in my experience, even in professional settings, male photographers will readily shoot males in almost every context, whereas women are invisible unless deemed attractive (and preferably young), or are too important, or senior, (or powerful, or famous) to overlook .

By way of curious contrast, professional - or semi-professional - female photographers tend to shoot everyone - male or female - as the situation requires.
 
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Yoused

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And, then, when mobile (cell) phones made an appearance, I recall my stupefaction at how loudly people spoke, - not bothering to moderate their voices - strolling through the city, mobile phone in hand, "hi mom, I'm in the market", insisting that the world play the role of the chorus (but, an unwitting chorus) in a Shakespearean play.
As an aside, many years ago I got off the plane in a bad mood and went to the display bank to figure out what gate I needed to get to for my connection. I stood there failing to see my flight listed when some guy walked up behind me and started a phone conversation two feet from my ear. I spun around and said loudly, “Get away from me with that fucking phone.” Needless to say, he was as displeased with my language as I was with his disrespect for personal space.
 

Zoidberg

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I don’t like taking them (the world is ugly enough as it is) but I like receiving them, because I grew up in a family that seldom took any pictures, and I know that years or decades later I’ll enjoy having pictures of people who were dear to me.
 

Thomas Veil

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I enjoy family photos taken with rear-facing cameras--like the one I just saw of my 8 year old grandson who got a bike for Christmas, wearing a parka and riding it around in a driveway filled with 8" of snow.

But selfies? I totally don't have enough ego to think that I'm so interesting that everyone wants to see frequent shots of me.
 
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