Do you take selfies? Do you take them in public? Do you see other people taking selfies in public and judging them harshly, as if it were your business?
Or, uh, why does anyone have an opinion about other people's selfie behaviors? I do not take them; Ashley does it. Who cares?
This is our question about why you push that button this week, with a long detour to defend Kim Kardashian, the pioneer in social networks and performance artist of our time, and we will get to the bottom of the matter. We spoke with Alicia Eler, author of the new book The Selfie Generation, and she broke the subtle misogyny of slandering the girls for making their own records of their lives. We talked about the "selfie boy" of the Super Bowl and about the very annoying sports announcers of 2015.
Why does someone have an opinion about the selfie behaviors of others?
Then, we chat with Julia Rubin, executive editor of Racked, who does not allow anyone to take pictures of her at any time, not caring if she takes them herself. Selfies are embarrassing, she says! As a fashion editor, Julia has had other jobs that required her to keep a meticulous and glamorous Instagram, and that is no longer the life in which she wants to live.
Finally, we speak with Dr. Sarah Diefenbach, professor of market and consumer psychology at the University of Munich. Earlier this year, he co-published a document entitled "The paradox of self-photography: nobody seems to love them, but everyone has a reason to take them." There is a lot of gold there, but we were fascinated to discover that people who take selfies are likely to justify themselves as a "situational" decision, for example, "I'm at the opening of Jake Gyllenhaal's first Broadway musical, I need a photo of me having this incredible experience, although I do not normally take selfies "or" I'm having a special and unique drink night with a dear friend, and I look good and I need to document it just for this time. "When they see other people taking selfies , they assume that the reason behind this is that the person is self-photographed, by nature. This is called fundamental attribution error, and I vaguely remember learning about it in one of the many kinds of "communication" that I slept or read Jezebel in college.
As usual, you can find us anywhere you can find podcasts, including Apple podcasts, Spotify, Google Play Music and our RSS feed. And let yourself get caught in season 1 if you got lost.
Listen to the full audio of the live episode here, and read the transcript of Sarah's interview below.
Kaitlyn: So, what we're talking about today is: why do people take selfies in public? And why do other people feel ashamed when they see it?
Ashley: I feel embarrassed when I take selfies in public, too, as a selfie. So I feel that everyone feels embarrassed on all sides, even though we feel we have to do it.
Sarah Diefenbach: Yes, then, what we call the "selfie paradox" is more or less the ambivalent attitude toward selfies. Everyone is taking them, but they also feel a bit embarrassed and, yes, we put some empirical data to this. So, for example, we ask people if they like selfies or if they would like more or less selfies on social networks. And here we really had the majority, more than 80 percent, who said they wanted less selfies on social media. But at the same time, we discovered that almost everyone is contributing and yes, 77 percent reported that they regularly took selfies, so this was an interesting first discovery. Then, everyone takes them, but nobody seems to like it.
In the next step, what our research explores are the possible reasons behind this. Needs and psychological mechanisms. And there we had this interesting finding that people rated selfies of others as very self-presenting, so they saw this kind of narcissistic attitude in it, but few had it for their own selfies. Therefore, on the contrary, people rated their own selfies as quite self-ironic. Therefore, this is an interesting finding: when you are making and publishing your selfies, the impression you make on others can be quite different from what you think it is and what you think is fun and could be a joke.
Kaitlyn: Then, in the newspaper, you mentioned that people could "justify" taking selfies. Could you explain that a little more, the ways in which we justify it to ourselves? For me, if I had to take a selfie in public, I would definitely have to make a wink in this reflection process: "Well, everyone does it, okay, I want a record of me in this place, blah, blah, blah". "I would have to list many reasons before I could do that.
Yes, exactly. So, I think that what they report, also shows some of this ambivalent characteristic of selfies, because, on the one hand, we are aware that it is a kind of self-presentation problem. And we also discovered that it definitely satisfies the needs of self-presentation because people who are very prone to particular strategies of self-presentation in general, such as showing their emotions or highlighting their personal strengths, were also the most popular self-takers. But, on the other hand, you feel that you need some justification for it, so some popular justifications are, for example, to document what is happening because you are usually also publishing your selfie and giving others information about your life, sharing your emotions and feeling. connected to others, to your friends and family. Also, as I mentioned, this ironic aspect. Like: "Well, it's just a little joke and I'll make other people smile who see my selfie."
Ashley: Yes, I think that's the reason why I sometimes see people who take selfies and take it very seriously, like they post it on Instagram and the caption is not a joke at all.
Kaitlyn: like a really serious song lyric.
Ashley: Yes. It's just like, it's okay. I do not know, I feel funny when I see people doing that, but I wonder how they are justifying it. Like, "Today I look good." Maybe that's it, maybe his justification is "I just look good and I want to tell people that I look good".
Kaitlyn: Yes. I was reading this book that quoted another teacher, people say that people who take selfies are narcissistic, but that's crazy because if you were going to say that someone taking a selfie is a narcissist we have to declare to each person under the age of 30 a clinical narcissist. There must be other reasons.
Kaitlyn: That a real mental problem.
I think so, you should not blame the selfies for this phenomenon because it's just a form of self-presentation, and I think it's somewhat natural in some way. People want attention and always wanted attention and it is a natural need, too, to get confirmation from others. So, I think it would be too easy to say that it's just something narcissistic for everyone.
What we also write in the document is that maybe it is part of the magic of the selfies that have this ambiguous character and that you can see it as something really narcissistic and only from the angle of self-presentation, but you can also see it as a new art form or yes, really tell others something about yourself. And there are also some authors who really highlight this more artistic interpretation.
Kaitlyn: So, you did not touch this in your article, but I'm curious if you have thoughts like someone who thinks a lot about selfies, if there is a difference between the feeling of taking a selfie in the privacy of your home versus taking a selfie in public where someone can see you
I think it definitely is. I mean, we do not have an exact research on this, but of course when you're in your house and no one will see how many selfies you did before posting the perfect one. I think this self-presentation will be more obvious, so I think that, for people, it's a higher barrier to taking selfies in public than in private. But at the same time, what we discovered is that taking selfies has become so popular and so widespread that people see it more or less as normal. And what is also a critical aspect is that they are often destroying the moment for others. So, when you, for example, are in a nice place or in a building or something, and this technology comes first … Taking your selfie is the first thing and everything is focused on taking the perfect picture and yes, it does not matter if destroy the sight or are in the way of others.
Kaitlyn: The most interesting thing for me was when you talked about how people have this quote to quote, "distance attitude" towards selfies where they do not feel good about taking them, they really do not want to see them, but if I continue taking selfies, Even if I'm doing it ironically or participating in the classic selfie poses ironically, my selfie still has the effect of increasing the behavior of other people's selfies. It's like a kind of spiral out of control. We can not undo it, whatever.
Yes, I think that's exactly the story. What we found when we asked people about the perceived consequences of selfies, for society and are promoting an illusory world, said that selfies are a threat to self-esteem, because in some cases you can post a selfie and you're waiting for many " I like it "but you get negative comments. And so, in a reflective way, people actually saw more negative than positive consequences of selfies, or saw them as more severe, but they do not seem to see themselves as part of this. They really take a detached attitude and say: "But this is what happens to the world and all the crazy people around me." They have fallen victim to the hype of selfies, but for me it is only once in a while and as a joke and I can handle it. "And if everyone thinks that way, yes, we see the result as it is.
Ashley: So, do you think that in the future, I mean, selfies are not new, it's not a new phenomenon, but you believe in the future, that these attitudes could change or you feel that this is just something that humans are going to think until the end of the selfies?
I think I could go back a bit, because in a few years it will not be that new, so maybe people become more aware that they have to deal in some way with their resources and how they use them. Taking selfies might not be the most rewarding activity for all ages, but the basic mechanisms and this tendency will allow you to see more justified reasons for your own selfies and less justified for the selfies of others. I think this will remain the same because, yes, all this goes back to the basic psychological mechanism and human needs, and I do not think this changes so quickly.