Unless you’ve been living under a rock, we have all come across a ‘selfie’. Whether it is through ‘liking’ a friend’s selfie on social media, taking one yourself or just stumbling past the renowned, controversial Kim Kardashian nude selfie on the news, we’ve all been confronted with selfies. Ones, more influential and representative than others, the selfie trend has grown immensely and have evolved to be generated for various reasons.
Self- portraits have always been around, but the term ‘selfie’ and their growth have been identified due to the increasing availability and production of front camera phones and social media. Growing online platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat are enforcing the production and circulation of self- generated digital photographs. It was reported by ‘Google that approximately 93 million selfies were taken per day on Android models alone in 2014 (Brandt, 2014)’. Many argue that selfies are a form of self- expression while others identify it as an influencing force of a narcissist culture, however, it comes down to the context of the image and what it’s used for.
Selfies have become significantly influential in regards to women and their self- branding online. It’s transitioned to be more than just a photograph that’s posted on Instagram. For some organisations, selfies are an advertising tool to endorse their products through micro- celebrities. The idea of the micro- celebrity has increased significantly with individuals taking selfies and posting them online; drawing a huge following and attention from the public, fans and sponsors. However, it also brings an airbrushed, unnatural representation of themselves, creating a brand from the self- representation they are trying to achieve through their selfies.
In 2015, Australian YouTuber and Instagram micro- celebrity, Essena O’Neill, posted a video for her 500,000 followers discussing her decision to quit social media. She deleted all her sponsored posts and dramatically edited the captions identifying the hours of effort it took to gain a single, ‘perfect’ photo for Instagram that wasn’t ‘real life’.
O’Neill captioned her photo stating that ‘Instagram girls only show you what they want; sucked in stomach, strategic poses, pushed up boobs, wearing clothes from a company with no purpose’. Gaining $2000AUD per photo featuring marketing products, it was her main source of income. O’Neill discussed that power social media had over her; transitioning to someone who ‘validated their self- esteem and self- worth over likes and comments’. She created a brand and online persona that dramatically described a perfect, luxurious, lifestyle in the hopes to gain social approval and fame.
Other micro- celebrities such as Kayla Itsines, a 24 year old personal trainer, branded herself on Instagram through her #fitspiration posts. Her fame rose due to various posts of clients who had dramatic weight loss and muscle transformations. With 5.7million followers she created her own athletic clothing line, fitness studios, ‘Sweat with Kayla’ app and Beach Body Guides that have proven to be successful worldwide, making her a renowned fitness micro- celebrity.
In the 21st century digital age, it’s challenging to neglect the influence of a selfie, however there will always be discussion and disapproval over its powerful influence or narcissistic self-presentation. It’s easy to manipulate images through Photoshop and photo editing apps, but also by presenting an unrealistic image of themselves that abandons reality. However, once they are posted online, you can’t control the way people interpret the image.
Berger, A 2011, ‘The Branded Self: On the Semiotics of Identity’, The American Sociologist, vol. 42, no. 2/3, pp. 232-237.
Hunt, E 2015, ‘Essena O’Neill quits Instagram claiming Social Media ‘is not real life’, The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/media/2015/nov/03/instagram-star-essena-oneill-quits-2d-life-to-reveal-true-story-behind-images visited March 17th.
Ohlheiser, A 2016, ‘Essena O’Neill: what happened in the months after Instagram star quit social media’, Independent UK. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/essena-o-neill-what-happened-in-the-months-after-instagram-star-quit-social-media-a6800856.html visited March 17th