Andre Cantelmo Photography | Selfie


July 15, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

It was inevitable really, that I would sooner or later get to commenting on the current "Selfie" trend. If you are at all connected to digital media, and since you are reading this online I assume you are, then you've experienced the selfie. You either posted one or enjoyed photos of your friends, relatives, and strangers. Not that long ago, portraits were a formal affair involving skilled professionals, expensive lighting, and your Sunday best clothing. Portraits themselves have become less formal in our era, and once digital cameras offered high quality images and affordability everyone became involved.

Lets go behind the photo and take a look at the psychology that may be behind the current trend. We all look at ourselves in the mirror. Each morning there is that person looking back at you. Mirror images however, are a distortion. They are live and moving for one, and second that face is reversed. A photo is oriented correctly and is a still image. We have come to accept the mirror image as the me I am familiar with, and the photo as an image that we are less familiar. Maybe less comfortable with for reasons to lengthy to go into here. The mirror as well as the photo are reference points for our approval or criticism. We groom our self image via the mirror, so we can present our best selves. We observed ourselves in photographs and either approve of or maybe not. The difference is the mirror image is transient, the photo is sort of permanent and public. With the popularity of the selfie a dynamic is in play, social comparison. It is not long before we start comparing hairstyles, clothing, and activities. Even if we don't verbalize them, questions bounce around in your ego. Am I thin enough? I should really cut my hair you know. Where Is that? That's a great shirt, I should get some new clothes. By the way, the selfie is not new, they go back to the 1800's thanks to mirrors and self timers.

Humans have an instinct to connect with others. We are social animals always aware of our self image, and where we are on the social comparison scale. This is true when you are posing for a selfie, or if you are Pablo Picasso posing for Arnold Newman. We are clearly subject to pack behavior and rank within our pack. This is not a bad thing, it just is who we are. Our social structure is an element in how we survived as a race for so long. The selfie falls into two general categories. The public selfie and the private selfie. Social media via the internet is the major arena for the public selfie. Its here we get the social news of friends and family. It is a good way to connect, especially over long distances. It is also lots of fun. The private selfie is a much more complicated matter. Since the camera has been available to the public, private photography has been practiced. The onset of digital media streamlined the process so anyone can make private photographs. This phenomenon has been in the news, and will continue to be, concerning legal and privacy issues. It seems as if the genie is out of the bottle so to speak in this respect. So much so that international borders are no barrier.

The social environment changes constantly. The selfie will change with societies attitude towards it. We find ourselves complaining about and enjoying the public selfie both at the same time. Issues concerning the public and private versions of this social activity I think are symptoms of our psychology, not technology. We humans will continue to try to understand ourselves and our motives. The key to understanding is linked to our powers of observation. One thing is for sure, our social environment is always changing.


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