This is going to be an interesting topic to go over and I’m excited to share my findings. But first, let me take a selfie.
Er, well, put some on here.
Those are some nice pics, dawg, but why oh why did I post them? Think about it for a second. What do all these pictures have in common? Sweatshirts? No. Heights? Well kind of but no. How about the location? Well, I hope not! There might be some obvious similarities, but what is the overall theme that these and all selfies have? Simple, branding. Not just any branding, personal branding.
“Objection!!!!” you ring in with god awful shrill, “Selfies aren’t for ‘branding,’ they are for just fun!” Oh really, fun???
Well you are wrong…kind of.
Selfies are one of the most “complicated” trends of recent years. A selfie is defined in a couple of ways. Oxford dictionary states that it’s simply a picture taken of yourself, by yourself. That’s not really right, is it? Urban Dictionary (which over the years has become more credible than most news sites) defines selfie as taking a picture of yourself to post on social media to show that you have no friends so you hope that the picture brings in waves of friends. Admittedly, that definition takes it to another level of obscurity and sadness, but they are right. A selfie is not something you take for yourself, it’s something you take for everyone else.
Still don’t believe me, take for example the first ever occurrence of the word selfie. Lexicographers believe that Nathan Hope of Australia during the far away year 2002 was the first person to use the word as we do today. Nathan was at a “mates 21” party and fell over after what I assume was three occasions of Edward Forty-hands of Fosters (I know, I know, Australians don’t really like Fosters that much). He busted his lip and took a picture of it. The article states that he posted a picture of a horribly unfocused fat lip in a forum with the text “…sorry about the focus, it was a selfie.” For you youngins’, a forum was like our Facebook but for a more specific audience like gun experts or lotion enthusiasts.
Let’s get to the fun stuff now.
Right off the bat, Nathan Hope was pushing his personal brand. How? Easy, he posted it on a forum. A public forum. This isn’t a piece of art, this isn’t flippin’ Monet. This is a blurry picture of a twenty-something Australian male with a wound. He wanted people to see it because he wanted to tell his story, his experience, his *drum roll* brand.
Before I go all analyst on this, let’s get a quick overview of what a “brand” is. How I see brand (and I’m sure you will agree) is the image and expectations of a company/product/person. For example, when you think Apple, you think evil corporation with awful products. Just kidding, people think of reliable products with beautiful design. Also, very over-priced (that’s another argument for another time). That’s Apple’s brand. So what is Nathan Hope’s brand. No one knew until he posted this picture. So what is it? It’s that he likes to party and he is tough. That’s the brand he wants people to see of him in his picture. According to The Telegraph, Dr. Terri Apter says that people take selfies as “a kind of self-definition.”
A personal brand is 100% a self-definition. Well, more of a combination of looking glass self and ideal self. Looking glass self is the personal image for yourself that is indirectly created by others while ideal self is the image that you strive to be. In this case for example, you took a selfie in your Sunday best at a dance. You wanted to show the world who you are in the best situation possible. That is your ideal. However, no one likes the picture. Indirectly, those people changed your perspective on what you thought of yourself.
Let’s go back to the selfies up top. The first one is pretty awesome. Taking a selfie while on a roller coaster with all your closest friends. See, it’s just for fun. Nope, that man in that picture is obviously trying show his personal brand as well as others. Look, he is the guy taking a dangerous group picture and wearing the same shirt as some others. This photo gives his brand a huge notch of “cool” and “fun guy” vibe. Let’s look at the next one. This is a stupid selfie, just taking that picture up there is illegal. Why? Those guys wanted to be noticed as “extreme” or something along those lines (a certain feminine cleaning product comes to mind). Lastly, that cute couple is my roommate and his girlfriend. Now this definitely is just a cute picture. Noooooo way, it’s definitely branding for themselves. I know for a fact that they took multiple pictures to make sure that both looked pristine. This is their brand, they are an attractive couple that travels. End of story.
Of course, people do take selfies just for fun. Nevertheless, they have some sort of intent to show who they are. People who got self-portraits back in the day did it to show that they are important and have some sort of status in this culture. The same goes with selfies. You take them to show your status in this world.
In the end, we all do it. We all know what a selfie does to yourself and to others. It can be good for us. It can be bad for us. Yeah, it is proven that it can cause poor judgment because of the thrill of narcissism. Plus, it isn’t exactly healthy for other people as shown in the issues of self-esteem. However, no matter what a selfie does, we still do it. We want to have a reason to be here in this world and oddly enough, selfies help that flourish. That reason, that self-definition, that brand.