But first, let me take a #Selfie…is this the ultimate in Vanity PR?

At the moment you cannot avoid it. There is even a song about it. From no make up versions to power pouts, it’s a trend you can’t seem to escape and it looks like it’s going to be around for a while.

But first, let me take a… The Chainsmokers and the infamous #selfie song!
But first, let me take a… The Chainsmokers infamous song!

Love them or hate them, you have to question what kind of culture they are fostering online? And is it restricted to gender? Tragically a man recently became a selfie recluse and tried to kill himself when he couldn’t obtain what he deemed to be the perfect picture. It’s an extreme example, but an example none the less. This sounds like it has taken the form of addiction but in the case of Eat Pray Love star, James Franco, he know’s exactly what he’s doing. An article in Marie Claire has researched that he is full aware that in the age of hyper-connectivity and online noise, attention is power. Cornelissen, author of Corporate Communciations: a guide to theory and practice, identifies a power, urgency and legitimacy model when it comes to stakeholder salience. People taking selfies can become powerful stakeholders if they gain adequate enough attention. Last night James Franco posted an almost nude and very odd selfie and removed it an hour later (Marie Claire have captured it though, take a look). What did it create? Attention, everyone’s currently talking about…James Franco. Everyone will be paying attention to his twitter account for a little while, so whatever he says is going to have an enhanced focus and a larger reach and therefore when you are trying to be heard amongst the crowd this can be a powerful tool. Large companies are starting to recognise that they could potentially be a profitable trend too. Samsung have identified that selfies are powerful and have decided to capitalise upon it releasing a selfie-specific camera. To be fair, the camera is actually very cool, with some super features, but it does lead to asking the question what or where next for the selfie?

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Space selfies already exist – what next?!

There is also the element of people who are fishing for compliments. Cancer Research UK not only identified this trend but also harnessed it as a PR campaign, which ultimately used vanity PR and converted it into direct donations, the charities main aim. It played upon women empowerment, image and personal identity. By women posting not only were they saying they were confident enough to show the world their face make up free, warts and all but they could also align themselves with being a better person, it just screamed ‘Look everyone, not only am I confident, but I’m generous!’ Through the nominations aspect, other women questioned their peers, willing them to participate, but are they really asking ‘Are you a confident and generous person too?’ No one wants to be seen as insecure or a scrooge! Ultimately it generated a lot of money for charity, which can only be a good thing, I’m just not sure I fully agree with the method, but no one can deny it was a clever PR campaign.

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‘THAT’ Oscars selfie!
Do you pout?
Do you pout?
Or do you look longingly?
Or do you look longingly?

Having not grown up in the age of the selfie I can’t help but think of the impression it may have had on me. Teen Vogue take a psychological stance and address the issue of low self esteem recommending a shift in perspective if all you are looking for are comments. The advice they give is healthy, they don’t say selfies are bad but to make sure they are fun and avoid excessive use. I think it’s important that influencers like Teen Vogue do put out positive messages like this so there is some guidance for people growing up in an ever-image obsessed world. The ‘What I see’ project discusses both sides of the selfie but within a feminist context with a dose of philosophical musings and makes for a very interesting contribution to the debate.

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Would Marilyn Monroe have taken a selfie?
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Will selfies become modern art?

Grace Dent who writes for The Independent also makes the argument that selfies are about self-branding, celebrity-alignment, social climbing and proof of happiness. The more I read the more negative it gets. Are there positive aspects to the selfie? Perhaps I don’t understand the selfie. Do we need to prove to other people that we are happy? What constitutes happiness? Do people want to see others pouting in front of the camera?

What do you think?

Share your comments below, or if you find any good articles or points of view please post them too!

5 thoughts on “But first, let me take a #Selfie…is this the ultimate in Vanity PR?

  1. A great article, Rebecca. My jaw hit the floor at your ponderance over whether #selfies could become modern art, because I now truly believe that they will! It is a phenomenon that – love it or hate it – is here to stay.

    Yes, selfies can gain attention and therefore leverage a person and their brand, which can generate more online traffic and job or other opportunities. However, I find that if done too seriously, a selfie really diminishes one’s existing brand and makes them appear tacky.

    Me personally – I am guilty of having indulged in the odd selfie, but none are serious faces or pouts because I know that I hate to see that, as it makes one appear self-absorbed.

    Reading this as I write it has made me realised that maybe I am self-absorbed! The very notion of having a game plan of “what-not-to-do when taking a selfie” is exactly the behaviour I thought I despised. If I’m to be honest, I have on several occasions though to myself “well, I’m 27 now, my looks won’t last forever, so I’d like to have evidence that I looked alright in the day… I’ll just take one selfie”.

    The selfie revolution definitely comes with many more underlying sociological themes of narcissism, attention seeking, self image obsession, social climbing and (most of all) to show or prove to others that you are happy… And sometimes that you just plain look good today.

    “Selfie” is still a bittersweet word when I hear it, but over time I think it will just be a standard method of sharing visual content online. In saying that, I do worry for my children’s sake when I think about the infamous Instagram #aftersexselfie trend and that ridiculous song ‘Selfie’ and the airhead girls that feature within it, and wonder “what will the next craze be after the selfie”…

    1. Running with Wolves- sorry it’s taken me so long! I was newer to WordPress back then and it took me a while to figure out what was going on- so my apologies. Having now finished my Masters degree I’m not so stressed out and I have figured it out. I loved your response. I think it was so honest of you, I’m guilty of taking the odd picture too. What do you think of the latest developments? The ALS bucket challenge and the movement towards more videos/vines that have taken hold of social media? Would be great to know your opinion. Hope you’re still out there 🙂 Bex – Bright Lights Big City

  2. First of all, Rebecca, congratulations on writing a post that is obviously getting some traction out there. Well done!

    Speaking as an older Baby Boomer, I hate to disillusion anyone, but selfies are not the recent phenomenon many like to claim. I took the very occasional selfie with a conventional emulsion film camera (a Minolta) as far back as 1975, simply by pointing the camera at my own reflection in a mirror; others have done the same.

    I regret I no longer have the print to share with anyone, but selfies predate the hand held cell phone by at least one or two generations, if not more.

    Nevertheless, your post is successful and you should be proud: you’re collecting views and eyeballs, which is what it’s all about… what you might call — for want of a better term — a “somebody else-ie!”

    I look forward to your future posts!

    All best,

    Jay Pochapin

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