It’s not hard to find people taking selfies on the streets. Each day, one million selfies are taken on earth (Gram 2015) and more than 200 million photos have been posted on Instagram with the hashtag, #selfie. Apparently, we live in the era of the selfie. But why do people take selfies? The reason is not as simple as having an abundance of narcissists in front of mirrors, but is rather related to the performance of social acts.
People take selfies, not to save them in private camera rolls, but to share them on social networks such as Instagram. Taking selfies thus refers, not to an individual act, but to a social act (Cole 2014). In his concept of the “looking-glass self,” Charles Horton Cooley stated that we see ourselves based on how we think others perceive us. The more “likes” a selfie receives, the more confidence the selfie-taker gains and the more he or she feels popular. As such, it is possible for a person to spend a long time taking, retaking, and editing even a casual-looking selfie prior to posting it online.
This is the kind of “impression management” that Erving Goffman talks about. People act on the basis of giving off certain impressions in the minds of others so that they can control the situation. In this case, selfie takers manage their appearance so that it is seen as favorable, thus controlling how others will think of them.
People want to be accepted, respected, and loved, even in the virtual SNS world, and selfies reflect this human desire.
Featured image taken by the author.