Technology (physical and digital) makes it possible, so we do it. But also, we do because both the technology and our culture expect us to.
The selfie is not a new form of expression. Artists have created self-portraits for ages, from cave to classical paintings, to early photography and modern art. What's new about today's selfie is its commonplace nature and its ubiquity. Technological advancement liberated the self-portrait from the art world and gave it to the masses.
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An assumption that sharing selfies is or should be embarrassing runs throughout the journalistic and scholarly coverage on the topic.
When discussing about this practice, descriptors like "vain" and "narcissistic" inevitably become a part of the conversation. Qualifiers like "special occasion," "beautiful location," and "ironic" are used to justify them.
Memes are cultural entities that encourage their own replication. Memes pack a powerful communicative punch with a combination of repetitious imagery and phrases. They are full of symbolic meaning. As such, they compel their replication. If they were meaningless, if they had no cultural currency, they would never become a meme.
In this sense, the selfie is very much a meme - a normative thing that we do that results in a patterned and repetitious way of representing ourselves.
As photos meant to be shared, selfies are not individual acts - they are social acts. Selfies and our presence on social media are a part of an "identity work".
This is the work that we do on a daily basis to ensure that we are seen by others as we wish to be seen. The selfies we take and share are designed to present a particular image of us, and thus, to shape the impression of us held by others.
This term refers to the idea that we have a notion of what others expect of us, or what others would consider a good impression of us, and that this shapes how we present ourselves.
The content shared online is always changing because of the creativity of users who remix, parody, or caption popular images or videos, to create memes.
Memes may seem basic, but from a linguistic point of view, they're remarkably sophisticated, expressing and sharing ideas and opinions.
Historians exploring the past study documents, scriptures, stories of folklore, journals and letters, seeing the various perspectives about how people lived at that time.
Future historians will have tons of material to study the current age, as data is getting accumulated at a record rate across the globe, with emails, text messages, videos, photographs and social media posts.
Each of these mediums provides a rich understanding of life in our times.
Voyeurism, something that was a reality much before reality TV and Instagram stories have always been part of human instinct, and are often illicit or sexual in nature.
Social media, reality TV and entertainment sections of mainstream media have turned us all into voyeurs. The pandemic has increased our average time spent online, where we are consuming information news and updates, more and more curious about what is happening with others.
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