At Arm's Length


In this project, I will be analyzing how we see ourselves through technology. I will also be looking at the history of the selfie and how teen's today perceive themselves through it. To begin, a background on a few of the social media mediums I will be using and on the background of the selfie.

Twitter: An online social networking service that enables users to send and read short 140-long character messages called "tweets." Created in March of 2006, registered users can use Twitter on a website interface, SMS, or mobile device app. Registered users can read and post tweets, but those who are unregistered can only read them.

Facebook: An online social networking service that was launched in 2004. After registering to use the site, users can create a user profile, add other users as "friends", exchange messages, post status updates and photos, share videos, use various apps and receive notifications when others update their profiles. Users can also join common-interest user groups, organized by workplace, school or college, or other characteristics. Users can organize their friends into groups as well. Available via website interface, SMS, or mobile device app.

Instagram: An online mobile photo-sharing, video-sharing, and social networking service that enables its users to take pictures and videos, and share them either publicly or privately on the app, as well as through a variety of other social networking platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Flickr. One of the most distinctive features of Instagram was that it confided photos to a square shape, similar to Kodak Instamatic and Polaroid images, in contrast to the radio of a typical mobile device camera. In 2015, users could post photos captured in any aspect ratio. Users can also apply digital filters to their images. The free app was created in 2010.

Selfie: A selfie is a self-portrait photograph, typically taken with a digital camera or camera phone held in hand or supported by a selfie stick, which is a monopod used to take selfie photographs by positioning a smartphone or camera beyond the normal range of the arm. Selfies are often shared on social networking services such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Selfies are supposed to be flattering and made to appear casual. Most selfies are taken with a camera held at arm's length or pointed at a mirror, rather than by using a self-timer.

Ally Brazier using her selfie stick.


Selfies Or You Don't Exist

In an article published in The New York Times in 2015, author Kate Murphy dubbs selfie sticks as "narcisticks" and begins her article discussing how the picture-perfecting tools have recently been banned at Disneyland, Comic-Con and the Coachella music festival. Murphy goes on to claim that most research on selfies reveal that people who take a lot of them tend to have narcissistic, psychopathic, and Machiavellian personality traits--not to say that everyone who takes a selfie is a psychopath, but it does imply a high need for self-gratification, particularly if they are posted online for social approval, she says.

"That said," she writes, "selfies can also be seen as simply another form of communication. After all, a test is only 160 characters but a picture is worth a thousand words. And many in the technology field argue that selfies are a source of empowerment because they grant individuals a high degree of control over how they present themselves to the world."

According to the article, with body-slimming, skin-smoothing and age-defying filters and apps, people can make themselves look better than their true selves. The American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery reports a marked increase in demand for cosmetic surgery as people become disappointed comparing their selfies with the images they see in the mirror. Selfies can also create a historical record of one's life, Murphy reports, if maybe even a little better than reality. They show the world what you are doing and who you are with and how incredibly fun it all is. You often hear the refrain, "Pics or it didn't happen." This implies the corollary, "Selfies or you don't exist."

We participated in the 2015 Color Run. Thank goodness there is photographic proof, otherwise it didn't happen.

What Selfie Sticks Really Tell Us About Ourselves
The New York Times
Kate Murphy
Aug. 8, 2015
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