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Understanding the concept behind the taking and sharing of selfies

February 15, Understanding the concept behind the taking and sharing of selfies research reveals three categories of selfie takers and dispels the notion that they are inherently narcissistic. Don't count Harper Anderson, Steven Holiday or any of their fellow doctoral students as someone who likes to shine the spotlight on themselves.

Even though their recent study into the motivations behind taking selfies has received immense media attention around the world, they didn't do the study to promote themselves. In fact, it kind of emerged as a way to fill time during the summer. It was just a matter of time before we started talking about doing this research and it all just came together. What they focused on for this research was the motivation behind taking and sharing selfies, and what they found was somewhat surprising.

Those in society who do not frequently take and share selfies are thought to look at those who do as having a strong narcissistic personality. But Anderson, Holiday and the other three researchers, Matthew J. While they found narcissistic qualities in pretty much all those who take and share selfies, they discovered that narcissism really doesn't play as big a role for people taking selfies as one might think.

A lot of what we are finding is just the beginning of new research. Finding and defining According to Holiday and Anderson, in the research they found, the first self-photograph was taken in by photographer Robert Cornelius. But it has been only since the advent of both digital photography and social media that the selfie has gained popularity. Technological advances like smartphones with front-facing cameras paired with social media outlets like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram have led to a generation that frequently posts its life online, whether it's showing themselves in front of a beautiful sunset, at a ball game or understanding the concept behind the taking and sharing of selfies, or just hanging out with friends.

Documenting one's life and where it's lived has become the new norm of society.

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But, as the researchers discovered, there are different motivations for doing so. Those motivations place selfie-takers in one of three categories. Communicators take and share selfies for the purpose of conversation with others, to start a back-and-forth dialogue in order to communicate and memorialize the events happening in their lives.

Self-publicists have the same basic goal as communicators, but with the desire to have the focus of the picture on themselves to where it controls their public image.

The images they share on social media are meant for one-way communication only. Lastly, autobiographers take and share selfies to chronicle their life and everything in it, regardless of who sees it or reacts to it.

Their motivation is not in focusing on themselves but on ensuring history is recorded for posterity.

Thinking about and with “Selfies” in the Classroom

Those who have read the research and posted comments to various media articles have been able to identify themselves and their motivations into one of the three categories that emerged, researchers said. And that is where the researchers had to make sure they were not only asking the right questions but asking enough questions.

To ensure both a quantitative and qualitative approach to the research, the team employed a Q-sort method. That is where researchers choose an exhaustive list of statements on a topic that participants will rank in understanding the concept behind the taking and sharing of selfies according to their personal views. Researchers for this project developed a list of 48 statements that answered the question behind the motivation for taking and sharing selfies.

They culled the statements from anything they could find on social media, applicable threads on Reddit and from general interest articles on the subject. They meticulously refined all of the statements they found by removing any repetitive statements to arrive at the final list. The way a Q-sort works is after they develop the statements, the researchers gather on participant fewer than the number of statements.

Afterward, the participants were interviewed by the researchers regarding why they organized the cards understanding the concept behind the taking and sharing of selfies way they did. All this is placed into statistical analysis software to identify what characteristics participants shared and group them together into like categories.

Anderson and Holiday said they had no preconceived notions of how many groups they wanted to come out of the research, whether it was five or three or whatever. The statistical analysis just produced the number of groups that fit the data best, and the researchers qualitatively reviewed the groups to identify their unique characteristics, producing the names of the three groups — communicators, self-publicists and autobiographers.

Making distinctions Yes, self-publicist does sound a lot like someone who would be narcissistic, and there are some qualities of narcissism in a self-publicist.

Finding and defining

But both Holiday and Anderson said it's important to note the distinction, and Anderson used his sister as an example. Asked by his family if anyone in the family is a self-publicist, he was quick to point out one of his sisters, who likes understanding the concept behind the taking and sharing of selfies post pictures of her and her dog when they go on hikes. That does not, however, make her narcissistic. Understanding the concept behind the taking and sharing of selfies just likes showing everyone what she enjoys doing and is branding herself in a particular way.

The issue comes, the researchers said, when a selfie shared on social media can be taken two different ways because there is no context to give that picture meaning. It all comes from their internal motivation. That motivation is key because many of the statements participants were asked to rank can be found in all three categories, and quite a few of them between the communicator and the self-publicist, which Anderson and Holiday are closest in similarity between the three groups.

Autobiographers, meanwhile, hold on to the memorialization function of selfies stronger than the other two categories, and their desire to record history is their driving motivation more than publicizing what's going on or communicating it to others. Holiday said he was surprised to find the desire for preservation of history or moments was still as strong as it is considering the art of taking a photo, printing it and putting it in a shoebox or photo album for posterity is all but gone from today's society.

They're all right there on your phone or in the cloud.

It was also cool to see there are people like autobiographers who really don't care about the feedback. They want other people to see their selfies but they don't necessarily want any feedback from it. They just want you to see what the world looks like so that it can inspire you and be remembered.

You can be a self-publicist without feeling like you're just looking for attention.

Thinking about and with “Selfies” in the Classroom

Anderson feels selfies as we know them are still just a fad and will eventually be replaced by the next technological advancement. Things like Facebook Live, where people can now share live video on their smartphones, could lead to the next breakthrough. I think people are going to start turning the camera around just like they would if they were at a parade, or the inauguration. People have this certain type of need to have themselves in that picture to show they were there.

For example, this research covered just those who take and share selfies, while ignoring those who don't feel the need to turn the camera on themselves.

Why are those people motivated to stay out of the picture when they take and share photos? Other aspects to investigate could include how the platforms themselves contributed to the rise of understanding the concept behind the taking and sharing of selfies and the profiles of the people who use them, and how motivations change between platforms.

Holiday feels the autobiographer category may eventually disappear and that the communication function will become more and more prevalent as different social media platforms like Snapchat, which focus on the communication purposes of selfies, continue to become more popular.

One thing is for certain. Two Texas Tech doctoral students and their friends from BYU have given the academic and pop culture communities something to think about when it comes to the motivations behind taking and sharing selfies.

To be able to contribute to society in that regard is a really good feeling.