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Why We Take ‘Selfies’

2017-09-05

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  • Why do people take “selfies?”
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  • Researchers at Syracuse University in New York tried to answer that question.
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  • They came up with some surprising answers.
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  • People who post selfies and use editing software to make themselves look better show behavior connected to narcissism, the Syracuse researchers said.
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  • Narcissists are people who think very highly of themselves, especially how they look.
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  • Ji Won Kim, a doctoral student at the university’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, worked on the study.
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  • She said because social media can be superficial, it is a good place for people to “work towards satisfying their own vanity.”
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  • By superficial, she means social media is mostly used by people to share unimportant information about their lives -- not deeply personal issues.
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  • There are other reasons, besides narcissism, that people post selfies.
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  • People who post group selfies show a need for popularity and a need to belong to a group, the Syracuse University research found.
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  • Other findings from the study include:
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  • There are no major differences on how often men and women post selfies and how often they use editing software.
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  • But men who post selfies showed more of a need to be seen as popular than women who posted selfies.
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  • The Newhouse School’s Associate Professor Makana Chock worked on the study.
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  • She said selfies should not be seen as completely negative.
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  • She said some people feel “peer pressure” to post selfies.
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  • And some follow the popular belief that if there is no picture of an event or experience, it did not really happen.
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  • Chock said posting selfies on social media is not all that different from what people have done for many years.
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  • On trips and special events, our parents and grandparents used cameras instead of phones to take photos.
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  • Before social media, people would bring back photos to show friends and family.
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  • You had no choice but to look at them.
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  • If you are a nice person, you commented about how nice everyone in the photos looked, especially children and the person showing the photos.
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  • That was the old way of “clicking” like.
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  • On social media, it is a different experience.
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  • People can decide not to look at photos of their friends and family -- even if they click “like” or even “love” under the Facebook selfie.
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  • Using social media to post photos is pretty new.
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  • Facebook did not start until 2004.
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  • Instagram started in 2010.
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  • It was not until 2013 that the Oxford English language dictionary added the term “selfies.”
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  • It defined selfie as “a photograph that one has taken of oneself.”
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  • Here is how the Syracuse researchers did their study.
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  • They questioned 260 people, aged 18 to 65, and almost evenly divided between men and women.
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  • To determine narcissism, people were asked if they agreed with personality traits connected to narcissism.
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  • For example, people were asked if they agreed with statements such as, “I like to be the center of attention” and “I like having authority over people.”
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  • To determine if those in the study had a need to be seen as popular, people were asked if they agreed with these statements:
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  • “It’s important that people think I’m popular” and “I often do things just to be popular with people at school.”
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  • I'm Bruce Alpert.
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