Is the #Selfie Epidemic Slowing?

I haven’t taken, or uploaded a #selfie in ages…a trawl through my Instagram feed (@siouxsietench) shows that the last one was uploaded 7 weeks ago.  The #selfie I am referring to is an image of me in my favorite pink VW hoodie, glasses on with my back to a view of the sea and sand dunes, attempting to capture the sunset on holiday (which was amazing and my #Selfie does not do justice to).  Prior to that was one taken a week previous where I was showing off my new glasses and looking particularly smug.

After working on my final degree project (formerly Insta-Rips then re-named “Reaching Out”) and writing my dissertation on Selfies and social media I thought this may be a trend that would continue for ever and ever.  Now though, I’m not so sure… you see, from realising that I have slowed with the #selfie taking I have become aware of the amount of #selfies appearing in my news feeds (on several social media sites) has depleted.  No longer, it seems are my friends and people I follow, taking these images of themselves and posting them up on social media for others to scrutinise daily.

Looking at Google’s Trends page, it seems that the trend for taking #selfies, has indeed dropped.  The trend is shown to have peaked around March – April 2014 and has steadily dropped off as the months have progressed.  The peak between March and April for this kind of photo could be explained by the presence of a campaign to raise awareness and funds for cancer (run by Cancer Research) which saw millions of people take part in a No – Makeup Selfie, the basics being simple to understand – don’t wear makeup, snap a #selfie of self with no make up on, donate money to charity and nominate a friend.  This trend saw countless celebrities backing the cause which in turn encouraged the general public to take part too.  This was a really clever strategy to raise money for the cause but could have manipulated the #Selfie data which means that the figures rose sharply and then fell away.

But, back to the main point of this writing, “I’m not seeing #Selfies PEOPLE!!!!!”  Where have they all gone?  Apart from the odd one uploaded as a friend wants a new “profile pic” and has decided to shoot one themselves (Facebook mainly) or someone is showing off their make-up or hair style (Instagram), I am seeing less and less #selfies taken just because…

I need to examine why I haven’t taken or uploaded any of my own #selfies for a while (7 weeks!!!! I still can’t believe this mostly because at one point in time this was pretty much a daily occurrence!) , I can come up with loads of excuses – I’m busy, I don’t think I look that good, I’ve got no new clothes/shoes/outfits to show off, I’ve been tired, I’ve not done much that is so exciting that I have to take a selfie to share…so many excuses!!!  But are any of them a real reason?  Nope.  The real reason is that I’m not seeing many #selfies from friends anymore, and therefore I am not being influenced by them to create my own, so not snapping myself or uploading as regularly anymore.

Peer pressure, whether we are aware of it or not, really does influence us.  We are visual creatures, and creatures that want to be accepted into the groups that surround us, we want to fit in and be seen to be “cool”.  When our friends stop doing something, something that we used to partake in, it affects us, whether consciously or subconsciously and we alter our behaviour accordingly.  This is the real reason behind my lack of #selfies.  Whether I like it or not, I have been influenced by what I am seeing or not seeing on my news feed.  I want to fit in, be cool and be accepted, no matter that I tell myself that in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter…the reality is that it does.  And it is this reason that the No Make Up selfie cancer campaign worked so well too, we are not just influenced by our friends but by the media and celebrities too, it only takes one celebrity to get noticed for doing something and it to be reported for a trend to start…remember velour tracksuits…I blame Coleen Rooney for that one.  We see celebrities doing, saying or wearing something and we want to emulate them, its our chance of aligning ourselves to them, a case of “if they can do it then I can too”, we idolize celebrities for their wealth, their “famousness”, their coolness and in some ways want a share of that.  Remember the cool kid in school that you wanted to be like so much that you would study their every move, their clothes, how they spoke, what they ate etc, and you would try to copy them?…Its the same thing, we envy what others have and how they are and want to copy them…its natural, its human.  And this is where I find myself now, I started with the #selfie trend as everyone else was doing it and now, Ive slowed with the images as I’m not seeing them so much anymore…

So, in the future, unless the #selfie culture booms again, you can expect the odd #selfie on my feed but probably more images of what really matters to me (my vintage car, my nails, my artwork and other things that make me happy), ultimately moments I want to preserve and share.

But for now… Let me take a selfie…. (The Chainsmokers – Selfie)

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Insta-Rips and Anti-Social Media (Part 2)

I started to look at the “social media” aspect of #selfie images and how a lot of the images are taken in bedrooms or other places in the house, often away from any “friends” and then uploaded onto the internet for “friends” to look at, like and comment on which seemed to me a bit anti-social.  I then started looking at how we use social media and found a lot of people update their statuses and interact with people on-line when they are alone, either at home or travelling, either way, not really interacting with any human beings in the real world.  This struck me as such an odd thing to do, speak to people on-line via texting or typing messages back and fore, rather than communicating in a more natural way, like speaking face to face.  Conversing over the internet leaves out a whole lot of other communication skills that we have developed over-time and have began to use without even thinking about it, for example, reading body language.  We can tell when someone is approachable, happy, angry, sad, friendly within seconds, just by our ability to analyse how that person stands, how their arms are positioned, how they lean against something which we loose when using social media.  We also can not establish that persons voice tone, typing makes it harder to convey a sense of feeling and with that, meaning, its harder to decipher a text written in a certain way than someones tone of voice.  We also loose other expressions like those minuscule movements of a persons face which give away boredom or hope.  And then the hands, we use our hands to communicate so much, whether its waving to say “hi” or hold someones hand in a show of sympathy or care, or even when waving them around, gesticulating when we speak, that is lost too.  But then we are still using our hands to communicate to a degree, we are using them to hold our phones, grasp them tightly, hold them high to take #selfies, and to type messages out to our “friends” which then becomes a gesture, we use them more as tools to convey the idea that we are being “social” by using these sites.

I started to look at how we hold our phones and the similarities in hand gestures and realized that they were not so far apart.  I have begun to move away from the Insta-Rips and am now concentrating on taking photos of peoples hands, in the poses we see people holding them in when taking #selfies specially, but without the phone present to see what they would look like.

Below is the first edit I have done.  I have used my friend Alex as a model for me, and have been playing around with crops and whether to include a background or not, so far the white background is my favorite, the black being my second.  I like the uncluttered-ness of the background and the way the focus is all about the hand and nothing else, and I like that the hand is also seeming to “reach-out” from no-where to make contact, much like how social media enables us to reach out and grasp other’s friendship when we are alone.

Insta-Rips and Anti-Social Media (Part 1)

How many times have you skimmed through your social media newsfeed only to be confronted by yet another selfie of someone standing in their room, pouting into the mirror?  Or been out with friends and gone to speak only to be met with tops of heads, while they are engrossed in their phone?  It seems to happen to me, A LOT, so I’m guessing its happening to most people at some point or other.

This project originated from the #selfie culture that seems to be taking over the internet and newsfeeds on most, if not all, social media.  I began by taking my own selfies and originally wanted to use them to create something but I couldn’t fathom what.  I think part of idea formation for me, especially with this project, was that looking at images of myself was a bit too close to try and decipher what I wanted to do with them, for me they were just me and that was that.  I moved on to looking at items which define a selfie, from mirrors to mobiles and the apps with which we share these images on.  I started to look at other peoples images of #selfies and did a Google search using #selfie as the search term.  I came across a website that groups all images shared on Instagram by the words they are # categorized with and started to filter through them, looking for images where the phone was in the shot, and the image taken in a mirror and started to download them to my computer.  I then went back through them and started an editing process where I started to get rid of background in the images that didn’t really seem that interesting or relevant to what I was trying to focus on.  In the end that just left a lot of arms and hands and phones floating around inside frames….

Final Major Project and Dissertation

I know I’ve not written here since July which seems so long ago when in reality it is just a few months.  I am now in my 3rd year of my BA(Hons) PhotoArt degree and I’m starting to struggle with what I am doing, what direction I am going in, what I’m thinking, writing, doing, where my head is at and what I’m producing.  The main subject for my final major project is the “Selfie”.  There’s so much being written about on this subject that it *should* be easy to pick a path to follow for the project.  But I CAN’T.  I seem to have ideas and they don’t seem good enough or when discussed they just don’t seem to have much substance or sticking power, they are half baked and not that creative or imaginative.  I am struggling to know what to do and how to do it.  But perseverance is key and I have ideas to try out, I have no idea whether they will work or if they will be any good but I will try and somewhere along the line I am hoping that everything will make sense and that it will all click into place sooner rather than later.

Summer Project and Dissertation Thoughts

The summer project we were given in uni to work on over the summer was to start researching, looking at and producing work that would see us through our final year and form our final piece, preferably in line with our dissertation which should lead on from our Literature Review that we wrote in the final term of our second year (you can read mine here ).  I wrote about snapshots and how the introduction of technologies, such as the camera phone and DSLR’s, software like Photoshop and photo-sharing (Facebook and Instagram for example) have changed how we take, manipulate and share images.  Many family photo albums have ceased to exist once film cameras have been replaced by digital capture devices, instead these images remain stored as digital data on computers and discs, a selection being uploaded to be shared with friends on social networking sites. 

With this train of thought going on, I have started to turn my attention to the actual images we share.  With software such as Photoshop becoming more affordable and easy to use we can manipulate images we take , never having to share a bad photo again.  I have noticed that many of my friends now go through their images with a fine tooth comb, editing sometimes to the same degree that an advertising image may be edited, before sharing.  Gone are the photos of us with less than perfect skin/teeth/hair etc, as to are the badly framed images where peoples heads are not in the shot, blurry images and those “happy accidents” where the camera has miss-fired and captured something we didn’t mean to capture.  Much of this is down to the image taking capabilities and the method of shooting.  With film cameras we did not have the means to review an image straight away, and the cost meant we couldn’t take images one after the other after the other like we can now.  With film, people were limited to 24 or 36 shots per roll (35mm film) and depending on how much film you could afford to purchase and then pay to get developed, now with digital image taking you are only limited by how many images you can fit onto a memory card or the battery life of your camera.

Anyway, back to images we share, which I’m thinking is where I am going to be focusing my energy for this project and dissertation work…

rene not a pipe

 

I keep seeing this image (above,The Treachery of Images (This is not a pipe) by Rene Magritte) and I am beginning to form links with images we see today.  (Rene Magritte was a surrealist painter from Belgium who lived between 1898 and 1967, the image is currently on display in LA County Museum of Art) .  The image makes us question our relationship to images, this is a pipe, but it’s not a pipe, it is not the actual object but a representation of that object.  In the same way, with photo editing software, we an question photographs and other images we see today, flaws an be removed, skin and eyes made brighter, teeth whitened, people slimmed, backgrounds changed, people an be edited out – a pretty endless list of changes can be made to an image before being shared to the public domain.  Any image we view now needs to be viewed in the same way as Rene’s work as many of the images we see are just representations, not a actual truth which could be captured and less easily manipulated when using film to make images.

With film though, and its the same with digital image capture, as a viewer we are never really sure if an image has been staged to look a certain way or if it is spontaneous, for example, I could decorate my house out with all the Christmas paraphernalia and take images supposedly showing the festive season but have taken them in June… the viewer could come to the conclusion that the images were actually made in December but the truth is way out.

This all then brings me to advertising campaigns, with all this photo-editing going on in our own homes, and fairly easily at that given that there are you tube tutorials for just about anything and everything you could ever want to do, we, as viewers are more likely to question adverts.  But this is not my point… With all images being edited to some extent or other, our “snapshots” that we share have become an advert, something carefully constructed, and thought about in terms of how we are seen in these images by the viewers of them.  As image takers and sharers we are fully aware of what the images we are seen in say about us.  We want to be like the models in adverts with the perfect skin, glossy hair, having fun, being fashionable, being popular etc… that we only ever share the best images of us.

Anyway, this is just a few of the thoughts going around in my head at the moment with regard to my dissertation…

For the project that runs alongside my dissertation I have been looking at film snapshots and Corrine Day in particular as she has shot many projects in the style of snapshot photography, Diary (some images from this project can be viewed on her site here) being one of them.  I am unsure which direction to go in with snapshot photography as I have a few directions and interests on this subject – one of those being to take my own snapshots and focus, possibly, on re-creating or making snapshots of everything I would normally use digital imaging for, or look at the extinction of film photography and photographs, family albums as actual objects, and old film created photographs as the precious objects they once were.

New Project!

I’ve not blogged about what I have been up to for a bit as I have been writing a literature review for uni (3500 words) which has now been submitted for grading.  Alongside that I have been working on my final project of the year which has been about social media, sharing information and is part of our end of year module “Voyeurism, Surveillance and Control.”  My work was shown in our university course’s end of year exhibition “Power and Control” so a week of my life was taken up with sorting that out.  There will  be a few posts covering all of this in the near future.

The most exciting thing that has happened to me is the Pontypool project that I was working on last term, my friend and I met up with artist-in-residence for Pontypool, Alexia Mellor and became her “Consultants-In-Training”, we passed this with flying colours and are now part of her legacy for the town.  our first ever newsletter is available to read, from the beginnings, to a brief outline of our projects to what we are planning!  More info an be found here, so please take a look and let me know what you think!!!  😀  There will be further updates on this project and all of the other projects I have been working on soon!

 

My Final Piece as a FAMD Student

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We set up this at the beginning of the week for the exhibition which started today , the opening night!  I have kept much of this work under wraps as I didn’t want to spoil it for anyone who may have been going to see it but now I can reveal the last part of it…  So here goes, let me know what you think!