While most pop-culture trends are linked to a specific age group, posting selfies — photos you take of yourself — has become a multigenerational communications instrument.
Selfies are photos taken at arm’s length or in a mirror, with a camera phone or digital camera and quickly posted to social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat or Instagram.
Selfies can show that you are out there celebrating life. The Pyramids and the Great Wall of China can form the backdrop. Or you can post 45 different views of your new hairstyle.
Selfie postings aren’t limited to teens and young adults. A Google search reveals selfies from popular musicians Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus to Pope Francis, shown grinning ear to ear with Palm Sunday worshippers at the Vatican, to Pres. Barack Obama taking a selfie with Bill Nye the Science Guy. And of course there’s the tweet by Ellen DeGeneres pictured with several celebrities earlier this spring — the Oscar selfie that was re-tweeted three million times.
There’s even an online calculator that will rate the popularity of your selfie. Check out www.popularity.csail.mit.edu.
“I know a lot of people are really taking it seriously,” said Dr. Paul Heintz, an industrial organizational psychologist and psychology/human sexuality professor at Edison College in southwestern Ohio. “This is a different media, a technique in order for teenagers especially, to create their self-image.”
Heintz also says that what would be “normal interaction” between a couple of close friends or family members, has become like “walking to the front of the classroom” to ask “How do you like my dress? How do you like my hair? My thought is as long as you don’t take it too seriously, it’s just an expression.”
Soon-to-be high school grad Rachel Zelnick says she’s always mindful of the selfies she and her friends post to social media.
“I don’t think a lot of people are aware of what other people can find on the Internet,” Zelnick said. “A lot of youth think it’s not going to affect them. I’m conscious of what I post.”
Zelnick also said part of the “fun” of posting selfies is the fact that it’s not planned. “A group of friends get together to hang out and someone says ‘hey, let’s take a selfie.’”
Ashley Fraley, 26, of Cridersville, a professional photographer, said, “I think pictures say a thousand words. You’ll always have them and can always look back on them.”
Fraley, who currently has about 4,000 photos stored on her phone, and several hundreds posted to her Instagram and Facebook pages, said she loves posting selfies because it’s a way to get different kinds of feedback from friends.
“People feel good when they get likes,” Fraley said, referring to the “like” option on a social media site. “Liking” something shows your approval or agreement on a photo, a comment or a page.
Fraley, who recently lost 76 pounds, posted a before-and-after photo on Instagram and Facebook a couple of weeks ago. It received more than 80 “likes” from friends on each site.
Dave Shaner, 57, of St. Marys, said he’s only taken a couple of selfies. As a hobbyist photographer, Shaner said he likes to post his photos to social media. He and others on the site like to critique and comment on each other’s photos.
Shaner said, “I’m usually the guy behind the camera. People see my photos all of the time but don’t see me. I’ve taken some selfies to show them who I am.”
Aaliyah Dixon, 17, who attends Lima Senior High School, said, “I like taking pictures, so whenever I’m around someone or something I like, I take a picture.”
Dixon’s social media preferences are Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and Facebook. “It’s a way to connect with others and show them what you’re doing,” Dixon said.
“I love to sing, dance and choreograph dances. I post my videos on Instagram,” Dixon said.
Dixon also shared a time when she posted a selfie to a social media site and got slightly different feedback than she had hoped.
“I was at the mall one time and took a picture of a shirt I liked and posted it to see if my friends liked it. Then my mom saw it and was like, ‘What are you doing at the mall? You’re not supposed to be there,’” Dixon laughed.
Caitlin Duff, 15, of Cridersville, also shared a funny story about posting a selfie.
“There was a time when my friend was over and we had my trash can and were burning stuff. I took a selfie and posted it on Facebook and my mom saw it. I got in trouble,” Duff said.
Duff explained that she likes to post her selfies with interesting things in the background, such as football or basketball games.
Duff said she mostly posts selfies for profile pictures on social media sites and to “kind of be in control” of the photo and how it looks.
Rick Cartwright, president of newmediadayton.com, in Dayton, cautions young people to “be smart” with their postings.
“Social media is great, and many individuals use it to keep up with family and friends. When posting on online, it’s important to remember that potential employers, educators or others may view what you post.
Selfies are a lot of fun, too, and there is nothing wrong with a fun picture. Just remember the rule still applies — if you post a pic of yourself in a compromised situation, a potential employer too may view it. In general, anything you post online may live a long time, and even after you deleted it, the potential is there for it to be found. Be smart with your posting.”