SELF OR NO SELF, THAT’S THE QUESTION

Why do we like to take selfies so much? The answer is obvious: because we like ourselves. That’s fine, but why do we like to take selfies of ourselves SO MUCH?

A selfie is the most explicit way of what some social psychologists call the social mirror (looking glass self). This human need of understanding ourselves better and above all, of understanding how others see us,is crucial for our psychological development.

The success or failure of our capability to be social beings is defined by our ability to understand how we present ourselves to whomever is in front from us. Before having a discussion with someone we imagine what they will say and what we will answer. Even as children we practice social interactions by playing with our toys and talking to ourselves. As humans we have always been very skillful at putting ourselves in the interlocutor’s position, and in as much as we achieve this, the better interactions we will obtain. For example, a professor, moderator or lecturer will give a better class or lecture as long as as they are able to put themselves in the audience’s shoes. The closer we get to the expectations of others, the better the results we will obtain: we will deliver a more active, easier or more technical presentation.

Therefore, with selfies we focus on what others see, and even more importantly we can make the necessary adjustments to present ourselves the way we think that others expect to see us, we can control the perception of others. The uncertainty that characterizes our era can only be bearable if we believe that there are several things under our control. This is why it is much better to try an angle 80 times until we find the one we want rather than leaving it up to someone else who at the most will make a couple of attempts that will not satisfy us.

Let´s be honest: our fanaticism for selfies is not something that defines us (although many of us team members love them). They don’t completely convince us because:

  1. From an aesthetic point of view; as much as front cameras have improved, it is not a flattering angle!
  2. It stills seems rather strange that in parks, coffee shops, etc., there are people taking selfies…. intimate moments in public places. (If it weren’t so intimate, why are there so many selfies in bathroom mirrors, why don’t we do it in front of our friends?) The irony is that this intimate moment is posted everywhere and we wait anxiously for all the like notifications.
  3. For a long time taking photographs in tourist sites was a social activity; we would approach someone and ask them to take a photo of us, this unknown person would agree and after exchanging smiles we would go back to our activity admitting to ourselves that we need others; that this unknown person helped us to store a valuable memory of a trip, a graduation or a birthday. Nowadays it would seem that we are self-sufficient and that there is no need to interact with anyone.We simply stretch our arm and find that angle after 10 attempts and the church, monument or beach sunset is behind us occupying only ¼ of the picture, while ¾ enjoys our beautiful face in our favorite angle.

But getting back to our cross- sectional analysis, this hyper-careful handling of our image on social networks reminds us of another “entity” whose constant concern is how others see them, and they are built based on the others’ feedback…yes, you guessed it…the brands!

As a brand, we find many lessons in the energy and attention that people invest in building their personal brand. Taking care of the equity of every post, be it the copy of the photograph, the filter or the type of selfie. It´s funny but sometimes the photographs of common everyday people seem to be more tended to than those of several brands. Although in the end both take their target audience into account, the personal selfies are much more authentic and they handle a level of intimacy that the coldness of a brand has the challenge of surpassing. This also happens to us (@higspeedsolutions). Even though we try to put ourselves in the others’ place, it seems that as brands we decide how we want to be seen unilaterally, without considering if our audience is going to extract the same thing that we want to communicate.

So what could be the equivalent of a selfie for a brand? The brand would have to be aware of how it sees itself, what it wants to project and how it plans to do it in order to transmit a becoming angle. The challenge lies in not falling in the “selfish” aspect of selfies, not abusing the idea of control and taking into account how the others see us and what they want to see. Sometimes the help of someone else taking a photograph of ourselves will allow us to see a side that we don´t consider attractive for ourselves nor for others.