By John Salak –
It is a stretch for many people to accept. The Ohio State University claims that the endless stream of selfies—those look at me smiling with my head cocked to one side photos—are not about digital showing off, otherwise known as vanity snaps. No, Buckeye researchers claim that individuals putting themselves in the center of a photo depicts the desire to reflect the deeper meaning of the event in their lives.
“We found that people have a natural intuition about which perspective to take to capture what they want out of the photo,” reported the study’s lead author Zachary Niese, a Ph.D. graduate of The Ohio State University.
A colleague of Niese’s was quick to add that their results also counter the belief that people post selfies on sites like Instagram to promote themselves.
“These photos with you in it can document the bigger meaning of a moment,” added study co-author Lisa Libby, professor of psychology at Ohio State.
The researchers noted that previous research suggested that capturing the physical experience of an event or its broader meaning could be two important motivations for taking personal photos. They cite examples such as someone at the beach with a friend taking a photo of the ocean to capture the surrounding beauty or the magic of a relaxing day. Selfies can also record the bigger meaning of spending time with a friend.
The research team concluded after conducting six studies involving 2,113 participants exploring the impact of perspective in personal photography. Among other results, the investigation showed that participants thought photos, where they were in the shot, made them see the bigger meaning of the moment.
“We found that people didn’t like their photo as much if there was a mismatch between the photo perspective and their goal in taking the photo,” Libby added.
Well, perhaps Niese, Libby and the rest of the Ohio State team are correct in the national and international obsession with taking selfies reflects a drive to find, project and post images with deeper personal meaning. If that’s the case and simple vanity isn’t involved, then millions of people are taking and posting “meaningful” photos of themselves.
It is estimated close to 100 million selfies are taken every day, and more than 50 percent of millennials have published at least one selfie, according to Phototurorial.com. Young people are particularly adept at finding meaning through smartphone phones as the average age of a self-taker is 24, and more than 95 percent of young adults have taken selfies. The meaning reflected in selfies is seemingly positive, as 60 percent of people are smiling in these photos whether their heads are cocked or not.
Phototutorial.com notes individuals, on average, spend 54 hours a year taking selfies, which by some estimates is 50 percent more than people, especially younger adults, spend reading.
Smiles or not, Niese, nonetheless, maintains his research represents a breakthrough in understanding the psychology behind selfies. He maintains the results also suggest people may be posting photos on Instagram and elsewhere for more than just their audience.
“This work suggests people also have very personal motives for taking photos. Even on social media, it appears that people are curating images for themselves to look back on to capture the experience or the meaning of the event,” he said.