When it comes to research, we look for curious patterns that repeat and reflect the most indigenous of occurrences. This makes perfect sense. Self and human behavior reflect time and place. If we can find these trends, we can unlock the most meaningful and relatable signs of local cultures. Knowing such information allows us to quickly jump beyond the step of being a foreigner and comfortably nestle in place with people and cultures we are trying to warm up to.
It’s difficult to find fault in that approach. Think about it. How do we make friends? We look for signs of commonality, but also uniqueness. We ask: What’s uniquely going on here that relates to me? We even go so far as to discover what is NOT like me. We narrow down the variables until we deconstruct things down to their most identifiable elements. And then we choose to bond transcending time, place and age. Or not.
Familiarity breeds respect. And consequently we reflect back into the pool what is most important to us — each time with our own little twist.
Consider: selfies. According to Oxford Dictionaries Online’s most recent quarterly update, a selfie is defined as “a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website.” While self portraits are not new, the sharing of them is.
Are they hubris? Are they social commentary? Technology writer Clive Thompson is cited in the October 20th New York Times article, “My Selfie, Myself” says, “People are wrestling with how they appear to the rest of the world. Taking a photograph is a way of trying to understand how people see you, who you are and what you look like, and there’s nothing wrong with that.”
But because selfies are small frames of information, offering limited context, we tend to dismiss the information they hold. A selfie is as a selfie does. Yet, seemingly small details hold big clues as to the greater meaning of the selfie. Where is the person looking? Is the camera in the frame? Is the shot taken from above or below? How is the head tilted?
One form of selfie can be consistently tracked across the globe. The selfie with the chin-down and big eyes up. This type of selfie is not clearly identified with a single country. It lives across the internet as a type of global ideal — for some. Yet, it is a selfie definitively favoured in Asia. The pose elicits a demure doll-like face, one not dissimilar to the Western style faces seen in plastic surgery ads across Korea.
Before we make hasty judgments about vanity, let’s step back and understand what’s happening with these literal posting of heads. These demure doll-like selfies exhibit a raw vulnerability in the bowing of one’s head. A vulnerability asking outside permission for acceptance. Or perhaps it is the coy veneer of submission? That’s where we return back in search of hidden context.
For a long time to come, selfies will provide us with fodder to explore. Selfies are expected to keep on proliferating. Last week, Facebook opened a 16,000-square-foot cold storage facility next to its two Prineville, Ore., data centers to handle all that photographic data, the Bulletin of Bend, Ore., reported.