Why we post


Social media through the eyes of the world


There are many different genres of selfie

Perhaps because the word ‘selfie’ sounds like selfish, the activity of people taking their own photo with a smartphone and posting it on social media has become associated with self-obsession. But our research reveals a much more varied picture of selfies taken for different purposes.


Here we see that there are three main genres of selfie posted by local school-children: `classic’ selfies showing only an individual, ‘groupies’ showing friendship groups (which were five times more common on Facebook) and ‘uglies’ showing individuals from an unattractive angle.


In northern Chile, rather than selfies representing an individualistic performance, they are a way for people to display visually their connections to others. People have also created a type of selfie entirely unique to their region: the ‘footie’. This genre of selfie depicts only a person's feet while sitting watching TV, indicating relaxation.


Ugly people like us


By contrast in this fieldsite young people are concerned with the 'classic' selfie (although that does include the group selfie), and their perceived obligation to look good. Often teenage girls will take dozens of photos and change make-up and outfits before settling on the right shot.


Similarly, here we find an emphasis on the ‘classic’ selfie. The gym is a favourite selfie location for people aspiring to upward social mobility. It's a place where they can craft their image at the same time as crafting their bodies.


Selfies taken by older teenage girls don’t just focus on the face or make-up – instead it’s the look or style of a full outfit that’s on show.


The multi-faceted selfie

Rural China

Here young women often use special apps to add cartoon-like effects such as stars, flowers and even moustaches to their selfies, before posting these ‘cute’ images on social media.

Industrial China

Young men are often just as concerned about their online appearance as women. Since they worry about their height, their selfies often depict them with hairstyles that make them look taller.


Many people in southeast Turkey feel Facebook should be a formal space, so they rarely post selfies, preferring images that are taken by someone else. Similarly in south India, people from low income families generally don’t feel a selfie would show them in a good light.