Just when we thought the Internet was over Ellen’s “best selfie ever”, NASA introduces the #globalselfie (Will the madness ever end? Does it have to end?).
In celebration of earth day (April 22) NASA prompted us all to take a selfie and post it to social media using the hashtag #GlobalSelfie. The bonus? NASA* will use the individual pictures tagged to create a mosaic image of Earth built bit by bit with selfies (talk about taking the trend to the next level!). There were selfies of people in landmarks and beautiful sunrises, but there were also people in bathroom stalls and other less than flattering pictures. So why do we do it? Has the need to have a social media imprint won over the need for privacy?
Is there any real value in promoting campaigns for social development using hashtags and selfies? Or are we exploiting the human narcissistic impulse to have more edgerank?
Take 1: The narcissistic approach
I have a love-hate relationship with selfies. For one thing, they are NOT easy to take. Second, I still want to hold on to some privacy on social media, so I limit my exposure; other people choose not to, which is just as valid. Earlier this month the Internet was all a buzz with an article allegedly quoting the American Psychologist Association (APA) on “selfitis” as an obsessive-compulsive disorder. The article on APA’s classification of selfies was only a viral social media hoax (however, if you are taking more than a couple selfies a day, you need to start asking yourself why).
Social media is full of teen’s selfies doing duckface, but Obama, the Pope and even my Mom are into it (the selfie, not the duckface), so there has to be more behind the trend than a desire to earn likes, retweets or push PR stunts.
Take 2: The altruistic approach (form and content)
An article in the New York Magazine depicted selfies as a new artistic genre, just like portraiture or still-life painting. As a means of explaining the format, I believe this to be very valuable analysis, but in terms of content, or rather the symbolism of the selfie I believe “selfies are a metaphor for humanization” (Evan Kraus).
People jump to the occasion when a campaign requests selfies to promote a cause. As a communicator in development I think this is fantastic and hope the individuals are rising to the occasion because they believe in the cause rather than jumping in because it is one more excuse to post their picture. Nevertheless, there is something to be said about selfies that promote and bring back global issues to the human conversation level – self portraits that stand for something larger than the individual: This affects #me – I stand with #you as an individual – I care/support/fight. After all, we are talking about people, not platforms or bits.
*The nice folks at NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) are requesting your photo and location, not to be confused with the NSA people!
Evan Kraus. Future of Diplomacy event April 22, 2014 #digitaldiplomacy @ekraus