Fran Rosa

25 April 2016


Be Yourselfie: Identity On Social Media

En español: Be Yourselfie: Identidad En Redes Sociales

For me, selfies are also a form of quick communication. When I am working out, and someone tries to start a conversation on Whatsapp, a sweaty selfie is way easier than try to explain where I am, what I am doing, and why it isn’t a good moment for me to engage in conversation.

As the receiver of this kind of selfies are friends or family, I don’t need those pics to have good lighting or composition, or be flattering. Are just a glimpse of a given moment in my life.

But the main use of selfies, or the one who most people use, is to use on social media. I challenged myself to publish one selfie each die during 2015 on Instagram. And the total count for the year was 350 pictures, most of them selfies. Not bad at all for someone who wasn’t used to take pictures of himself.

On the process I learnt taking selfies is an attitude. You get used to look at yourself, and observe yourself. Also identify which moments are suitable for a selfie. Because taking selfies for social media is a lot of work, even if you are (as I was) an opportunist instagrammer that doesn’t stage or prepare much any shot. Each selfie turns into a photo shoot with several takes, changing angles looking for better ligthing, better composition, nice background. And choosing the most flattering result.

You start being too lazy to play with filters, and easily escalate to a set of default tweaks on the image: contrast, brightness, saturation… And some tricks for each kind of shot: blur to have some depth, vignette to compensate a crowded background, warming the light to mimic a sunny day…

My experiment had nothing to do with building an audience, getting likes or anything. That’s why I didn’t bother hashtagging. I just wanted to build the habit of taking pictures of myself with the obligation of making them public. But I wanted those selfies to be the best they could. On one hand, because I developed a sense of self-awareness and self-liking, but also because I wanted to proof I developed some skill as a selfienerd. The ability to master the balance between what I was showing, and what remained out of the picture, projecting a certain image.

That construction, that image I projected on myself on Instagram, had a clear goal: show my way into fitness. So fat loss, muscle growth and some aspects related to a fitness lifestyle were exaggerated. One of the effects of that goal was the sense of linearity, that progress of my body was a steady line. It wasn’t. At some point I gained weight and I lost muscle. But highlighting the aspects I wanted to, you could have a sense of straight progress. There was a tale I was telling.

And it wasn’t a lie. There wasn’t any trick, any pick posted on a wrong date, any editing (beyond Instagram). But at some point it was somehow deceptive. I don’t think social media make us fake. It’s just that the mask humans have being using is now bigger.

We all have a small part of ourselves that is mutable. The most superficial part of our social behavior adapts to the context. We don’t behave the same with our parents or with our friends. Not even with our closest friends and the rest of them. It’s not only a question of etiquette. We make a different tale of ourselves for different groups of people in our life. And we make it just by not bringing certain topics to the conversation, trying to not tell some things about ourselves.

With social media that construction may just be more elaborated, because you may have that same attitude of choosing what goes on the picture and what remains outside of it, building a whole sense of sincerity and openness with a profile in which you’re only showing a tiny part of you.

So, if we consider the image any other people have of us is a fiction based on true events, what used to be a collection of short stories well may be now a graphic novel illustrated with not only images, but also video, stories and everything. It’s not that we are more fake or less genuine now, or that we live more on the social fictional spectrum of our own identity. The mask is bigger now, and we invest more time on it, on making it beautiful. But it doesn’t necessarily has to mean you are less true.

That’s the reason I love sending selfies to my boyfriend. Because not only I don’t need to make an effort to make it fit with a tale about myself (it’s just me), but also I love to remind myself that part of me is still there, and I love to see it and share it with the one I truly love.