From self to the society, the digital technology has shaken up the power dynamic of representation and entered the domain of a social movement in India with a Sarpanch of Haryana posting his selfie with his daughter. It was from here that the Indian Prime Minister picked the thread and asked the listeners of his periodic Mann Ki Baat broadcast to take up Jaglan's idea of posting a with their daughters on social media. Within hours of the speech, the hashtag #SelfieWithDaughter became a worldwide trend on Twitter. Many, including Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, actor Raajpal Yadav, BJP leaders Shaina NC and Kiran Bedi, etc responded by posting pictures with their daughters or parents.
Idea is to celebrate the birth of a girl child and this has fast turned into a campaign to reinforce the social message. It has created an opportunity to position ourselves to gain recognition, support and ultimately interaction from the targeted social circle. The success of this initiative can be seen with #SelfieWithDaughters becoming a trending topic with thousands of people from around the world flooding social media by posting pictures with their daughters. This can be seen in responses coming from Sweden, Britain, Africa posing with her daughters and many more going viral across the globe and still gaining momentum.
Evidently, idea of a selfie has transformed the way we live and think. This compels us to think as to what is a selfie? How has this idea gained momentum? How did a personal act gain a social prominence? Finally, how this idea is giving birth to a social movement?
First thing first, Oxford Dictionary defines a Selfie as “a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a Smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website.” It originated in Australia almost a decade ago but usage of it didn’t become widespread until the second decade of this century and it has entered in common use in the past year or so. Self-portraits are nothing new, people have been producing them for centuries, with the medium and publication format changing. Oil on canvas gave way to celluloid, which in turn gave way to photographic film and digital media. Technological gadgets like Smartphones and selfie sticks have ensured that selfies are both easier to produce and to share.
They say that ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen but it has gone beyond a dozen in case of selfie. Everybody is doing it. Youth are undergoing selfie syndrome, legislators are clicking their way to public posturing, and celebrities are making news with it. Even the highest political dignitaries from across the globe made the heads turn taking selfie during Nelson Mandela’s funeral. More recently, the Prime Ministers of the world’s two biggest countries, India and China, leaned on each other to make the most politically power-packed selfie in the diplomatic history.
From a social psychological standpoint, the selfie phenomenon seems to stem from two basic human motives. The first is to attract attention from other people. Since people’s positive social outcomes in life require that others know them, people are motivated to get and maintain social attention. By posting selfies, people can keep themselves in other people’s minds. In addition, like all photographs that are posted on line, selfies are used to convey a particular impression of oneself. Through the clothes one wears, one’s expression, staging of the physical setting and the style of the photo, people can convey a particular public image of themselves, presumably one that they think will garner social rewards.
In the age of social media leveraging the selfie trend for social good is fast catching up. The World Wildlife Fund made a big impact with a campaign of pictures of endangered species, captioned “Don’t let this be my last selfie.” Tigers, Rhinoceros, Gorillas and Polar Bears were sent out to snapchat followers and the campaign was an executed example of a philanthropic organisation utilising current trends for a greater purpose.
The self-shot picture has thus transformed into an art form in the age of advanced smartphones. Moving from self to the society, the idea to movement, selfie across the globe has come a long way in positioning ourselves in the globe. From a quest to seek an individual identity to transforming a social reality it has taken a form of a social movement focusing on specific political or social issues. In other words, a selfie has become a vehicle to carry out, resist or undo a social change.
Tanu Jain (The writer is a researcher who writes on contemporary issues)