Researchers reveal there are basically three types of selfie takers... and most of them aren't self-publicists
It may sound a little bit hard to believe but new research suggests not everyone who posts selfies is self-obsessed.
A study by Brigham Young University (BYU) investigating what motivates people to take and share selfies has found, rather surprisingly, narcissistic motives are not the top reason.
After conducting surveys and interviews, BYU communications students identified three categories of selfie-takers: communicators, autobiographers and self-publicists.
And defying common perception, self-publicists are actually the smallest of the three groups.
“It’s important to recognise that not everyone is a narcissist,” says study co-author Steven Holiday.
Fellow co-author Harper Anderson defines “self-publicists” as those “who love documenting their entire lives”.
She adds: “And in documenting and sharing their lives, they’re hoping to present themselves and their stories in a positive light.”
Communicators take selfies primarily to engage their friends, family or followers in a conversation.
As co-author and current student Maureen Elinzano explains: “They’re all about two-way communication.”
Communicators want to spark a conversation – think hashtag movements like Emma Watson’s #HeForShe, Anne Hathaway’s #IVoted and Tess Holliday’s #EffYourBeautyStandards.
The second group – who are autobiographers – use selfies as means to record important life events. Researchers say autobiographers aren’t necessarily seeking engagement like communicators, but may still want other people to see their photos.
Self-publicists, on the other hand, are people who love documenting their entire lives. Researchers say people in this category include Taylor Swift, Katy Perry and the Kardashian sisters.
Holiday says identifying the three groups is important because “it’s a different kind of photography than we’ve ever experienced before”, adding: “It’s an opportunity for them to express themselves and get some kind of return on that expression.”
Co-author Matt Lewis believes understanding people’s motives can be valuable, “because years from now, our society’s visual history is going to be largely comprised of selfies”.
He adds: “To find out why people do it, that contributes a lot to the discussion on selfies and visual communication in general.”
The study is published in the journal Visual Communication Quarterly.