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BYU study shows 3 reasons why people take selfies

By Carter Williams  |  Posted Jan 11th, 2017 @ 7:01pm


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PROVO — Selfies have become a staple of the 21st-century lexicon, and now a new BYU study breaks down why people take and share them.

The study was carried out by five master’s students from BYU — two of whom are now doctoral students at Texas Tech University — that sought after what motivates people to share selfies.

“Years from now, our society’s visual history is going to be largely comprised of selfies,” said BYU master’s student and study co-author Matt Lewis, in a news release. “To find out why people do it, that contributes a lot to the discussion on selfies and visual communication in general.”

Their results, published in the Visual Communication Quarterly in late 2016, found that there are three categories of selfie-takers, which are autobiographers, communicators and self-publicists.

The BYU group isn't the only study that has been done in relation to why people take selfies. In September 2016, researchers are the University of Florida found that narcissism helps fuel the intention to post selfies.

However, the BYU researchers said that most selfie-takers aren't narcissistic; rather, selfies are a form of communication.

Autobiographers, the researchers said, take selfies to record key events or preserve significant memories in their life. An example would be astronaut Scott Kelly’s selfie taken from outer space.

Communicators take selfies to engage with friends, family and followers in two-way conversation, and self-publicists, people such as celebrities, use their selfies to promote themselves in a positive light, the researchers found.

So the next time you post a selfie or see one, there’s likely a reason behind why it was sent.

“It’s a different kind of photography than we’ve ever experienced before. I can go on Facebook or Instagram and see that people have a desire to participate in a conversation,” said Steven Holiday, a BYU master’s graduate and current Texas Tech doctoral student, in a news release.

“It’s an opportunity for them to express themselves and get some kind of return on that expression.”

Carter Williams
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