To Selfie or Not to Selfie? That’s not the Question

The me-first traveller: a person who positively positions himself or herself to be prominently associated with a given experience as opposed to merely presenting an image as a travel experience. Before further developing upon these thoughts, a short video will help to further illustrate my definition, but first let me take a selfie:



We’ve all done it. We are all one of “those people” who instead of taking a picture of something really awesome, we decided to pop our mugs in between us and what we are actually experiencing.

The source for the idea behind this blog post criticizes this approach to capturing the moment. But for me, I’m in too deep to launch any sort of critical argument against the movement. Maybe it’s psychological: we are all vain and self-absorbed. Maybe it’s for the sweet enjoyment of that meaningless online validation. Or maybe, we are all caught in this gigantic tidal wave of a movement.

A few person anecdotes outline my argument that it is hard to avoid this trendy and easy fad.



While studying abroad the University of Melbourne, I told myself that I wanted to document my time in Australia in a few unique ways. Firstly, I wanted to blog. Sadly, my blog sputtered and I’m not even bold enough to link it here. But the major takeaway from my failed blogging attempt is that I didn’t quite have the work ethic to carry onward with any sort of regimented routine. Hey Darnold Blog Stats

The other methodology I employed to capture Australia in a unique “Dan Arnold” light is through the ever-prevalent selfie. I took many selfies during my five-month trip on the other side of the world. And while I initially told myself I would make some sort of comprehensive collage or slideshow of all my pictures, nothing ever really came to being. But in spite of this, I still took selfies all the way from the Outback to the Great Barrier Reef to my journey through New Zealand and my departure from the country. In fact, upon showing some of my pictures from my travels to my older sister, she was pretty upset with the excessive inclusion of my face.


Concluding Thoughts

So why do we use this approach to documenting our time? Why are front-facing cameras now a must in any new cell-phone purchase? Why can’t I just show my family pictures of the beautiful Australian landscape without my face occupying 75% of the shot?

Simply put, I do not know. From my personal experience, it’s out of ease. More broadly speaking, it could be narcissism. It could be the fullest utilization of the technology available to us. Or maybe, it is just something we really do not need to be asking “why” but rather, “so what.” According to an article in TIME from 2013, society over-analyzes the trend. It publically labels it negatively. Society does not like the selfie because it does not deem the photography approach as “normal.”

So who cares if travel quite literally takes on a new face for this generation? We do not need to waste our time deciphering the psychological and emotional charges of the youth. What we need to do is figure out how this affects everything else. The selfie trend is obviously not restricted to abroad experiences.

In my opinion, companies need to find a way to leverage this social media output. This article from Adweek delineates several ways in which the selfie can be a valuable contribution to brand promotion and digital marketing campaigns. Through contests and other creative methods of employing the selfie, the “me-first traveller” is not just a nuisance to his sister, but an important element of an engaging and easy way to spread a company’s message. The selfie is not going away, so we need to stop questioning it, and just embrace it.


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  1. This blog post made me realize how much of a hypocrite I can be. I say I loathe selfies but my Facebook profile has at least a few indulgences in front of Buckingham Palace and the Eiffel Tower. I take dozens of photos of landmarks and landscapes when I travel but for some reason the only ones that make the Facebook cut are those with my face, as you say, “occupying 75% of the shot.” I’ve never really thought about this before. Is it because the photos without tags go virtually unseen or is it because I’m self-obsessed? I’d like to think there’s a middle ground somewhere in there but it certainly warrants a dialogue about our generation’s egoism – perhaps best exemplified in social media. There was an earlier blog post, I wish I could remember whose, that addressed FOMO in social media. I think social media is often used to say, “Hey look at me! I have beautiful friends and do really cool things and aren’t you jealous?” If my face wasn’t blocking the Postern at Eze how would people know that I really hiked the Postern at Eze? If we learned anything from Kim Kardashian’s Thailand scandal, we live by the “pics or it didn’t happen” philosophy. I’m not thrilled by the self-evaluation this blog post triggered but I’m also not sure it’s going to bring about any real change. I’ll probably still ask strangers (old ones I can easily outrun if they try to steal my phone) to take my photo and I’ll probably still post them to Facebook…but at least I’ll be self-aware while I do it?

  2. I agree, this is an over-analyzed topic. The public attitude is generally negative, but everyone does it. Perhaps we’re most critical because we’re all part of the problem? So I’ll side-step the main issue, and come at this from a technology angle. You mentioned that nobody would sell a phone without a front-facing camera. Then came the selfie-pole. Now we have the selfie-drone: What an amazing invention with a wide range of applications. I’d like to think this will result in fewer deaths from people falling off the Grand Canyon to try to get the best selfie shot.

  3. Nice post Dan! Really great selfie in the end of the post!
    It reminds me of a blog I read before saying that selfies are good for girls in many Asian countries becuase girls in those conservative cultures adapt by learning the language of humble. The blogger suggested that those girls should show their selfie more with pride, it is very useful for their self-esteem, and make them more positive and sunshine. It is funny to see that in the US there’s opposite concerns that people takes toooo many selfies…

  4. Hey Dan, thought provoking post! I think you’re right in that selfies are so over-analyzed because its not “normal” yet. I really don’t take that many myself, but I don’t think that people who do are automatically self-obsessed. I dare say its just a new style, and to Jade’s point maybe even boost self-esteem. Once celebrities start doing it though ( nothing is weird anymore.

    I really like that article you posted in the end about how brands are trying to capitalize on the selfie craze. I think it is such a great idea as you are getting your consumer to engage with the product, and in a way prove that they are enjoying it. I think selfies will start to be more accepted as they move into the advertising space for people may start to feel less self-absorbed if they are doing it for a specific value.

  5. alliemanning · ·

    Dan, I agree with you that this trend is way too overanalyzed. Honestly, selfies have been happening since before the iPhone even came out with the double sided camera (i.e. my first blog post, had to turn the camera around for a selfie). Like you, I spent a lot of time in Italy abroad taking pictures with different landmarks. Who doesn’t want a selfie with The David?! My mom and grandparents are even into the trend now. To me, selfies are convenient. You don’t have to ask someone to take a picture of you. You can do it yourself. I actually dedicated a whole wall of my dorm room to selfies, dubbed the “selfie wall”. The selfies sort of chronicle a journey– different pictures different places mean different things. I say we embrace the selfie trend, because I don’t think that anything is going to change.

    Here is a commercial that Dell put out this summer about the “Center for Selfie Improvement”. Hilarious way to advertise Dell while incorporating the selfie trend:

  6. I somewhat agree that the “selfie” trend is overanalyzed. After all people have been doing “selfies” for hundreds of years (think VanGoghs famous self-portrait). Older camera technologies didn’t really make it easy, and it’s a pain to ask someone to take pictures for you (because they don’t know your camera and may not be any good). If I look around my office now, I have a bunch of pictures of me in important places and with important people – now we can just do it ourselves.

  7. This is a great post, first and foremost for the included selfie at the end. I too was guilty of the selfie obsession abroad. More than anything I thought it was hilarious getting myself, or at least the side of my face, in some really important monument or building. Apple really revolutionized our way of life when they decided to flip the camera, and for that I am ever grateful. I love selfies, they are entertaining and yeah, we may be vain, but it’s part of being human. I fully embrace the art of selfies, and appreciate your thoughts in this blog.

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