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To better understand selfies and how people form their identities online, the researchers combed through 2.5 million selfie posts on Instagram to determine what kinds of identity statements people make by taking and sharing the photos. Nearly 52 percent of all selfies the appearance category: pictures of people showing off their make-up, clothes, lips, etc. Pics about looks were two times more popular than the other 14 categories combined.
appearances, social selfies with friends, loved ones, and pets were the most common (14 percent). Then came ethnicity pics (13 percent), travel (7 percent), and health and fitness (5 percent).
The researchers noted that the prevalence of ethnicity selfies (selfies about a person’s ethnicity, nationality or country of origin) is an indication that people are proud of their backgrounds. They also found that most selfies are solo pictures, rather than taken with a group.
The data was gathered in the summer of 2015. The research team believes the study is the first large-scale empirical research on selfies. Overall, an overwhelming 57 percent of selfies on Instagram were posted by the 18-35-year-old crowd, something the researchers say isn’t too surprising the demographics of the social media platform. The under-18 age group posted about 30 percent of selfies. The older crowd (35+) shared them far less frequently (13 percent). Appearance was most popular among all age groups.
Lead author Julia Deeb-Swihart says selfies are an identity performance—meaning that users carefully craft the way they appear online and that selfies are an extension of that. This evokes William Shakespeare’s famous line: “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.”