By Susan Hartley
While most pop-culture trends are linked to a specific age-group, posting selfies — photos you take of yourself — has become a multigenerational communications instrument.
Selfies are photos taken at arm’s length or in a mirror, with a camera phone or digital camera and quickly posted to social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, or Instagram.
Selfies can show that you are out there celebrating life. The Pyramids and the Great Wall of China can form the backdrop. Or you can post 45 different views of your new hairstyle.
Selfie postings aren’t limited to teens and young adults. A Google search reveals selfies from popular musicians Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus to Pope Francis, shown grinning ear to ear with Palm Sunday worshippers at the Vatican, to Pres. Barack Obama taking a selfie with Bill Nye the Science Guy. And of course there’s the tweet by Ellen DeGeneres pictured with several celebrities earlier this spring – the Oscar selfie that was re-tweeted three million times.
There’s even an online calculator that will rate the popularity of your selfie. Check out www.popularity.csail.mit.edu.
“I know a lot of people are really taking it seriously,” said Dr. Paul Heintz, an industrial organizational psychologist and psychology/human sexuality professor at Edison College in southwestern Ohio. “This is a different media, a technique in order for teenagers especially, to create their self-image.”
Heintz also says that what would be “normal interaction” between a couple of close friends or family members, has become like “walking to the front of the classroom” to ask “How do you like my dress? How do you like my hair? My thought is as long as you don’t take it too seriously, it’s just an expression.”
Soon-to-be high school grad Rachel Zelnick says she’s always mindful of the selfies she and her friends post to social media.
“I don’t think a lot of people are aware of what other people can find” on the Internet,” Zelnick said. “A lot of youth think it’s not going to affect them. I’m conscience of what I post.”
That doesn’t always apply, however, as several local parents the Daily News spoke with expressed their dislike for the “selfie practice,” saying they have made their teenagers remove photos from social media sites.
“I always keep a close eye on what my daughter wears to school,” said Emma Deskins of Williamson. “However, what clothes she puts on when she’s behind closed doors and decides to take a selfie of, and post it on Facebook and Twitter was very alarming to me. I wish this practice would never have become so popular. We as parents really need to stay on top of this.”
Miranda Walters of Lenore, is a 16-year-old sophomore at Tug Valley High School who said selfies are all the rage, and she said she and her friends take photos every time they get together.
“We love it! We have had a total of 18 of us in a selfie together … we love doing them in different settings; it keeps everyone up on what’s going on and what we’re doing.”
Mingo County Sheriff James Smith urges everyone to be aware of the selfies, as well as other photos that are posted on social media sites.
“Always remember that once it’s out there - it’s out there forever. You may delete it, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t screen-shotted or saved by another party before you took it down,” Smith said.
Another concern is that, when posting selfies, teens usually add a comment about where they are. That becomes a concern for online predators who prey on such information, the sheriff said.
“Always keep an eye on what your child shares on the Internet,” Smith said. “You can really never be too careful.”