While most pop-culture trends are linked to a specific age-group, posting selfies — photos you take of yourself — has become a multi-generational 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.”
Fourteen year old Iyanla Mosley is a sophomore at Callaway High School. She said she usually uploads her selfies to Instagram and Snap Chat for others to see, and checks back frequently to see who “liked” them.
“If you’re feeling good…and you think you look good that day, you want to capture that moment because it doesn’t always happen,”Iyanla said.
Her friend, 11 year old Janiyah Lindsey, had a more simple explanation.
“We like seeing ourselves,” she said.
Both girls admit taking at least one selfie a day, if not more.
“When I’m going somewhere, like Atlanta, I’ll take a selfie in the mirror,” said Janiyah.
But LaGrange Police Department Senior Detective, Chris Pritchett, warns folks who take selfies “once you put it out there, it’s out there.”
“Once it’s posted by an electronic device, they lose control of it,” Pritchett said. “It doesn’t matter where you put it….Instagram, Facebook, or just sharing it with a friend, you lose control of it.”
Meaning anyone - anywhere - can see it, including sexual predators.
Detective Pritchett is the head of the Crime and Intelligence Analysis Unit within the LaGrange Police Department. He said people are uploading more contraband, like porn. Selfies that contain nudity fall under that category. But Detective Pritchett said there are ways for people to share their photos, and not break the law.
“Anything with nudity - just don’t do it,” said Detective Pritchett. ” Know who you’re sharing with, know their character. Think what the target audience might be and what they might do with it.”
Detective Pritchett has more tips in his Cyber Safety Class, which is open to the public. It teaches folks Georgia laws regarding the internet, and how to be smarter and safer online.
Iyanla said she’s careful when sharing her photos. She even has the art of taking a selfie down to a science.
“I only take it from the neck up, and only on one side of my face. My good side,” she explained. ” And there has to be a good filter. And you have to hold the phone at just the right angle. Like 70 degrees.”
For more information on the Cyber Safety class, contact Senior Detective Pritchett at 706-883-2673.