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You and Your Selfie

By Carla Coscarelli
 | Aug 17, 2018

2017-literacyTaking and sharing selfies are common acts in today’s digital world. People take pictures of themselves alone or with their family and friends in many different places and situations. Apps and social networks often ask users to add a profile picture.

As a result, we need to talk to our students about the act of taking selfies and the impact of sharing selfies with others. Students need to know that the pictures they take and share communicate a lot about them. More specifically, students should consider the following questions before sharing their selfies on social media:

  • Am I allowed to show (exhibit) this place that’s pictured?
  • Am I exposing anyone in a negative way? Will this picture hurt anyone’s feelings?
  • How am I representing myself?
  • Is this the image of myself that I want to convey?
  • Is this picture appropriate to share in this context?

Talking about selfies

There are steps we can take as educators to help promote students’ abilities to think critically about these issues. One activity involves asking students to choose a selfie to bring to class and then discussing the following topics as a group:

  • Where were you when it was taken?
  • What were you doing in that location?
  • Were you having fun, or were you working?
  • What is your facial expression, and what feeling does it express?
  • What does this picture say about you?

Students may also take time to reflect on issues that occur with selfies such as when they are taken in irrelevant situations or when selfies are used just to impress others or to create a false reality (e.g., taking a selfie that depicts a rarely experienced activity and misleading others to think that the activity is a part of his/her everyday life).

Of course, there is nothing wrong with taking selfies for fun, but when we share them publicly, it’s important to consider how others may react to the picture and how it may inadvertently (or purposefully) reflect elements of exaggeration, exhibitionism, ostentation, or the desire to escape from reality. All postings should be made with an awareness of these critical issues and a sense of respect for those both in the selfie and those viewing it.

Learning more

If you’d like to learn more about selfies, there are many online tutorials available, including “How to Take The Perfect Selfie” by Michelle Phan. You may also ask your students to create a few tutorials on how to take different kinds of selfies, such as a funny selfie versus a professional selfie.

Your students may also enjoy developing projects or sharing other inspiring stories depicted in selfies. For instance, you and your students can watch and discuss a Ted Talk in which Christina Balch, a multimedia artist, talks about an empowering project she founded titled "Selfies and Seeing Ourselves: One Artist’s Look in the Mirror."

Another successful selfie project was developed by now famous “vlogger” Rebecca Brown, who took a daily photo over the span of six and a half years while fighting Trichotillomania, a compulsive hair-pulling disorder. Her story, on BBC Trending, is titled “Trichotillomania: 6 Years of Selfies.” 

After these kinds of reflections and critical thinking activities, your students will be better prepared to take many meaningful selfies.

Carla Viana Coscarelli is a professor at the School of Language Arts at Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais (UFMG), Brazil, and coordinator of Project Redigir at UFMG.

This article is part of a series from the International Literacy Association Technology in Literacy Education Special Interest Group (TILE-SIG).

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