Selfies are photographs that you take of yourself at some five start resort in Phuket or at some stylish nightclub in Hong Kong that you tweet on Twitter or post on a social media website such as Facebook.
Are they a form of shameless self promotion or are they nothing more than a hi-tech version of the time honoured picture postcard?
I don't recall anyone getting upset about those picture postcards that used to arrive in the mail. I mean, who didn't enjoy going to the mailbox and finding a card with a lovely picture on the front and the words “Wish you were here!” scribbled on the back?
Surely a bit of bragging was involved. “Look at me! I'm on the beach at Waikiki while you're shoveling snow back in Detroit!” is what that “Wish you were here!” message was really saying.
But nobody seemed to mind. We just enjoyed looking at the pretty picture. And we often thumb tacked that pretty picture onto our bulletin board, and it stayed there for ages.
Digital Self Promotion
Fast forward to the digital age, and selfies are being dubbed “smoasting”, which means “social media boasting”. So those little updates that you post about where you are, what you are doing, or what you are eating might actually have a sinister side – at least that is what social media commentators are saying.
“A benign reading would be that these are just typical daily updates,” writes Elizabeth Bernstein in The Wall Street Journal.
“But folks, this is bragging, whether you recognize it or not. And it's out of control.”
According to Australia's Queensland Tourism, most Australians upload 136 million photos to Facebook every month, making them “prolific photo posters”.
And the Brits are no better. According to research by Britain's T-Mobile, the UK's largest mobile communications company, 60% of Brits brag while they are on holiday and 45% of them will only tag themselves on a holiday photo “if the location is glamorous and it will make them look good”.
Socially Acceptable Bragging
Writing in The Guardian, Oliver Burkeman believes that boastfulness is “becoming increasingly socially acceptable”.
“In a world where every other Facebook status update is a veiled act of self-aggrandizement, the only way to make an impact with your bragging is to push it to the limit,” Oliver writes.
“The more everyday kind of bragging – the mock-shy mention of your latest professional achievement, the smartphone photographs, or your current holiday idyll, the drive-by name-dropping – is the fuel that powers social media.”
How to Leverage Social Media
A growing body of research indicates that travelers are sharing their experiences on social media during a holiday. Those in the travel industry that don't try to leverage this do so at their peril.
“With the use of smartphones, tablets, and free WiFi, travelers are snapping themselves silly and sharing everything from their breakfast to the view from their hotel,” says Queensland Tourism's Digital Marketing Director, Chris Chambers.
“We are taking full advantage of this social media revolution by ensuring Tourism Queensland is on the front foot; uploading beautiful, ‘braggy’ Queensland images that people want to share.”
There are serious implications for everyone from airlines to ticket agents, hotels, resorts, restaurants, and spas. As Chris points out, more and more potential travelers are making decisions about their next holiday based on the the social media activity of their friends.
You might want to think of it as the Facebook Effect.
Photo Credit: Tourism Queensland.