The Selfie is the Language of Social Media

  • Posted on: 16 January 2015
  • By: Joe Justice

Joe Justice

In the early 20th century the Arrow Clothing Company revolutionized magazine advertisements by creating a character commonly referred to as the "Arrow Collar Man". The character was created by illustrator J. C. Leyendecker as a suave, cosmopolitan gentleman that in many respects was the urban response to the tough and rowdy image of manliness at the time. Leyendecker's illustrations showed you could be well kept, sophisticated and still be masculine, provided of course your clothing came from the Arrow Clothing Company.

What was so revolutionary about the Arrow Collar Man is that the ads relied on images, not text (or copy as it known in the print business). Traditionally, pint ads were just lines of copy explaining the features of a product. The Arrow Collar man ran in magazines, a relatively new medium, and Leyendecker had the insight to use it in a new way. Rather than explain how their clothing made a man look, they showed it. And this innovation changed the entire language of magazine advertizing.

After the Arrow Collar Man, all magazine advertizements began to speak to consumers through images, rather than text. And that tradition has continued to this day. Don't believe me? Do a Google image search for "magazine ads" and compare them to "newspaper ads". With the newspaper ads you'll see lots of copy while in magazines you'll see striking imagery. And why not? Magazines are different, they have those big, glossy pages that images just pop off of.

So why the history lesson? Well, the same revolution is taking place today. Just as copy is the language of newspapers and images are the language of magazines, selfies have become the language of social media. To be heard on social media, you have to speak the language and it's time you learn it.

Take a look at any celebrity's social media and you'll see selfies of them with other celebrates. The same is even true of political leaders (sometimes their ill timed selfies even make the news but more on that in a minute). Look at what the kids are doing, they're not posting pictures of others, they're posting pictures of themselves WITH others. And why not? Social media is personal and what's more personal than you?

Don't get wrapped up into feeling like you're being self-aggrandizing when you post picture after picture of yourself. Do you think the Arrow Clothing Company thought they were being self-aggrandizing when they printed images of the Arrow Collar Man out on the town with a lady on his arm, rather than simply explaining its clothing in black and white text like everyone else?

So I want you to start taking and sharing selfies on your social media and to help you get started, here are a few tips:

  1. Know your place - If you're a security guard at a concert, you should be guarding the door, not taking selfies. Now, if you are a ticket holder at the same event, then you should be letting everyone know you're there! Know your place and be aware of what you're doing. I mentioned political leaders awhile back, not too long ago it made national news when some government officials took a break from Nelson Mandela's funeral to take some selfies. Even if you're a President or Prime Minister, you should know a funeral isn't the right place to snap a selfie.

  2. Always ask permission - Never grab someone and try to snap a picture or frame yourself so that it looks like you are standing with them when they're unaware that you're taking the picture. Always ask first, just a simple, "Can I get a quick selfie for my Facebook page?" If they say, "No" then just move on, don't pester someone. If they hesitate at all just back down and say, "Its okay if you don't want to, I was just asking." Most of the time, if the person sees you back off quickly they'll say, "Oh, why not?" and go ahead. If they look relieved when you back off, then all the better, they didn't want their picture taken and you would have ended up with with a terrible selfie anyhow.

  3. Know your equipment - If you want to make someone angry real quick, fumble with your phone for 3 minutes while they wait and try to hold a smile. When someone agrees to take a picture, you should be clicking a button within 5 seconds. Don't be embarrassed to practice, get it down to muscle memory and be ready. Read about your phone and make sure you know what all the buttons in the camera app do. Most phones have a front facing camera and a 3 second timer, use those to get the best chance at a good, one and done selfie.

  4. Scan the background - Before you snap that picture, make sure you scan the background real quick for anything you don't want to be associated with. Lots of embarrassing pictures have been taken by people who don't check the background. If you're not sure what kind of things I'm talking about, just Google "photobomb".

There's everything you need to get started with selfies today. So go out there and get social! And next time I see you, be sure to take a selfie with me.

-Joe Justice
Artist, The Media Center
Email Me, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn

P.S. In case you still have some doubt about the selfie having a real place in our culture, they actually make special devices just to take better selfies.

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