real life

Why we take selfies - 50 million of them every week, to be exact.

We tend to consider ‘selfies‘ as the domain of pouting young people, the self-obsessed or the attention seeking. But in reality, it’s just not that simple.

According to research conducted by ADLImobile in conjunction with Galaxy Research, almost four out of five Australians admit to posing for the front-facing camera on their smartphones.

The upshot of this is that we’re taking 50 million selfies each week, and some 1.5 million of us snap at least one daily.

According to psychologist Jacqui Manning, that’s not a bad thing. Speaking to Mamamia, the Sydney-based relationship expert argued the selfie phenomenon is simply an age-old tendency being practised in a thoroughly modern way.

“There’s a kind of primal, innate thing going on as humans that we want to record and track ourselves,” she said.

“It’s a way of making sense of ourselves, to discover who we are.”

Mamamia's Clare poses with Australia's selfie queen Roxy Jacenko.

Renaissance self-portraiture, for example, was driven by the same motivation, Manning said. All that's changed is the ease with which we can produce and distribute such images.

"People are really engaged with social media; it's a feeling of wanting to share a joy with the world," she said.


"Your social media channels are the positive highlights reel of your day, and logically people know that everyone's lives are way more complicated than that, but the selfie is a way to say, 'Hey this is what I'm doing,' to document, and to represent the different aspects of your life."

Aside from the ease with which they can be taken, what appeals to us about the selfie specifically? According to Manning, it's all in the eyes.

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"If you think about self-portraits, they're all of the face. They're really a closeup of the face, with the eyes looking directly at the artist. And it's a little bit the same with the phone," she said.

"There's this sense that they're looking directly at you... It can almost be a connecting experience."

While most discussion about selfies seems to assume there's a narcissistic element to taking and sharing them, particularly when the discussion centres around young people, Manning thinks that assumption is a little simplistic.

"As I said, it's a way of self-discovering. Perhaps young people are doing more self-discovering, and so therefore the volume [of selfies] is larger," she said.

"I also think it's because the technology is there now for them."

Whilst slide nights, or tangible photo albums might be more familiar to the rest of us, Manning argues, it was still for the purpose of sharing those images with family and friends.


"There's just more sophisticated technology now," she said.

"I think if we had that technology 40 years ago, we would have used it 40 years ago."

Of course, like anything pleasurable, Manning notes that it's important to make sure you're using technology - including selfies - in a healthy way. That means

"Look at your surroundings and document them sure, but then make sure you enjoy the connection with the people around you in that moment," she said.

"It's important not to only look through your lens at your life. It's more about seeing the selfie is part of your life, or your smartphone is a part of your life."