502: Photo Love

A Thousand Things to Talk About
A Thousand Things to Talk About
502: Photo Love

Do you have any photos of yourself that you love? Is it a selfie or did someone else take it?

Full episode script

There’s a big problem with photography — and it’s that, usually, people tend to dislike photographs of themselves. No matter how photogenic someone may be, show them a photo that everyone else thinks is great… and they will likely react with some level of surprise.


It’s fairly analogous to just about every podcaster I’ve talked to, especially when they are just starting out, realizing that their voice sounds very different on a recording than they expected.


There’s several effects at play here — one of which is called the mere (as in m-e-r-e, simple, minor, or pure) exposure effect. As Wired explained it:

“Formulated in 1968 by a psychologist named Robert Zajonc, it basically says that people react more favorably to things they seen more often. Zajonc tested this with everything from shapes, to facial expressions, even nonsense words. Since we see ourselves most frequently in the mirror, this is our preferred self-image.”


In other words, try flipping a photo of yourself to the mirror image, and it’ll likely look more “right” to you — even if it will suddenly look very weird to all of your friends and family.


But I think there’s more to it since the rise of the readily available selfie. I say “readily available” since the first self-portrait was likely a derrogotype made in 1839. Either way, as the Buffer blog points out, selfies make it possible for us to project our quote-unquote looking glass self out in to the world. In other words, we can create images of ourselves that correspond more closely to what we want the world to see us as.


There’s even some research – though it’s far from settled – saying that selfies can help improve our confidence about ourselves. A survey by Today found that, quote:

“Sixty-five percent of teen girls say selfies and flattering online pictures make them feel confident, while 55 percent report feeling selfie-conscious.”

This script may vary from the actual episode transcript.