selfie-group

What Does That Selfie Say About You?

While professors spend a lot of time in the college classroom sharing their knowledge, they also have another important job requirement: research. They conduct experiments and gather information related to their areas of expertise and interest and present their findings in scholarly papers, journals and books.

At a place like the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, that research could touch on any number of topics, from quantitative easing and ethnic marketing to labor economics, government intervention or nanotechnology – and every business and economics concept in between.

Sound intimidating? Scholarly research isn’t all Bayesian multi-level modeling and statistical computing. And yet, it all gets us thinking in new ways and often helps guide the decisions and actions of business professionals.

Sometimes, it’s just downright playful. New research from Wharton marketing professor Jonah Berger and co-author Alixandra Barasch of New York University speaks directly to the selfie, social-media-obsessed generation. It compares audience reactions to posed vs. candid photos in online profiles. They found that people are more attracted to authenticity than perfection. In the world of marketing, this has important implications for how individuals and companies present themselves. Here’s a snapshot of what Berger’s “A Candid Advantage? The Social Benefits of Candid Photos” tells us.

Research on photos? Really? “If you think about how we form impressions of other people, it used to be meeting them face to face. But that’s not really the case anymore,” notes Berger. “Most of how we form those first impressions of people — whether it’s people we’re hiring for a job, whether it’s potential friends, whether it’s even people we’re getting to know on a different level — is from their online profiles. We were interested in how these photos affect how people see you. Could something as subtle as whether that photo is candid or posed impact the way that people see you, whether they want to be friends with you and whether they want to hire you?”

Likes, loves and retweets. “We looked at thousands of different posts from websites like Facebook and LinkedIn, dating websites like OKCupid, group websites, meet-up websites. Across all those platforms we found something very much the same, which is that most photos that people post are posed photos. They are photos of them looking at the camera, smiling, looking a particular way, presenting themselves in a varnished way to others,” says Berger.

But…my hair’s messed up in that one. “People have this intuition that posed photos are better. And that is because as a photo taker, you think a lot about how you come off to others. You think by controlling the lighting and your smile that you’re presenting your best self. But as an observer, someone who’s looking at those photos, what we found was quite surprising. Candid photos, where someone isn’t looking directly at the camera or looks like they’re not posing, actually lead to better impressions. People are more interested in getting to know someone, more interested in dating them and potentially more interested in being friends with them if that person has a candid rather than posed photo. It’s all about authenticity or whether someone is genuine. We think that by posting posed photos, people are getting the best version of us. But what we don’t realize is that when people see that best version, they don’t really have a good sense of who we are. As observers, we want to know, “What’s your real self? If I’m going to be friends with you, if I’m going to date you, I don’t want to know what you look like on your best day. I want to know what you look like most of the time.”

Yeah, but nobody tells the truth on social media!  “I like the words “varnished” and “unvarnished” because I think they’re quite accurate,” says Berger. “The way that social media is today, everyone takes dozens of photos and picks the best one. They only post things that are really positive that they’ve done. They ignore all the negative things that happened. They project this lifestyle, almost like this brand of themselves. In some ways, that’s good and other people might think that you’re great. But once everybody does that, people recognize that you’re not actually what you’re posting. That’s just a small sample of who you are. By getting this unvarnished perspective, because we don’t get it all the time and because it gives us some insight into who that person really is, we value that. Your unvarnished photo is going to be different than my unvarnished photo, so we really feel like we’ve learned something more about someone. That genuineness or that authenticity makes us want to learn more.

So, out with the perfectly groomed selfies…forever? “I’d be careful to say, ‘Everyone should take a candid photo all the time.’ We did collect some data saying, for example, when you’re looking for a job, we could think about both how genuine someone seems and how authentic they are, but also how competent they are. How serious they are. If I’m hiring someone to do a very serious job, I don’t just want to know that they’re authentic. I want to know that they’re good at their job and highly competent. I want to know that they’re thinking appropriately about what the situation is. If you’re an individual looking for a very serious role and want to be taken seriously, maybe think about a posed photo some of the time. If you’re in advertising, if you’re a marketing professional, if you’re in a more creative role, if you’re trying to stand out from the crowd, all of those are cases where being candid might be more valuable.”

Conversation Starters

Would this research influence the way you present yourself on social media? Why or why not? Seriously, if you know that people will get a better impression of a less-perfect you, does that inspire you to change the photos you post?

Which celebrity that you follow on twitter or instagram seems to understand this connection between photos and authenticity? How do they portray a realer image of themselves? Think of some examples and discuss with a group.

Conduct some research of your own. Post a varnished photo of yourself and then an unvarnished photo (it doesn't have to look messy, just natural). Compare observers reactions, likes, comments, and so on. What are your scholarly findings?

What other insights from your own experiences as a teenager would you like to contribute to Jonah Berger's research? Express them in the comments section of this article.

45 thoughts on “What Does That Selfie Say About You?

  1. A selfie can say a lot about a person but it can also lie a lot about a person. A selfie can usually portray if someone is friendly or reserved, kind or mean. It’s easy be someone else on social media.

  2. There are many models on Instagram that portray themselves differently for a promotion of a product. For example, an Instagram model may be promoting a fit tea product for money while they are not really using that product. This shows a fake portrayal of themselves which can lead to problems with their image and how their fans view them.

    1. In that case, obviously is going to be fake because it is for an advertisment and it is his/her obligation to pose with an artificial face because its his/her job; but in social media like instagram, people post pictures that they like of them because they are showing the sense of humor or their character.

  3. We tend to have a more positive image of someone if they are taking a candid photo smiling than a posed one. This research supports a thought that I already had but wasn’t completely sure, so it will indeed have an influence on my next posts. As a person who is more into the area of marketing and propaganda, I will work on sharing an more spontaneous image of mine than a serious one, so possible employers will have the opportunity to know a little bit more about myself just by looking at those pictures.
    Neymar is a big example of how posting unvarnished photos can have an influence on how people see you. He usually posts candid photos of him during his games, showing his passion his commitment for the game of soccer.
    It is a tendency too that candid pictures usually get more likes and other types of interactions by the followers than posed ones.

  4. Reading this has definitely changed my perspective in the sights of an observers view on a simple picture that has a lot of meaning behind how it was actually taken. According to the research, candid photos present a more positive source of a photo compared to a posed photo. I had never really thought about it until now, but all these celebrities such as Kylie Jenner all the way to people that I know personally, their social media is flooded with candid photos because it has more appeal to the observers who comment and like the photo.These candid photos also have a big impact on the marketing industry such as photographic advertisements ranging from a billboard to a post on social media. They simply do better because it presents a more realistic view of yourself to those on social media, which highly appeals more to one that is posed or staged.Posed photos tend to do worse and are less appealed to because it is just the same image in every setting and photo, as compared to candid photos which escalate the variety of views presented in the photo.

  5. This research would change the way I present myself on social media because candids lead to a better impression of yourself. A celebrity like Cristiano Ronaldo knows how to show authenticity and a more positive image because he posts candids. Candids portray a more real image by showing a person’s authenticity. Candid photos seem to get more support than posed ones. They usually get more likes and more comments.

  6. A selfie a picture that one takes of them selves, but others can be part of the picture. Most of the time people in a selfie because whenever someone takes on it is because they are having a good moment by themselves or with some one, or one can take one because he are she are a very important place. We tend to have a more positive image of someone if they are taking a selfie smiling than a posed one. This research supports a thought that I already had but wasn’t completely sure, so it will indeed have an influence on my next posts. As a person who is more into the area of marketing and propaganda, I will work on sharing an more spontaneous image of mine than a serious one, so possible employers will have the opportunity to know a little bit more about myself just by looking at those pictures. Neymar, and other sport stars, is a big example of how posting unvarnished photos can have an influence on how people see you. He usually posts candid photos of him during his games, showing his passion his commitment for the game of soccer. Another thing about selfies is that one might get depressed since everyone smiles in selfies and if someone is already sad but he sees that everybody else is happy might make a person depressed.

  7. A selfie can say a lot about a person. The way you smile of have the camera positioned can really show people who you are. A selfie can also say if your shy or outgoing depending on the picture Many young teenagers are always concerned on how they look or how many likes they get on a post. Online celebrities put on an image of how young girls and boys should look like, creating pressure on them and trying to look like the online celebrities.

  8. A selfie can say a lot about a person. The way you smile or have the camera positioned can really show people who you are. A selfie can also say if you are shy or outgoing depending on the picture Many young teenagers are always concerned on how they look or how many likes they get on a post. Online celebrities put on an image of how young girls and boys should look like, creating pressure on them and trying to look like the online celebrities.

  9. 1. This research influenced the way I present myself on social media, because I want companies and colleges to know that Im responsible. If I knew that people will get a better impression of a less-perfect me, that would inspire me to change the pictures I post. 2. Lionel Messi seems to understand the connection between photos and authenticity. He is a very happy person that loves soccer and he posts about his family and about soccer. Some examples are when he posted about him training for the world cup game. 3. I would post a picture of me outside seeking adventure, because I am a very adventurous person. 4.I don’t have anything to add to Berger’s article because I thought it was a very descriptive article.

  10. This research will influence the way I present my self on social media because I would want to seem as a good, interesting person online so companies would hire me over others. Knowing people like photos of less perfect versions of others, then I would now post more candid, not perfect photos. The more candid photos, the more real, which makes you seem more friendly to others observing your profile.
    Lebron James seems to have an understanding between authenticity and photos. He portrays a realer image of himself by posting videos of him just talking to the camera which shows his real thoughts. He also post images that are not posed of him with his family and friends.

  11. This research has now influenced the way I will post on social media. In order to make the right impression, one must have the right look on their face and also the right clothing for the occasion. Many of my friends who I take selfies with get into different poses like smiling, tongue out, inflated cheeks, etc. People can get impressions of less perfect looking faces like these, and it inspires me to learn new faces to use in my selfies and social media posts.

  12. 1. Since I am not a frequent social media user, I do not post photos of my self very often. In fact, I have probably posted a selfie of my self maybe once or twice. However, if I had to post a photo of my self, I would not make it overly positive since it is not showing the real person. 2. A celebrity who shows her actual life and doesn’t only highlight the positives would be Selena Gomez. For example she recently posted a picture where she has just had kidney transplant. 4. The article was very passionate on how people on today’s society only posts that are overly positive and happy. However, there are posts that actually show suffering and negativity.

  13. A picture can mean a lot to some people. The way people position themselves or the way they smile or if they don’t smile. Or if there is something in the background what people would say about that. I try to stay out of social media, but my dad always takes pictures of my family and the things we do together. Some rappers I know like logic or chance the rapper are authentic, but people like the Kardashions don’t know the point to where to stop with how they take their photos.

  14. A picture can mean a lot to a person. Your face preferences can mean something. The more biased photos, the more real, which makes you seem more friendly to others observing your profile. For example, Lebron James portrays a real image of himself by posting videos of him which shows his real thoughts. His fans can view them in a different way.

  15. This research would definitely change the way I present myself on social media. Now that I know that a difference of a posed and candid picture could determine if I could get a certain job, I would definitely reconsider the way I present myself. I would mainly do this for the impression that it gives off. If people would think of me in a better way then that leads me to decide to change the way I represent myself.

  16. This research would not influence the way I present myself on social media, because I believe it would not matter if my posts were posed or candid as long as they are sane and show a responsible, adequate person. My posts are merely a facade, and although I should take pictures that give off a good first-impression, what really matters is who I am. Thus, knowing that people will get a better impression of a less-perfect me does not inspire me to change the photos I post. A person might not seem too appealing to an employer on social media, but then come in for an interview and turn out to be everything the employer was looking for or vice versa.

    As of now, I do not know of any celebrity that seems to understand this connection between photos and authenticity.

  17. Yes, I agree with this research that people are more interested in seeing the way someone really is most days, not just on their best day. Whether its prospective employers or potential dating partners or friends, people want to know the real you now. They love to see candid photos or shots that aren’t completely varnished or rehearsed. It does inspire me to change photos that I post to make them more real and more fun, not just wearing my best outfit. I think its more natural to show me in a baseball cap cheering for my favorite team or playing my favorite sports rather than me in a fancy polo shirt . I never thought it was natural anyway taking a picture smiling looking at the perfectly centered camera. So for me, I like it so much better that is preferred to be able to post real pictures of myself on line and that is how people would get to know the real me better.

  18. 1. Would this research influence the way you present yourself on social media? Why or why not? Seriously, if you know that people will get a better impression of a less-perfect you, does that inspire you to change the photos you post?

    Yes, this research would affect how I show who I am online. If posting candid photos and giving the full me on social media will make me a more favorable person, then I am all for it. Posed photos appear stale and not true, when I see a posed photo I don’t see everything all I see is a smile that makes you identical to everyone else. If the point of posting pictures is to highlight something cool or different that you’re doing to your “followers” then why make it the same format as the other photos you or your friend posts? Photos taken without exaggerated preparation tell more of the story behind the lens, this really lets your audience see who you truly are, not how you would like to look. Candid photos can just be more entertaining all together, so really the positives outweigh the negatives when it comes to posting posed or candid photos online.

  19. This type of research would influence greatly the way I present myself on social media because it counts as that first impression that everyone wants to keep clean and fresh. There are tons of models who post pictures on their Instagram accounts about beauty products because it usually appeals to their followers.

  20. This research will without a doubt have an influence on my next social media post. In fact, now that I’ve read this article, I went back and looked at my own social media to find that my most liked picture is a candid picture of myself. It is also encouraging to know that as humans we are more interested on socializing with genuine people. However this could also be taken on a negative way because judging a person based on a picture can be deceiving on the aspect that a person may look genuine but their personality might not match the way they look on a post.

  21. 1.No, because even though they did a research and they say that people get a better impression of a less-perfect you, I think that people get a better impression when you are in a picture looking your best self because you will look more organized and happy.

    2.I don’t follow any celebrity on twitter or instagram.

    3. My posed photo had more likes and comments than the candid one. I think this happens because posed photos attract more the attention of the people.

    4. That it depends if people prefer more candid than posed photos because most teenagers care more about their look, so they prefer posed photos and adult people care more about how is the person feeling, so they prefer candid photos.

  22. The research would affect the way I present myself because many people will see someone’s social media and judge based on that. It is usually the first impression so you want you photos to look good. If posting better photos improve people’s opinion, then I would do that. You don’t want a selfie to ruin someone’s opinion about you.

  23. Selfies can say a lot about a person. People take selfies often to make themselves feel good even if their feeling bad. They can show a side of you that people don’t know and it shows the public who you are and what person you are even if its a regular selfie or a mirror selfie. They show if your a kind, friendly, happy, or mean person but selfies can lie a lot about you also. Many kids look up to celebrities and are trying to look like them in their selfies and try getting as many likes as them and this brings them down because obviously they’re not as famous as them and this could be a negative part of selfies in the community. But the positive side is enjoying the moment that you’re in if your on vacation or even if you’re just feeling good about your self and just want to take a selfie.

  24. The pictures that I post wont change much from the findings of this research. Typically, I post about myself when something important happens to me. It may not always be good, but I still post it anyway. The people who follow me on social media aee frienda of mine who want to hear about what is going on in my life. I post pictures that are most of the time posed and sometimes a genuine photo. My photos reflect who I am as a person and although the research given here is interesting, it won’t change much of what I post online.

  25. A selfie can say a lot about a person but it can also lie a lot about a person. A selfie can usually portray if someone is friendly or reserved, kind or mean. It’s easy be someone else on social media. This research has now influenced the way I will post on social media. In order to make the right impression, one must have the right look on their face and also the right clothing for the occasion. My photos reflect who I am as a person and although the research given here is interesting, it won’t change much of what I post online.

  26. This research will not influence the way I present myself on social media because even though they did a research and they say that people get a better impression of a less-perfect you, I think that people get a better impression when you are in a picture looking your best self because you will look more organized and happy.

    Also, I don’t follow any celebrity on twitter or instagram that seems to understand the connection between photos and authenticity.

    I compared the observers reactions, likes,and comments of a posed photo that i posted and it had more likes and comments than a candid one that i also posted. I think this happens because posed photos attract more the attention of the people.

    It depends if people prefer more candid than posed photos because most teenagers care more about their look, so they prefer posed photos and adult people care more about how is the person feeling, so they prefer candid photos.

  27. 1) This reasearch has influenced the way I present myself, as it has shown me that more candid pictures can lead to a better impression on the viewer. I realize that not everyone is perfect 100% of the time, and the pictures should reflect that
    2)I don’t follow any celebrity on social media.
    3)I found that many enjoyed the more natural one.
    4)I have found that as being a teenager, one experiences a lot of self-doubt or beleifs that they aren’t perfect all the time, this may reach out to the viewers more, as more can relate to it.

  28. This article is very interesting. However it doesn’t influence what I will now post on social media because many of these things we do subcouncously almost. and even our candids aren’t actually candids. I did however find it really interesting to se how the photos we post influence the people who sees them perception of you.

  29. This research would influence the way that I present myself on social media because I want to seem genuine and approachable and according to this study, my online profiles probably would not convey that. People would rather see us acting natural than trying to seem perfect. I believe that Miley Cyrus understands this connection between photos and authenticity because on her instagram instead of posting posed pictures, she usually posts videos of her being herself. On my experiences of posting candid pictures and posed pictures by candid pictures are actually more liked by my followers.

  30. A selfie is a good way to give first impressions. For example a candid is a good way to show of the true side of yourself and people seem to admire that more than when you are posing for the picture according to this article.

  31. This article definitely made me reconsider what I will post on social media. It’s crazy to think about how a picture can influence people’s perception of yourself. Social media is a powerful thing.

  32. 1. This research is quite impacting and I find that I will have it influence the way I present myself on social media; mostly because I do want to make an impression of myself that is authentic and have myself be perceived as someone who is genuine, approachable, and simply me. I believe that a first impression is exactly that: the first; you don’t get a second one. So, if you only get one chance, wouldn’t it be a greater alternative to opt for a presentation on social media that is the accurate, real you? Instead of allowing someone to believe that you are some sort of superior or perfect human with out as much as a single flaw? It’s simply too fantastic to be perfect and people aren’t exactly being drawn or actracted by that, they want to see you, not a sugar coated version.

  33. Reading this research really influenced me on the way I present myself on social media. Personally I never post anything that I would regret or that wouldn’t present me in a positive way. A persons post says a lot about them and the kind of people that they are. It represents them by what they like doing, going, or who they spend time with. Posting anything that can come back at you in the future is never a good idea and that thought should always be in mind.

  34. I think this article changed the way I feel about social media and the way I use from now on, because now I realize that social media is just a lie we use to make ourselves look superior than others, and it is also a way of making people feel like they know you, when they truly don’t. I think that our generation only wants others to get better impressions of ourselves, so we are attracted to do what would look best to the others eyes, and not what we would truly do.
    A celebrity that inspires me a lot is Selena Gomez, because she may show herself as a perfect person in social media, but she also knows when to stop and show the audience her true self. For example, Selena always looks perfect on every photo, but recently she showed pictures of her kidney transplant and also pictures of herself we she wasn’t in her best time, because she is proud of who she is, and she is not afraid to show her fans her true self.

  35. Would this research influence the way you present yourself on social media? Why or why not? Seriously, if you know that people will get a better impression of a less-perfect you, does that inspire you to change the photos you post?
    This research would influence the way I present myself on social media because I want to present myself as authentic. If I knew that people will get a better impression of a less-perfect me, it would inspire me to change what I post on my social medium.
    Which celebrity that you follow on twitter or instagram seems to understand this connection between photos and authenticity? How do they portray a realer image of themselves? Think of some examples and discuss with a group.
    Devin Booker seems to understand the connection between photos and authenticity. He portrays a realer image of himself by posting candids but when it is a group photo with his friends he looks towards the camera.
    Conduct some research of your own. Post a varnished photo of yourself and then an unvarnished photo (it doesn’t have to look messy, just natural). Compare observers reactions, likes, comments, and so on. What are your scholarly findings?
    It seemed to have more likes and comments on my unvarnished photo.
    What other insights from your own experiences as a teenager would you like to contribute to Jonah Berger’s research? Express them in the comments section of this article.
    I would agree to finding candid photos better than posed photos. I would add that the posed photos of the person makes them a serious person. A candid photos shows that they are really open.

  36. Some selfies can really portray a person and who they really are. You can always look at their surroundings to see what type of person they truly are. Selfies can really be a way to really get to see someone outside of work/school. A celebrity I look up to in soccer is Lionel Messi. He posts selfies of him with his team or family to show what he has compassion for. For example he takes selfies with his wife and 2 kids to show how grateful he is to god for having a wonderful family. Also he takes selfies with his team to show how much he cares for the game and his teammates

  37. This research has shown me to think twice on how I post. I should post more about who I really am rather than posting photos to “fit in” or “trending”. Posting more of who I really am will not only show my true self but also allow me to be happier. It will improve me as a person as well. I don’t follow any celebrity on twitter or instagram that seems to understand the connection between photos and authenticity. The self research is all over. My followers didn’t have a big of an impact posting a “real me” and “fake me”. Escept for the fact I do get more attention when I make myself more presentable. Also when it comes to pictures I have to make myself smile, I get direct messages saying that it doesn’t look natural. As a teenager, I would like to say that media has a big effect on how we post that makes us shut out our feelings and beliefs.

  38. -This research will influence how do i present myself on social media because it teached me the difference of how a picture can affect how others look at me and their impressions. No, that doesn’t inspire me to change the photos i post, because i’m free of posting what i want, and if people have bad impressions of me because of that i’ll just keep doing what i like.

    -I don’t follow any celebrity on twitter or instagram that seems to understand the connection between photos and authenticity.

    -My findings were that people seemed to like both of my pictures, i think this happened because most people that saw the pictures knew about me and didn’t have new impressions.

    What other insights from your own experiences as a teenager would you like to contribute to Jonah Berger’s research? Express them in the comments section of this article.

    -I would like to contribute from my own experiences to Jonah Berger’s research by saying that what people see from you, their impressions, really depends of what people are looking at it, known people will not have new reactions because they already know about you, but unknown people that don’t know anything about you may have different impressions, or maybe they’ll have the same reactions

  39. Posting a picture of oneself on social media is making yourself vulnerable to the public’s perception of you, and knowing this information regarding a scientific correlation to a more genuine perception and candid photos, it would be foolish to not benefit from this information! As social media becomes more popular, it becomes more obvious that it should be used as an asset towards how other people perceive us, whether that be potential employers, dates or friends.

  40. Would this research influence the way you present yourself on social media? Why or why not? It might because on social media everyone tries to better than the person above you, everyone try to show off something they do’t have that is better than any other person. People edit themselves to what they think is a picture perfect human being is or a life style. By reading this article it shows how by doing such things doesn’t really make a difference on how people see you if it’s just a fake you. Seriously, if you know that people will get a better impression of a less-perfect you, does that inspire you to change the photos you post? Yes, yes it does because then you don’t have to try to be you and you can relax and show everyone the real person behind the selfie.

  41. We tend to have a more positive image of someone if they are taking a candid photo smiling than a posed one. This research supports a thought that I already had but wasn’t completely sure, so it will indeed have an influence on my next posts. As a person who is more into the area of marketing and propaganda, I will work on sharing an more spontaneous image of mine than a serious one, so possible employers will have the opportunity to know a little bit more about myself just by looking at those pictures.
    Neymar is a big example of how posting unvarnished photos can have an influence on how people see you. He usually posts candid photos of him during his games, showing his passion his commitment for the game of soccer.
    It is a tendency too that candid pictures usually get more likes and other types of interactions by the followers than posed ones

  42. Taking candids are shown to be more welcoming and better than a serious picture. People tend to not exactly understand who you are as a person when you take serious or purposefully posing pictures. I get a good/positive thought when I see candids, personally. But, when taking a regular picture, no one knows who you truly are and what you are about. I feel like this article says a lot, just in a few paragraphs: a picture says a lot about who you are.

  43. i think this is a good article and more people should read it because girls are always wanting their friends or boyfriends to take pictures of them, but you just cant take one because they might not like the way that it turns out and i think that if they were to just take a candid one, people would see the true beauty behind it instead of trying so hard to perfect a photo that is not really supposed to be perfected.

  44. I can’t believe that a selfie can say a lot or not tell anything about a person. Sometimes when a person is upset they will post a picture with a fake smile. It’s easy to judge someone due to what you post on social media. Some people act a lot different in person than they do on social media.

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