SELFIE-SH: a lens into social media self presentation

Much to my surprise and delight, I was recently approached by a Cornell professor to participate in a study on what she called, 'Instagram self-presentation.'  Naturally, I was beyond flattered to be considered and agreed to an interview.  Before the official questions began, she told me that she had charged her research assistants with finding the right subjects for her study.  The only criteria she had provided was a). must have a following, and b). must be unique and different.  "And they brought me your profile," she explained.  I mean, talk about feeling both noticed and understood.  It was, to some degree, a validation and confirmation that all of my efforts to create something unique had actually yielded the kind of results I'd intended.  I had been seen, I had been heard. 

I won't bore you with the details of our interview, what I will says is being posed very specific questions about self-presentation through photography and captions coaxed a lot of my ineffable feelings to form into words.  The truth of the matter is, starting a blog has changed my life in ways I never thought possible.  We don't really get an opportunity in life to see ourselves from a distance, to watch ourselves as a spectator and to take matters of perception into our own hands.

When Pai and I have photoshoots, she clicks a few shots and then we pause so I can go over them and inspect our progress.  'Am I tilting my head the right way?  Is my hair behaving?  Is my arm like that working?  How should I part my lips?'  As we snap and pause to inspect, I get better and better at posing and somehow understand myself more in the process.  My own participation in the creative process is really empowering and oddly therapeutic.  

You know those headshot photoshoots where the photographer tells you to tilt your head and smile and you just blindly follow directions hoping the fifty-some-odd snaps will contain a winner?  You ever just want to pause and be like "hey, can I see those?"  Well I do, and somehow that creates a sense of control that is undeniably reassuring.  I know, in the grand scheme of things, it's not some earth shattering accomplishment.  But it's an amazing social self-experiment that has allowed me to evolve in ways I never thought possible, and I am better for it.  Aren’t we all just trying to know ourselves?

It's certainly not for everyone, and I didn't exactly intend to turn it into a small business, but it's something that I wholeheartedly love to do, and love how much the experience continues to teach me about myself.  Unless you're an actor, or you have a twin, there is really no way for you to see yourself from a distance and dictate how you want the world to see you.  The curated you, the manicured you, the fit for the cover of the magazine that is your life you.  Have you seen yourself lately?

With Love,

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