I love a good selfie. Always the same pattern of take 100, choose 1 and add a good filter over the top. 65 out of my 377 Instagram posts are just selfies. I see it as a way to express myself, how I feel and how I look. It’s not something I feel people should be ashamed of. It can be totally a way of empowerment – though sometimes it can be just a way of indulgence when you feel you look fantastic.
The humble selfie, the self portrait shared, captioned, meme’d and liked. Everyone has done it, though not everyone will admit to it. The word itself is spectacularly rumoured to have originated from Australia – our incessant need to simplify words and end them in “o” and “ie” – and the Oxford dictionary actually named it the word of the year in 2013. The selfie is so common that again, in 2013, the hashtag #selfie had been used over 57 million times on the social media platform Instagram.
The selfie is so widespread and become such a social media phenomenon that there is always going to be backlash and inappropriateness associated with it. Are there times and a place to not take a selfie? There are some and not only could they be considered inappropriate but illegal. Taking a selfie is such a seemingly innocent act at first but the political and social repercussions are substantial.
Taking selfies for instance in an American polling booth. In America laws prevent people from taking selfies in voting booths and in some states you could earn fines up to $1000 or even jail time. Even Celebrities aren’t immune to the draw of the ballot selfie, Justin Timberlake was one of the latest celebrities in trouble for taking his own ballot selfie during the last American election. There was even websites with free tool that Americans could check whether or it not was illegal or legal in their state to take that snap.
It is seen by some to be unconstututional to prevent people from taking their selfies while voting. That freedom to take a “Ballot Selfie” is being fought by Snapchat, the social media photo company, as read in theirAmicus Curiae stating that the “ballot selfie is a uniquely powerful form of political expression”. They fought for the right for voters to create and share their selfies motivated by their political cause.
“The ballot selfie captures the very essence of that [political] process as it happens — the pulled lever, the filled-in bubble, the punched-out chad — and thus dramatizes the power that one person has to influence our government”
The outcome? Victory! Even though in some states it is still illegal, Snapchat did help win the case. In New Hampshire the US Court of Appeals ruled that it was legal to take a ballot selfie,
America may have these laws, but the Australian AEC does not have any specific ban on people taking selfies in voting booths.
Selfies have the power of being political because of the context. And I don’t mean the politicians who take selfies to try and “be hip” and relevant. That in itself is another conversation of why they take selfies, and the attempt to remove the barrier between viewer and politician.
If I take a picture in a voting booth in Australia, it wouldn’t have the same affect as it does in America. Our compulsory voting system makes it so, whereas for Americans who vote, to vote and be outspoken about it makes you different from those who sit back in quiet disregard for their civic duty.
“Ballot selfies are thus all at once deeply personal and virtuously public expressions”