The Meaning of Selfies: Understanding the use of selfies during the US 2016 Primaries

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  • The Meaning of Selfies Understanding the use of selfies during the US 2016 Primaries

    Henri Ghosn

    Henrighosn@Gmail.com

  • Contents

    *Edgar G. Cruz and Helen Thornham, Selfies Beyond Self-Representations, 2015.

    Scope

    The research was conducted over a period of three months,

    examining all mentions of the US primary elections which

    contained a selfie image.

    This report attempts to give a holistic approach to understanding

    selfies, taking into account their wider social, cultural, and media

    contexts. As such this project moves beyond the framing of selfies

    as a narcissistic practice and highlights instead how they promote

    individuality, immediacy, reciprocity, sharing, exchanging,

    constant updating, work and commitment*.

    Slides 26 28 bring the findings beyond the US Primary Election

    and demonstrate how selfies can be used to help companies to

    initiate greater conversations

    The Meaning of Selfies Slide #

    Executive Summary 3-4

    Method & Initial Typology 5-9

    Method 6

    Initial Typology 8

    Performance 10-20

    Weekly Trends 11

    Overview of Party Lines 12

    Sentiment by Candidates 13

    Democratic Frontrunners 14

    Republican Frontrunners 16

    Comparing Candidate Support 18

    Key Findings Around Hashtags 19

    Questions of Intimacy 21-26

    Going to the Ballots 22

    Level of Anonymity 23

    Open Support vs Actual Support 25

    Beyond the Politics 26 - 28

    Conclusion of Research 27

    Moving Forward 28

    Appendix 30-42

  • Executive Summary

    Moving away from the idea of selfies being an example of modern vanity and narcissism, this research argues that selfies should be understood as a

    communication method, allowing users to express themselves and integrate socially as well as generally relate to others.

    In the US primary elections selfies have been used for three main different reasons:

    To share political ideals and bond with other users who shared a similar view;

    To obtain social acceptance and validation, especially by associating oneself with a celebrity figure;

    As a response to provocative comments by the candidates intended to undermine their views.

    The report also found that:

    Selfies were either staged or improvised;

    Users decided who and what to include in their pictures, and actively chose which handles to mention as well as which hashtags to use.

    Why Do People Share Selfies?

  • Executive Summary

    When looking at differences at a Party level, those supporting Republican views often withheld intimate information, including their identity and details

    of their voting intention.

    When looking at specific candidates, we found that:

    Supporters of Bernie were more likely to be proud and passionate of their support, feeling a part of something exciting. His supporters have

    created an online community of people who are riding this wave of excitement for him. As such they want other Bernie supporters to know that they are in

    the same club. This was in part due to the fact that many were first time voters as well that the candidate was often described as the underdog in the

    Democratic nomination.

    There were approximately as many selfies supporting Hillary Clinton as Sanders, yet more Clinton support was driven by campaigners over ordinary

    voters. In addition a greater share of Clinton selfies appeared to be lead by her celebrity status, including interest in Bill and Chelsea Clinton.

    Trump supporters were the least likely to share their support as well as their decision to vote for him. However those who did often used highly

    emotionally charged selfies. Many of the selfies mentioning him attacked both his views and his campaign.

    Many selfies mentioning Ted Cruz were taken by voters either during primaries or at caucuses. There was stronger support for his campaign than

    Trumps. However most of his support came from campaigners rather than ordinary voters.

    How Did it Play Out?

  • Method & Initial Typology

  • Method

    * See appendix for detailed query

    ** This allowed to remove memes and non-organic content. Pictures of users showing their I Voted stickers were kept.

    The project looked at Twitter posts from 1st January 31st March 2016 originating from the US, which contained images and either made references to voting or caucusing (i.e. #Ivoted,

    #Icaucused, #Iamelectionready) or to selfies and political candidates (i.e. Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz, Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump) or hashtags relating to their campaigns (e.g.

    #MakeAmericaGreatAgain or #FeelTheBern)*. Selfie was taken to mean that at least some part of the authors body was present in the image.

    The search was limited to organic posts by removing any retweets, and posts which did not contain selfies were manually removed**. Overall 2,640 mentions were recorded.

    The project focused on a randomized representative sample, comprising 10% of all content, or 264 mentions. This sample was later manually coded (see next slide)

    Data Collection

    Political Campaigns

    Mentions of candidates or

    voting

    = contains selfie and from the US

  • Method

    Automated tagging and categorisation of posts (based on specific mentions of handles, hashtags and

    keywords), was achieved using advanced keyword analysis. These were later reviewed in the sampled

    data to remove any inaccuracies due to software limitations, especially its inability to conduct visual

    analytics.

    Coding included a qualitative approach, reading through content and assessing the impact of shared

    opinions and multimedia.

    Emotional Engagement was based on the posts syntax and grammar, as well as the staging of the

    picture. Short texts lacking punctuation were tagged as Unengaged, while mentions using exaggerated

    language and punctuations as well as emoticons were marked as Passionate. Graphic imageries were

    also labelled as Dramatic.

    Selfie Objectives were divided into six themes.

    General Boasting included images of users showing off as well as mostly self-centred posts,

    Encouraging Others were tweets which asked users to go vote or support a candidate,

    Humour/ Irony included mentions which re-appropriated hashtags to create new meanings as well as

    graphic content or posts whos objective was to generate highly emotive responses,

    Support for Politicians were selfies which backed a candidate without directly asking others to do the

    same,

    All other selfies were marked as Other.

    Automated Coding

    Candidate Discussed (limited to Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz,

    Bernie Sanders, and Donald Trump)

    Hashtags

    Political Party Discussed (limited to Democratic and

    Republican Parties)

    Reply Count

    Reply To

    Event (Caucus, Debate, Rally, Primary, Other)

    Manual Coding

    @Mentions (differentiating between mentions of political

    candidates and others)

    Level of Anonymity (Face, Sticker, Other)

    Emotional Engagement (Unengaged, Limited Emotions,

    Emotional, Very Emotional, Passionate)

    Sentiment Towards Candidate (Negative, Neutral, Positive)

    Photo Participants (Alone, In Group, With Candidate, With

    Other Politicians, Other)

    Selfie Objective (General Boasting, Encouraging Others,

    Humor/Irony, Support for Politician, Other)

    Coding

  • Automated Coding 3: Are the selfies in support of any of the four leading candidates?

    Automated Coding 2: Are the selfies in support of a particular political party?

    Clinton Sanders Cruz Trump Other/ Not

    Stated

    15% 24% 7% 9% 45%

    Automated Coding 1: What is the political setting of the selfie?*

    Democrat Republican Not Stated

    43% 23% 34%

    Rally Primaries Caucus Other

    12% 2% 19% 11%

    Debates

    56%

    Initial Typology

    *Caucus: A meeting of the registed members of a legislative body who are members of a particular political party, to select candidates.

    *Primaries: A preliminary election to select the candidates for the presidential election. Voters, who are registered members of a

    particular political party, cast secret ballots for their preferred candidates.

  • Initial Typology Range of Emotional Engagement

    Unengaged

    6%

    Limited Emotions

    22%

    Emotional

    52%

    Very Emotional

    12%

    Passionate

    8%

    https://twitter.com/sydneyleeford/statuses/684143385842597888https://twitter.com/RyanBretonWX/statuses/684162533939392513https://twitter.com/callie_blan/statuses/685665363082743808https://twitter.com/PrezSelfieGirls/statuses/686939610631532544https://twitter.com/HelenaHSHuskies/statuses/690243787495493632

  • Performance

  • 0

    100

    200

    300

    400

    500

    600

    700

    800

    900

    1000

    Jan 04 Jan 11 Jan 18 Jan 25 Feb 01 Feb 08 Feb 15 Feb 22 Feb 29 Mar 07 Mar 14 Mar 21 Mar 28

    Sh

    are

    of

    Can

    did

    ate

    s

    Hillary Clinton Bernie Sanders Ted Cruz Donald Trump Other/ Unknown

    Weekly Trends: Volume of Selfies Mentioning Candidates

    March 1st: Super Tuesday

    March 5th: Super Saturday

    March 15th: Five primaries and

    one caucus for each party

    February 1st: First election

    event with Ohio caucus

    * See appendix for full list of