Twitter and Selfies Changed How I See Myself

Twitter and Selfies Changed How I See Myself
February 1, 2016 Julia Madeline Taylor

I will turn 40 this year, and I have to admit, it has been years since I liked taking, or seeing, pictures of myself.

Like, David Carr, who wrote about the new way that photography and selfies are impacting the world, in his January 2015 article, Selfies on a Stick, and the Social-Content Challenge for the Media, I don’t consider myself a Luddite.

I am generally a fairly early adopter of technology, and I keep up with both the hardware and software transforming media landscapes.

When I first thought of becoming a reporter in the 1990s, I was given the advice to wait to finish my undergraduate degree in journalism. The thinking was, getting my degree when I was ready to be a working journalist would serve me better than getting a degree that I intended to put off using until after I had children. It has turned out to be even better advice than I could have imagined at the time.

Carr had over a half million Twitter and Facebook followers at the time he reflected on our growing fascination with Selfies.

As a Twitter journalist, I am nowhere near as popular, though I’ve proven prolific, covering court hearings on new evidence supporting exoneration of the Fairbanks Four. As part of UAF journalism’s ongoing investigative reporting on the case, I put out almost 10,000 Tweets during the 25 days of the hearings, mostly tracking testimony and procedural developments inside the chambers, along with pictures and videos of the events outside the courtroom.

I grew up in a time when most pictures were expensive to take and develop, and so whatever the camera recorded, was likely to stay around. There are badly framed and unflattering pictures of me from the time I was born into my 20s, and while I have a few pictures of myself that I genuinely like, there are less than 10 of those that I can think of off the top of my head.

As someone who has divorced and dated since the revolution that made digital pictures ubiquitous, the search for the perfect picture for a dating website profile made me come to hate selfies as much as I hate the picture of me singing a solo in 4th grade, grimacing as I reached for a high note.

Now than I can take and retake as many digital pictures of myself as I want.  I find the imperfections captured in this era’s digital moment are at least as painful as those chemical images returned days or weeks after events

I’m glad I didn’t know when I set it up, just how many people would see my Twitter profile, or that it would be the way that people recognized me in the community. While I am still surprised to have 1.6 million Twitter Impressions and growing, the almost 50,000 times that people who have looked at my Twitter profile is more humbling.

I know that they pay attention to those pictures too. In interviews about my experience covering the hearing, or in the checkout line at the grocery story, I am regularly asked about my roommate’s Saint Bernard, who is in one of those pictures.

Throughout weeks of testimony coverage, on through to the final day the Fairbanks Four were released, people responded most to the pictures and videos that I posted.

Not only did I hear from followers begging for more about what was going on. I heard from many people who apparently felt connected to my coverage and wanted those pictures of me.

Waiting for the Fairbanks Four verdict with Duke

Waiting for the Fairbanks Four verdict with Duke

As the hearing progressed, I started taking more selfies, not just for Twitter, but to share with my kids, who all live far away. I’m slowly learning that they want to see me, and don’t really care how perfect the picture is that I am in.

So thanks Twitter, for helping me be a little less self conscious, and recognizing that there is a way to have fun with selfies, while still enjoying the ability to delete the ones I find truly hideous, before anyone else sees them.

(All selfies shared were either shared on Twitter, or with my children, between September 2015 and January 2016.)

Julia Madeline Taylor
UAF Journalism major & Alaska Native Studies minor - From live tweeting the entire 2015 Fairbanks Four hearing, following the political changes coming from legal decisions in Alaska and federal courts, to keeping an eye on events around UAF and Fairbanks, I am always looking for the story behind the story. Got an idea that you think is being missed? Drop me an email! Follow me on Twitter and - Don't miss a legal thing!

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