Our Modern World

Posting a Selfie Is Now ‘Social Currency’

There are only two kinds of people in the world, apparently.
screen shot 2012 09 13 at 2 52 07 pm Posting a Selfie Is Now Social Currency

(Photo: Twitter/MileyCyrus)

The Pew Internet & American Life Project has once again sent its demographers out into the binary wilds to examine how human behavior is evolving in the digital age. The organization’s latest report, culled from interviews with 1,005 respondents over 18 years old, found that “Photos and videos have become key social currencies online.”

While you can’t yet trade this currency in for durable goods–just Instagram and Twitter followers and fans/haters of your personal brand–this iteration of our value system has necessitated a new nomenclature

  • 46% of adult internet users post original photos or videos online that they themselves have created. We call them creators.
  • 41% of adult internet users take photos or videos that they have found online and repost them on sites designed for sharing images with many people. We call them curators.

Behind the high-brow jargon, currency, creators, and curators makes it seem like we’re all selling something now–your taste, your interests, or images of your life. The infrastructure girding this new value system? Social media and smartphones, of course.

It is safe to say, though, that the rise of smartphones is a major part of the story because those phones have cameras built into them, making it easy to take and share self-made pictures online. It is also safe to say that the rise of social media, especially YouTube and newer services like Pinterest, Instagram, and Tumblr has made curating activities easier because they are organized for easy image and video-sharing.

By far the biggest driver is Instagram, it seems. The report says 5 percent of online adults use Tumblr, compared to 12 percent of online adults for both Instagram and Pinterest. But if you look at young adult Internet users between 18-29,  Instagram has market pretty well penetrated, with 27 percent of that demographic. You know what they say, Zuck shall inherit the Earth.

Follow Nitasha Tiku on Twitter or via RSS. ntiku@observer.com