Selfies and sociality

In Ruth Page’s recent article Group selfies and Snapchat: From sociality to synthetic collectivisation, she extends on Zappavigna & Zhao’s (2017) taxonomy to consider how photos and sound work together on Snapchat stories to create a sense of shared perspective. She argues that:

Selfies are not just produced as images, but are a form of multimodal discourse which can include visual, aural and verbal elements when shared through video clips that can be created on smart phones. 

Page, R. (2018). Group selfies and Snapchat: From sociality to synthetic collectivisation. Discourse, Context & Media.

Similar to early research defining presented, mirrored, inferred, and implied selfies, Page describes the intersubjectivity of the selfie-taker as  present, indirect (metonymic), indirect, and ‘zero’ through a combination of the perspective of the photograph and sounds included in video “snaps”. 

With this lens, we can see how selfies can be interpreted as more than just digitally-mediated narcissistic acts but also as facilitators of sociality. Through video selfies that employ visual, textual, and auditory modes, viewers are invited to do more than just look at me; viewers are invited to look and listen with me–(or in the case of a group selfie, with us).

In online dating profiles, we can trace a variety of communicative invitations to look at me and with me through visual, textual, auditory, and technological affordances.

First, let’s consider the types of photos that users put on their dating profiles. These photos tend to be a combination of selfie-types, some that invite potential partners through visual means to look at me (and at us) and others that prompt a more social engagement to look with me

Next, let’s consider how technological affordances embedded in some apps, like Tinder and Bumble’s option to link other social media to the dating profile facilitates opportunities for sociality through both visual and auditory.  By linking one’s Instagram, for example, daters give their audience a greater view into the window of their visual life, inviting others to both look at me and look with me, depending on the types of images posted on the social photography space. With the link to Spotify, daters invite potential partners to listen with me, thus sharing their auditory perspective though musical artist preferences.

By linking one’s Instagram, for example, daters give their audience a greater view into the window of their visual life, inviting others to both look at me and look with me, depending on the types of images posted on the social photography space. With the link to Spotify, daters invite potential partners to listen with me, thus sharing their auditory perspective though musical artist preferences.

Kastrenakes, J. (2016, September 20). Tinder can now show your top Spotify tracks. Retrieved November 24, 2018, from

Lastly, dating platforms like Hinge and Zoozk’s Lively allow users to post videos in addition to images on their profile. This integration of video means that people can invite their audience to look and listen to me, to us, and with us, depending on the type of video displayed. 

Seeking young hotties

It is not just a cliche to say that men go for younger women–a trend that carries over to the online dating world. In fact, the data confirms the frustrated statement that I heard in a recent interview with a woman in her 50’s who said:

“All these old guys think they should have a young hottie and they are missing out on quality relationships with women in their own age range!”

I have heard this sentiment echoed by women over 50 who are looking for a committed relationship with a man close to their age.

One of the problems with online dating for older women is that age is used as both an identity label and a filtering tool in apps. This means that if men over 50 are seeking women the same age or younger, women close to their age will be less salient in their dating pool–even those that may be only one year older. Moreover, if people set their age filters at increments at decade and mid-decade points then it is likely that once a woman hits 50 she may experience a drop in potential men seeking her out and again at 55, then 60, and so on.

Screenshot (134)

A closer look at the data on gender differences in online dating habits shows that the phenomena of seeking younger partners is not the biggest obstacle facing middle-aged women in the dating pool. Since men are openly “seeking” women close to their age until about 70 years old, one might suggest that the possibility of a woman finding someone close to her age still exists–though it may be more of a crap shoot.

The problem is just who men are open to connecting with, but rather who they opt to communicate with. When looking at who men contact and reply to, men consistently go younger, and the age range increases as they get older. In their 20’s, men are seeking women within 5 years either direction, but contact and reply to those younger–albeit only by 1 or 2 years.  Throughout middle age, men reach out to women that are 5 years younger, and actually reply to women that are 1-3 years younger. So while men may be open to younger women–and may even desire them, their communicative practices suggest that they chat with women just a little bit younger.

If you were paying attention to the chart presented here, you might also notice that men are not the only ones who are seeking younger partners. While it is true that men skew younger throughout their life span, the data shows that once woman hit middle age they also increasingly seek  and contact younger partners. However, when it comes to the communication point, women reply to men the same age or  slightly older until they hit their 70s, and then they too are all about the young hotties…5 years their junior.


Fiore, A. T., Taylor, L. S., Zhong, X., Mendelsohn, G. A., & Cheshire, C. (2010). Who’s Right and Who Writes: People, Profiles, Contacts, and Replies in Online Dating. In 2010 43rd Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences(HICSS) (pp. 1–10).


As a narrative analysts, I am fascinated by stories, especially those we tell about who we are. These stories serve to represent ourselves to the world around us as well as provide a tool to make sense of our place in the worlds we inhabit.

Giddens (1990) suggests that self-identity is not a set of traits or observable characteristics, but rather a person’s own reflexive understanding of their biography (53). Linde (1993) refers to the such everyday narrative acts as “life stories” in which people make sense of self through the act of telling stories about who they are to others. She points out that our life story is not static, but always evolving as we tell new stories. Thus, people re-story the self with each new telling.

It should be noted that these storytelling practices do not happen in isolation such that our sense of self is defined solely by the stories we want to tell. Instead, identity is co-constructed through narrative practices, with our identity being defined in storytelling acts that rely on the interaction between the storyteller and the listener, as they negotiate meaning through telling, listening, and conversing–re-storying the self collaboratively.

When considering the case of online dating, stories about the self are an integral aspect of the communicative practices that lead to connection, as demonstrated by the advertisement for the Okcupid website. As people opt to enter the online dating world, the first step is to set up a profile–a digital life story, so to speak, that is adapted to the technological constraints of each platform.

OKC Dating Better Profile Prompt 2 Women

These m/e-stories are multimodal–integrating text, image, and technology–to represent and communicate a desirable self. This self-branding through multimodal stories is fluid, often co-constructed, and intricately mediated by digital technology as my current research intends to show. Stay tuned…


Giddens, A. (1991). Modernity and self-identity. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Linde, C. (1993). Life stories: the creation of coherence. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.





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