Selfies are forever

A selfie stick (image: Wikipedia)
A selfie stick (image: Wikipedia)

Institutional Communication Service

6 November 2017

In the varied world of social media, the posting of content, mainly pictures, on temporary-sharing platforms is increasingly popular, as shown by the numbers of daily users on Snapchat (150 million) and Instagram Stories (250 million). On these and other platforms, there is also a growing tendency to post selfies of sharers in goofy or even uninhibited situations, which do not consider the possible effects on viewers. In fact, the sharing of 'unbridled' content, even if only for a short time, does not change the probability that viewers will judge such content - and therefore also the sharers themselves. In other words, between sharers and viewers there is asymmetry in the perception of the use of these portals: the former use them carelessly, trusting in their short-lived nature, while the latter do not distinguish between temporary and permanent posts to express an opinion – whether positive or negative.

According to Reto Hofstetter, professor at the USI Master in Marketing and co-author of the study Temporary sharing prompts unrestrained disclosures that leave lasting negative impressions, “viewers are less concerned with how is shared, whether on one platform or another, but rather with what is shared. Sharers mistakenly believe that the temporary nature of certain sharing platforms is the panacea for digital self-representation that meets both the need for disclosure and privacy. Our research shows that viewers ‘memorize' the impressions they receive from these selfies, far beyond their short online life”. The study also indicates the possible reasons why people share this sort of content in the first place. One reason is that self-disclosure confers psychological benefits, such as intimacy and liking. It is in fact considered a means of achieving connection with others, which is a fundamental human motivation.

The study was conducted by Prof. Hofstetter together with co-authors a Roland Rüppell, Ph.D. researcher at the USI Faculty of Communication Sciences, Leslie K. John, Associate Professor at Harvard Business School. The article is published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) and is available in ‘open access’ mode at:


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