⟲ Re-Post

“Pics, or it didn’t happen” from March 7. 2017


, Discussion Post, Everyday, History, Memory, Re-Post, Selfie, Selfies, Snapchat


In the midst of reading José Van Dijck’s article “Digital Photography: Communication, Identity, Memory”, I thought of a particular phrase (sometimes a meme) that has been appropriated from message forums to now critique selfie takers: “Pics, or it didn’t happen”. http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/pics-or-it-didnt-happen Typically used in a condescending tone, the phrase confronts the ‘need’ to take a picture, post that picture, and share that picture rather than ‘live in the moment’.

In connection to Van Dijck’s article, I argue that the ‘need’ to take, post, and share pictures, and especially selfies, is very much a part of the communicative purposes of the image. Dijck writes that pictures are now used “to convey a brief message, or merely to show affect” (61). In many ways, cameraphone images announce, draw attention, mark, or make known “real-time experience”, much like speech acts (for more see Austin, Philosophical Papers) (62). Like a speech act, a selfie communicate socially through:

(a) an utterance – by taking the picture, the locutionary act

(b) an offering of conveyed meaning – by posting the image, a kind of illocutionary act

(c) received by another – by the audience viewing/responding to the image, a kind of perlocutionary act

Arguably, the social aspect of a selfie is the ‘necessity’ of taking the image. Pictures are not just about capturing or archiving anymore, as Van Dijck notes, but to share and communicate experiences (62). Arguably, without the picture taking and sharing, the experience lacks social validation (a receiver of the illocutionary act), and therefore the experience ‘didn’t happen’. Importantly, Paul Frosh draws this connection when he writes that selfies are “sociable” practices linked to types of speech “whose primary purpose is the production, expression, and maintenance of sociability” (1623). However, this complicates practices on platforms like Snapchat, where images have ephemeral qualities. Therefore:

  • Does the Snapchat selfie, whose main attraction is sociability, work as a speech act if the receiver only has 10-15 seconds to view the image?
  • Is this a fair correlation between speech acts and selfies?
  • If so, then are there specific discourse formations in selfie culture?


Work Cited

Austin, J. L. Philosophical Papers. 2nd ed. United States: Andesite, 2015. Print.

Frosh, Paul. “The Gestural Image: The Selfie, Photography Theory, and Kinesthetic Sociability.” International Journal of Communication 9 (2015): 1607-628. USC Annenberg. Web. 19 Feb. 2017.

Van Dijck, José. “Digital Photography: Communication, Identity, Memory.” Visual Communication 7.1 (2008): 57-76. Sage Journals. Web. 19 Feb. 2017.

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