The past year has seen the vast rise of the popularity of the ‘selfie’, leading to a worldwide phenomenon known as the selfie Olympics.

With the Olympics in full swing it leads us to wonder, can the selfie damage your online reputation?

For those who have been left out of the loop, the selfie is a picture you take of yourself on your smartphone. Its rise in prominence can be attributed to both an evolving sophistication in smartphone technology and the emerging trend of celebrity selfies with notable figures such as Miley Cyrus, Beyoncé and even President Barack Obama self-snapping pics.


The selfie has even reached such heights that it was named the ‘Oxford dictionary word of the year.’ However our work in the online reputation management industry has shown us that technological trends and platforms can often damage reputation. Is there such risk with the selfie?

The answer to this lies in two key areas, context and platform. The first, context, examines what is in the picture itself and places it in a wider context. Basically, is it offensive and/or inappropriate?

It’s easy to see why offensive selfie content would damage reputation; it would convince people that you held offensive opinions; however with context it may not be as clear. Is it always inappropriate to take a selfie?

Not always but it certainly can be. Take the Obama selfie, for example. The idea of a presidential selfie is offensive in and of itself to more conservative groups, but taking it at Mandela’s memorial was bound to generate negative press. The lesson here is to be aware of how people will view the selfie, think how they think, before you post.

With this we turn to platform. Selfies are noticed because they are posted to social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. What you might find humorous, others may find offensive. By posting on a social media site you are practically inviting these people to turn it into an issue.

As the selfie Olympics grips a generation, the rest of us are at least provided some entertainment. However if you get the urge to compete yourself, remember that what might make good selfie material to you, may prompt outrage from others. Selfies, with the right motivation, can certainly be an online reputation risk.

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