Change the World with_Selfies?


Photo from designboom

It was more than a decade ago when the ‘selfie’ phenomenon came into affect, contributing to the online-centric world we live in today. What I find most fascinating is how much selfies expose human behaviour and interest (natural undercover work) with positive and negative affects.  It got me thinking, can the ‘Selfie’ help or hinder campaigning?

Selfies have led to the creation of animal welfare campaigns, such as stopping the use of animals as photographic props.


Image from the Independent ‘Stop Taking Tiger Selfies….’

The issue of the use of animals a photographic props is covered widely by organisations, often under a ‘responsible tourism’ umbrella. NGOs attempt quantitative mobilisation (Rucht, 2004 ,p27); however some take reaching the masses via an educational approach (e.g. long explanation text) while others a more confrontational approach (e.g. short text, emotive language and requests to join the movement) to changing human behaviour.

Rose (2010) concludes that news connects with politics through events. It seems selfies and celebrities create news, leading to outcomes like the ban of tiger selfies in New York. Such a unique tale went on to gain further media coverage in end-of-year news summaries. There is little evidence of competing frames; therefore the campaign may rely heavily on making people realise a lack of progress when opportunities for shaming present paired with promotion of alternatives to harmful practices to create a new ideology.

Selfies are also a campaign’s tactical solution, such as the case with raising awareness of endangered animals.


Image from Higher Visibility 5 Best Social Media Viral Campaigns of 2015

WWF demonstrates how much ‘new media’ such as Snapchat is a signficant for campaign communications (Rose, 2010). This campaign manages global reach, while being interactive (as demonstrated with the use of Snapchat), accessible (by wide sharing of specialist information) and interesting.

It certainly proved to be a good information campaign, reporting results of 40,000 tweets in one week and 120 million twitter timelines meaning 50% of all active twitter users were exposed to it’.  Their monthly donation target met in three days – but what about behaviour change impact, which is what is truly required for combating climate change?

Dunwoody (p93) states that ‘lay audiences readily use mass media messages to learn about a risk or issue…they appear to resist interpreting those messages as being about themselves personally.’ What further acts could be taken by the 40,000 who tweeted (and the audiences they reached)? Was it a missed opportunity to link simple actions to big outcomes?

The ‘selfie’ has convinced me it can be a useful information tool and can help develop or promote campaigns. Maybe someday we will see a surge in selfies of people writing their MP?


Dunwoody, S. (2008). The challenge of trying to make a difference using social media. In: Moser, S. (2008). Creating a climate for change: communicating climate change and facilitating social change. Institute for the Study of Society and Environment. New York: Cambridge University Press, 89-104.

Rose, C. (2010). How to Win Campaigns: Communications for Change2nd ed. London: Earthscan.

Rucht, D. (2004) ‘The quadruple ‘A’: Media strategies of protest movements since the 1960s’ in W. van deDonk, B. D. Loader, P. G. Nixon and D. Rucht (eds) Cyberprotest: New media, citizens and social movements, London and New York: Routledge, pp. 29-56.

This blog is part of my MA in Media, Campaigns and Social Change with the University of Westminster.


2 thoughts on “Change the World with_Selfies?

  1. Micol Petruzzi says:

    I didn’t know about this new (outrageous) “trend”, so thank you for that. Also, I find those selfies very disturbing and I think this can be seen as an example of a potentially winning campaign strategy which could also result in a terribly wrong outcome. Maybe it is our responsibility, as campaigners, to take it into account beforehand?


  2. Conscious Digest says:

    Thank you for this interesting post.

    I was hoping I could be sharing something beautiful or uplifting but sometimes the things we need to share are just the opposite.

    Your post reminded me about this story of a woman called Rebecca Francis, who would take photos of herself with animals, such as lions and giraffes, after she had killed them:

    While looking for the source to include in this comment, I came across another story, which is actually more shocking as it is a 12 year old child who’s responsible for the killings. Her name is Aryanna Gourdin. The Daily Mail headline for the news was: ‘I am a hunter, I’ll never stop’. You can read the article here:

    Thanks for the inspiration. I will be writing more about this topic and will keep you posted.

    Thanks aswell for your interest in animal protection.

    Liked by 1 person

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