Major study of selfies finds major demographic differences between countries

24 Feb 2014

In what might be seen as an odd study to undertake, a team from Selfie City has undertaken a massive online study to look at how the selfie phenomenon differs greatly across the world.

To undertake the survey, the Selfie City team looked at five cities – Berlin, New York, Sao Paulo, Bangkok and Moscow – and selected 120,000 photos (20,000-30,000 photos per city) from a total of 656,000 images the team collected on the photo-sharing website Instagram.

They then went on to select the top 1,000 photos from each city, which would have at least two workers tagged as a single-person selfie.

From the survey came a series of results which are both surprising and not so surprising.

The most obvious result shows that selfies remain largely the domain of young people, as their statistics show the median age of a selfie taker is 23.7 years old.

 Bangkok is the city with the youngest selfie takers, with a median age of 21, whereas New York has the oldest, at 25.3 years old.

Major gender difference

In terms of gender differences, women remain the biggest selfie takers in the five cities by a considerable margin, with 1.3 times as many women compared to men in Bangkok, 1.9 times more in Berlin, while Moscow has a huge gender gap, with 4.6 times more female than male selfies.

The research team even looked at which city’s selfie takers strike the most extreme poses. According to its analysis, women’s selfies show more expressive poses; for instance, the average amount of head tilt is 50pc higher than for men (12.3° vs. 8.2°) with Sao Paulo showing the most extreme tilting at 16.9°.

The Selfie City team sees the project as part of an overall study of cultural differences between countries and cities and whether we all interact with social media in different ways.

According to Moritz Stefaner, the lead information visualisation designer on the project, the data collection was an incredibly tough process given the team wanted to have the correct information.

“Showing the high level patterns in the data – the big picture – as well as the individual images, has been an important theme in our project.

“How can we find summarisations of big data collections, which still respect the individuals, and don’t strip away all the interesting details? This has become a quite central question to us, not only with respect to selfies.”

Selfie age chart

The breakdown of ages in the Selfie City survey

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic