In classical portraits, the inclusion of certain objects would give the viewers a peek at the personality of the subject. We can stroll the halls of museums and understand much about the lives of those who sat for portraits by the symbolic inclusion of personal effects.
Where selfies are concerned, the props being held can send a message as loud and clear as any caption could. The subtext of specific objects in selfies is easy to understand, once you learn their language. Use this guide to decipher the symbolism of objects in selfies and what they say:
Mirror selfie with phone in front of face: “I haven’t done my makeup yet.”
Mirror selfie with phone away from face: “I just did my makeup.”
Sunglasses on head: “I’m outside during the middle of the workday! You may live a boring existence working a 9-5, but I have the kind of freewheeling life of glamour that allows me to be outside during the hours of the workday, hence my need for these sunglasses.”
Ice cream cone: “It’s warm enough where I’m living to eat ice cream outside without freezing all the blood in your veins and dying a slow, painful freeze death. Humblebrag!”
Sipping from a mug blocking the lower half of your face: “This is definitely shitty coffee, but I want you to think it’s classy tea. I’m an intellectual, I’m probably writing a novel right now, and definitely wasting my genius working out how to angle this mug in such a way that it covers up the pimple on my chin.”
Wine glass in the hand: “I am 21 and tons of fun, or I would not be openly holding a wine glass on social media.”
Wine glass in the background: “I am under 21 and tons of fun, as I am careful to establish plausible deniability that I was actually drinking from that wine glass. Ew, dad, are you KIDDING? Wine is like, SO GROSS. wink.”
Holding cupcake: “I know I need to tell you that I’m definitely going to eat this cupcake, but I need to take a picture of my face BEFORE I bite into it, because I’m going to ruin my lipstick and possibly get frosting on the tip of my nose, so just know that I’m very cute in this moment before I soil myself.”
Dog in your selfie: “This dog? NOT my dog. But look! Dogs love me! I can be caring and nurturing! …for as long as it takes to snap a selfie.”
Dog IS your selfie: “This dog… IS my dog! Look at my dog! All glory unto my dog! GOOD DOG.”
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Indeed, the subtle clues in selfies can tell us more about the subject and the artist than a thousand hashtags can! Once you are attuned to the symbolism in these objects, you will be able to understand selfies better than you ever thought you did before.