Future Foundation Archive: Blog

Nomi-nation: What made the #nomakeupselfie so successful?

Believe it or not, this isn’t the first time that a charity has raised money with the natural look. Children in Need launched BearFaced in 2012, drawing on a range of famous women and a celebrity photographer to shoot perfect images to front the cause. Even with this clout behind the campaign it barely scratched the surface compared to the #nomakeupselfie that has been doing the social rounds over the past few weeks. The #nomakeupselfie grew organically online, rather than as part of a social media strategy, and support has been substantial. To date, at least £8 million has been raised for Breast Cancer Research in the UK alone.

So what has made the #nomakeupselfie so appealing, and what does it mean for charity and evolving self confidence in women – both off and online?

In typical Big Lie fashion, consumers are rarely going to admit the true intentions behind their actions. Although it is likely that all contributors have a genuine intention to raise money and awareness for Breast Cancer Research it is unlikely to be the main factor for most involved in this selfie related craze. If it were, there would be a higher price point here than £3, the approximate cost of a coffee chain latte. And we’d see individuals posting cancer information to their social networks, rather than mascara-less eyes, which does very little for the cause independently.

So what are the consumers’ hidden intentions?

In the realm of the social media and Performative Perfection it’s not good enough to just be a caring/hilarious/creative/[insert other appealing trait] person. You have to be seen to be this person. In this instance, the cost of donation added to the rational cost of going ‘bare faced’ in a single self-selected photo is significantly outweighed by the kudos of involvement: telling your social circle that you are popular enough to be nominated, that you are confident, caring and above the layer of fakery commonly associated with selfie photographs. There is awareness that anyone can look good with an Instagram filter and enough eye liner  and an appreciation of being at a higher level of perfection if you can go without. This realist spin on Performative Perfection is just at its dawn and is what we believe will be the next mountain for the most savvy of social networkers to climb.

The real driving force behind the spread of the #nomakeupselfie is the trend of nomination culture which we’ve come to see seen in 2014. Nominations are like the chain letter of 2014, but far more ferocious, efficient and rewarding to contribute to. The workings of Facebook in 2014 make our social circle far larger than just our own friendship network: pictures and posts tagged with a few close friends can now spread to friends of friends, with the ‘likes’ to these posts further increasing the network’s reach.

What does the #nomakeupselfie campaign mean for Perfection of the Body for women? We know that the importance of The Visual Self in today’s image obsessed culture is stark. Research suggests that whilst rising numbers of women are de-tagging images of themselves on social networks, an interest in cosmetic surgery is also on the rise. Against this trend the #nomakeupselfie appears to stand for female natural beauty, but it is unlikely to have a positive effect in the long term. If anything, it has raised the bar for those with genuine low body confidence, the women that would have refused to take part in the campaign at all costs. The desire for ‘natural’ perfection will be more prevalent and I wouldn’t be surprised if interest in non-invasive skin treatments grows noticeably over the next months leading to the summer.

Author: Georgina Sapsted, Quantitative Analysis Manager
Image: Andrew Morrell

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