“From where I’m sitting, I AM the centre of the Universe!”
Andy Warhol was famous for saying that in the future we will all have our 15 minutes of fame. Well my friends the future is now and many people are already famous inside their own heads.
I am talking about that phenomena that’s sweeping the globe:
A photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone, digital camera or webcam and uploaded to a social media website.
I see more and more people doing this… MM calls it “selfing”.
And not just adorable little blondes with cutesy pink phones…people from all walks of life, actors, artists, men on the street, ladies of the evening, cats, babies and even presidents and leaders of people.
How did we get so obsessed with our own image?
The first selfies; born out of “necessity” for most of us. Since the advent of social media and as more and more of us are becoming social online we need a profile pic. It’s not something anyone really planned, it sort of just happened. We could blame Mark Zuckerberg, the creator of Facebook who thought of the world as one big yearbook with a sea of faces with which one could compare against each other and judge. The selfie does predate Facebook and MySpace, where the term was first generally used. Taking a photograph of oneself started with the invention of photography. It has only been lately that it has become an obsession for some, a joke to others. Whatever it is–it has become a part of our social landscape and our common global culture.
Speaking for myself; I took my first one in the Autumn of 2012. I “needed” an updated Gravatar for this very same blog. I was hesitant to ask anyone to take my picture because it sounded so weird and self-indulgent. ( Of course I am not one of those people.) I snapped a few shots myself with my webcam, it was so easy. We are humans and social media is a place of social interaction between us. Our faces convey so much to each other, so much emotion, feeling. Many of our electronic communications are littered with emoticons. Mere words cannot give the entire picture.
We have a need for each other. A need to meet others to express thoughts and ideas. To be understood. To reach out and make that connection. To share ourselves with others. Running the gambit of emotions; happiness to sadness and back again… from the amazing to the mundane. We have a need to belong and to be looked upon favorably by our peers. Selfies can be fun. Some are very inventive and creative. I don’t think they are necessarily a bad thing or a sign of the moral decay of our civilization and subsequent doom. I think they can be empowering for people and a way to boost self esteem. There are groups that embrace the idea of the selfie and encourage people to submit their own self portraits 365 days a year. I have explored some of the submitted images. Some of it is quite artistic; there are talented photographers out there snapping pics of themselves every day.
The internet has put so much of our lives on display for one another. This puts the viewer of such display in the judges seat. It is tempting for anyone to judge given some of what we see and it’s easy to assume some find themselves on the short end of the comparison. People’s opinions of each other unfortunately are swayed by appearance; the appearance of wealth, youth and good looks…the appearance of happiness….no one wants to look like a loser, or old or fat or bald or whatever. Simply put, we care what other think about us and this very human truism is being played out on a grand scale throughout the digital world.
We call them selfies, we take them of ourselves but do they truly reflect our real selves? I have seen quite a few of them and rarely are they realistic.
The selfie is a way for many to become the self they have always wanted to be. I googled “selfie fails” and found a plethora of examples of Photoshop gone wrong. Men and women with obviously unrealistic bodies and faces, freakishly thin waists, bulging chests and completely unlined faces. The pull is strong to want to doctor ones photos. I myself I am guilty of erasing a line or two here and there. Who doesn’t want to be younger; to look 25 again? Who doesn’t want the perfect body and the perfect life? We see them all the time…these people with the perfect everything.
The perfection hype we buy into is sold to us by the media. The Joneses we are struggling to keeping up with don’t even exist.
The perfect job, mate and kids, the perfect parties and friends. These people go on exciting and exotic vacations with all the other beautiful people living perfect lives. We know this because we see it in their selfies. The ones they are nice enough to share with us so we can “like” them and comment; tell them how wonderful they are and how young they really do look. All accompanied by smiley faces and hearts.
Isn’t life a series of images that change as they repeat themselves?
I also saw some other types of selfies on my googling adventure into this odd and narcissistic world. There were the funny ones, the amazing ones, the clever and cute ones, the silly duck faces and the ones with the bizarre backgrounds. But there were some sad ones as well. I was stricken by the number of photos taken by women, apparently mothers in bathrooms and other places with big mirrors posing for suggestive selfies in front of their small children.
I am a bit naive but this shocked me. It came off as desperate, so sad and lonely. And then I began to look at all the selfies in a different light. Maybe they are not just a sign of our collective narcissism and self-obsession, maybe there is something deeper; an underlying anxiety of separation, a feeling we are losing ourselves, the dissolution of the family unit. We are spending longer hours in the office, on the road, increasingly we are spending more and more time apart from each other.
We need to be accepted and understood. We need to be connected and have others think well of us. Unfortunately this need to be liked and accepted maybe envied or idolized has become an obsession for some.
And maybe…just maybe, if we can have the perfect selfie we can get a little piece of that perfect life too…
As with everything else; nothing is all black or white…
…points to ponder…
Have yourself a wonderful day!
“Wanting to be someone else is a waste of the person you are.”
Related articles and items of interest
The selfie (wikipedia.org)
THE SELFIE SYNDROME (feeldesain.com)
Scientists link selfies to narcissism, addiction and mental illness (trueactivist.com)