The Selfie: Modern Day Narcissus VS. True Aesthetes of our Generation?
Selfies are a classic Marmite situation. People tend to love or hate them, frequently take them or scorn/ridicule those who take them...
Are we just in love with our own image?
Is it the ultimate sign of self-confidence and empowerment?
Are we trivialising the world's beauty by simply using them as selfie backdrops?
Do likes really mean anything in the end?
The constant act of photographing oneself can be seen as a highly narcissistic exercise. It is a testament to and extension of the clear "Me Generation" philosophy. We seem to belong to a generation whereby we all take our behavioural advice from that of the Greek mythological figure Narcissus whom fell victim to his own beauty, falling in love with his own image. He was unable to depart from the beauty of his reflection in a pool and eventually died because he could not leave the poolside. Every event and situation has been turned into an opportunity to present ourselves online, to highlight our "beauty", indicating a new level of superficiality. When perusing social media sites those whom do not feature selfies often can be considered unattractive and seen to be purposefully avoiding the use of selfies in order to hide from the unforgiving camera lens. Our society is infiltrated with a desire for publicity: we want to publish images of ourselves and seek the self-aggrandisement which follows with that.
However, others have spoken in defence of capturing and posting selfies. The selfie has become a means of positive self-reinforcement and self-image, a tool for the establishment of the improvement and development of one's self-esteem. When utilised to capture an image with others, the selfie becomes a tool to encapsulate a moment in time: an instant whether that moment is humorous, sentimental, hideous or memorable in any way at all. To take an image of oneself with others is simply taking a photograph during a social situation. However, when alone, why is the selfie still so damned popular?
Throughout history, humankind have been encouraged to encapsulate themselves within art in some way. In the past that has been attained through the long process of painting portraits, creating sculptures or through the use of written/poetic narratives. From prehistoric eras, cave painting was utilised in order to record one's society, to document themselves: these images became relics for future generations and are highly valued and regarded: is it possible that one day, the selfie will undergo the same process of valuation.
It can be said that in the contemporary age, the selfie has become the modern symbol for the generational need to stamp one's sense of personal identity onto society, to validate oneself in some way in the context of the wider world. We post selfies in order to reap positive reinforcement and endorsement in our image, which may be vain, an indication in our own self-confidence or in fact, it may be a means by which we can try to abate our own self-esteem issues.
Our contemporary environment is a place where bullying and especially cyber bullying are rife. With the publication of selfies, people are opening themselves up to critique of their physical appearance solely based upon the images that they take, hoping for compliments, often their images do not receive the commendations they desire and the disappointment in that can have detrimental impact upon one's morale.
Another defence for the selfie has revolved around the argument of the commodification of the women's body as subjects of the Male Gaze and by society in the form of advertisements and other such imagery. One may state that if a woman is to be subject to this culture wherein they will constantly attempt to present themselves in the most conventionally beautiful manner and constantly feel like they will never measure up to the magazine images which perpetuate our society, then why should one not be their own source of self-exploitation?
Personally, I feel that taking selfies is a slippery slope to a highly narcissistic existence. If we are taking selfies with a specific purpose such as to show off new purchases or a new haircut, or in order to highlight a fun moment in our lives, then the selfie does seem to have merit. However, there are two many instances in modern society whereby one posts onto social media platforms in order to simply demonstrate an acknowledgement of their own beauty or perfection and simply seek the positive admirations that they believe they are due. There is a time and a place for a selfie and it is easy to slip into the "too often" category...even if you are the most beautiful person on the planet. Also, to those who state that they actually have low self-esteem and they use selfies to try to overcome that...I call bullshit. When one really does have low self-esteem they do not open themselves up on public forums for critique. It is the classic act of saying: "Oh, I look awful today" when actually you've spent time to ensure that you do look pretty good. So I'm definitely a selfie cynic....what about you?