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The Selfie

There are currently a staggering¬†109million photos hash-tagged #selfie on Instagram. And with the recent announcement of ‘selfie’ as Oxford English Dictionary’s word of 2013, the nature of the selfie allowing us to interact with our favourite celebrities in ways like never before and¬†an¬†increased use of selfies in marketing, online campaigns and advertising¬†like this one¬†and this one,¬†it is fair to say that¬†#selfieculture, a term coined by psychologists to highlight the ubiquity of selfies,¬†shows the selfie as undeniably cementing itself as a hallmark of modern pop culture.

‘Selfie’ is the name given to a photo which has been taken on our smartphone’s reverse camera with the intention of it being uploaded to our¬†social media platform of choice¬†to serve as a visual communication of where we are, what we are doing, how we are looking or who we are with.

The Chainsmokers got down on the selfie trend by taking advantage of its pervasiveness which would then lead to the overwhelming success of their debut single.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kdemFfbS5H0

The music video includes a sarcastic dialogue to ridicule the¬†stereotypical selfie-goer¬†and also features a montage of everyday people who had hash-tagged their pictures ‘#selfie’ amongst selfies of celebrities such as Snoop Dogg, Kim Kardashian and David Hasslehoff.¬†The song mocks selfie culture by highlighting¬†how self-obsessed we are as we take selfies at the most uninteresting and inopportune of ¬†times, such as working out at the gym¬†or mourning at a funeral (yeah, people seriously do that). The iconic¬†lyric of the song, “but first, let me take a selfie” and other hash-tags such as ‘#selfiesunday’¬†or ‘#selfienation’ are often used to caption selfies to take the shame out of posting a selfie by acknowledging one’s¬†blatant self-indulgence. Sure, selfies are emblematic of our collective cultural decay in a world over-saturated by social media but, are they really that narcissistic and something to be embarrassed about?

I don’t think so, and here are three¬†reasons why:

  1. Selfies as normalising and redefining beauty:¬†For years we have been comparing ourselves to “perfect” women in the media, to an unrealistic and unattainable expectation of beauty. As Pamela Rutledge,¬†Ph.D. faculty director of the media psychology program at the Massachusetts school of Professional Psychology says, “”the cult of the selfie celebrates regular people. [Because of the selfie] there are many more photos of ‘real’ people than idealised images by thousands.” With the emergence of the selfie, we are able to redefine beauty as we see it in¬†ourselves and the¬†people we know around us. By embracing our own beauty we are challenging social norms. Rather than be represented by an unrealistic ideal of¬†beauty, we are representing the beauty of ‘real’ women ourselves.
  2. The ‘ugly’ selfie:¬†(Queue Ricky Gervais’s infamous bath selfie)¬†The ‘ugly’ emerged in a response to criticism about narcissism in regular selfies. ‘Ugly’ is loosely¬†defined in this context, but whether it be a deliberate duck-face piss take¬†or a quadruple chin selfie sent to your best friend on Snap Chat, we all take them and every time we’re challenging the¬†egotistical stigma attached to a conventional¬†selfie. They also serve as a reminder not to take life too seriously – there’s nothing like chuckling at a blatant ‘ugly’ when scrolling through your Instagram feed of otherwise flawless, filtered faces to brighten your day! In response to the ‘ugly’, Sarah, a Victoria University Student says the ‘ugly’ puts her personality back into self-documentation, “it makes taking selfies fun and a bit of a laugh. I think it’s healthy to be able¬†to take the piss out of ourselves and laugh at ourselves. I think other people respect and enjoy it, too.”
  3. Selfies and self-esteem:¬†Although many people believe the selfie is rooted in narcissism and conceit, psychologists say that in moderation selfies are a feel-good and creative way to chronicle our lives and express our personalities; that in which, people who post selfies assert they are in control of they want to feel. When we post a selfie and we receive likes or compliments we feel a boost in our esteem and perceived value of self-worth, it’s like, “I look good and I know it”, but you telling me I look good is going to make me feel even better. As Rutledge says, “it is innately human to seek acknowledgement, approval and acceptance, we are social beings, driven by the need for connection and social validation.” In simpler terms, there’s¬†nothing wrong with a few compliments to boost the old self-esteem!

However, such as everything with life you need to find the balance. So to all the selfie-goers who abuse the selfie, moderation is key because when you post too many you contribute the ridicule and stigma of the selfie phenomenon and you give every other normal selfie-taker¬†a bad rep! We’re not all conceited and self-obsessed, we aren’t all crying out in a desperate plea for validation¬†and attention, nor do we all take selfies stuck in traffic like “haha #stuckintraffic”, to which case you just need told to #keepyoureyesonthedamnroad.

For me, selfies are a fun way to share your experiences with others. Be it lounging around home in trackies or out getting coffee, they are a way to positively capture¬†and upload¬†how good we are feeling in that moment. In this way, the selfie¬†creates an¬†accepting¬†community of people all over the world, sharing the good vibes and promoting self-love. But as it’s now starting to sound more like a hippie cult than an online affinity, I’ll end it¬†here.

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The Tinder Addiction

tinder-slideI will openly admit that I had an active Tinder account for a few months. Although in my defence, I wasn’t on it looking for love, I signed up out of curiosity and only ever used it out of boredom as the online equivalent of people watching. However, that isn’t to say I didn’t find myself addicted to the self-gratifying nature of the game. I say ‘used’ because Tinder and I are no more. As I went to deactivate my profile and all the matches to go with it (look at me, sounding like an old hand at the online dating world) I pondered what it is about it that makes Tinder, a location based dating app,¬†so addictive?

All you have to do is log in with Facebook, select your desired gender, age-group and location radius, upload a compilation of flattering (most likely filtered) selfies and bish – bosh – bash, just like that you’re up and running, single and ready to mingle!

In just 19 months, Tinder has become some-what of a cultural phenomenon. Used largely by 18-24 year olds, Tinder, a mobile online dating app¬†is contributing to, and taking advantage of, the fast-growing generation gap. With the mobility and instantaneity of the smart phone leading the way of the future and young people’s comfort in sharing private information, Tinder is the ultimate way to connect, network, flirt, and build relationships on the go (or even better, from the comfort of your sweat pants and fluffy socks at home!) Gone are the Notebook-esque, romantic stories told to us by our parents and grandparents of how they met that long, hot summer. Rather, I imagine they will be a simple, “we both swiped right.” And I guarantee they’ll leave out excerpts of the¬†lewd¬†conversations that led to their eventual meet up.

As shallow as it may¬†be in nature, you cannot deny Tinder’s success. In the year and half since its launch, Tinder is credited with upwards of 750 million matches and counting. How many of those have led to ‘relationships’, in whichever capacity that may be, I do not know. Although my maths isn’t the best, I’m pretty sure that¬†means that there must be at least an active 1,500,000,000 profiles.¬†That’s some pretty good traffic. So, what is it that has 1,500,000,000 of us seemingly addicted to Tinder?

  1. It’s empowering¬†– with the unspoken mutual understanding of a meet up more than likely not going to happen, Tinder gives you this liberating feeling of anonymity. You can shamelessly unleash your inner minx, say whatever you like and not get embarrassed about it because hey, the chances of actually meeting this person are slim anyway.
  2. It’s an ego boost – as matches are based off appearances, it’s a really positive experience to have real people affirm our attractiveness. Tinder underscores and feeds our obsession for constant acknowledgement and approval.
  3. It’s comforting – it’s refreshing to be able to alleviate feelings of loneliness as a result of singledom by the swipe of a screen. A match comforts you by making you feel, to some degree, romantically desirable, as at its core Tinder is a dating app. Hopelessness is gone and instead you feel like you’ve got your pick of eligible suitors lining up to whisk you away.
  4. It’s fun – creators Sean Rad and Justin Mateen even say that Tinder was originally developed for a bit of fun they say they always saw Tinder, the interface, as a game. “They join because they want to have fun. It doesn’t even matter if you match because swiping is so fun”, Rad said in an interview.
  5. Reduced rejection factor Рrejection is always a risk in the dating world, but Tinder eases that anxiety as the app only connects users who have expressed a mutual interest. Even though you might not always get an instant match, when you do, you know that they are genuinely interested, not acting out of obligation.
  6. Manage your profile –¬†online dating apps such as Tinder gives you the chance to manage your profile in ways you can’t in real life. You have total control over how you are perceived as you get to hand pick the photos you upload ¬†and the information you provide.
  7. It actually is addictive Рinstant gratification received by a match gives us an addictive experience. Each match fuels an emotional high and so we keep going back for more.
  8. It’s a fantasy¬†– Tinder can act as¬†an escape from the stressful, tiring, and harsh realities of real world dating Or even the real world. You create fantasies in your head that can distract you for days, “what if I were to meet up with him?”, “what if he’s the one?” Before you know it, you’re planning your wedding. It’s pretty innocent but fuels your imagination and takes your mind off things you’d rather not think about.
  9. Affirmation – Tinder tells you things you wouldn’t get to know offline. We may have confidence and invincibility behind the screen, but in person we are still pretty shy and don’t like to give much away for fear of rejection. It reveals Liam Hemsworth’s doppelg√§nger¬†from the house down the street thinks you’re hot, or the cute Barista at Starbucks does like you back.

Tinder is the ultimate means of self-indulgence. In a society so concerned with image and how other’s perceive our worth based off looks, do you think Tinder is so successful because of its ability to affirm our attractiveness and feed our ego?