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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.”
- 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.