LET ME TAKE A SELFIE. DUCK FACE. YOLO. ON FLEEK. LOTD. POUT IT OUT. SORRY NOT SORRY.
A lot of that there could very well have gone right over your head. I had to cruise through some hashtags on my Instagram Activity to get a little inspiration for that load of nonsense, I tell ya. But I can’t lie either, I think I may well have used the “LOTD” one (no, not not Lord of the Dings; Look of The Day) at sometime or another.
The “Selfie” is the little black dress of the noughties. Or at least “the tens”, “the teens”, “the tenners”?! Oh I don’t know what this decade is referred to as?! What do you call this era? Maybe it hasn’t been named yet. I’ll leave that one to the younglings.
Anway, the Selfie is the equivalent of flower power in the 60s, saturday night fever in the 70s, material girlism and shoulder pads in the 80s, flares, spaghetti straps and the solitary beaded braid in the 90s. But unlike those fashions and movements I feel like the Selfie is very much here to stay. Its already been capitalised on with the invention of the Selfie Stick (lord help us) and appears to be becoming more and more of an acceptable occurrence in both real life and social media.
And I think there are very few people exempt from it’s narcissistic, self-obsessive grasp. Hands held up, myself included. I have witnessed people whom I’d NEVER expect, like my ex and even my aunt for example, to succumb to it’s self-ingratiating welcoming embrace. It’s conquered the most unlikely of victims.
NOBODY IS SAFE.
But lets not lie; it existed long before the creation of the word “selfie” came to be. People have been holding out cameras before them; turned inwards, taking photos of themselves and their cheek-touching friends for years now. Its only now that the conception of a title worthy of a spot in the Urban Dictionary has been established that it has become the worldwide sensation that it has. It’s very hard to avoid. FaceBook, Twitter and Instagram, TV, on the street, in magazines, even a product feature of new children’s toys, its god damn everywhere and people are becoming less and less ashamed to do it. I for one would feel beyond mortified to interrupt a conversation with my nearest and dearest to whip out my smart phone and take a candid snap of my own mug. But I witnessed it happen the other day outside McDonalds. I’ve seen Kim Kardashian do it during a conversation with her mother in the back of a taxi on an episode of the dreaded KUWTK (Yep, I watch it. Thats another blog, another time. It needs much explaining). Like I admitted a moment ago, I’m not above the Selfie taking trend but I have more dignity and pride than to impede on a discussion about my friend’s decision to be a stay at home mother with a “let me take a Selfie” moment. Above all I think its pretty damn offensive and rude. Not that the teenager outside McDonalds seemed to think so. Kids today, jeeez.
Also, what comes with the Selfie, seems to be a whole new universe of vernacular. Words come and go; ebbing and flowing in their coolness (cool will always be cool though) and can be quite incredible in that they’re representative of the era inwhich they were spawned. The word groovy for example instantly puts the peace symbol and bell-bottom jeans into people’s heads. And so along with the Selfie has come a whole smorgasbord of incomprehensible terminology that’s first language to some; mindless gibberish to others. Its thus created a sort of Selfie club.
- Membership: taking photos of yourself.
- Password: any of the bizarre choices of lingo at the top of this post… and more. Don’t forget to hashtag it.
- Congratulations, you’re officially a member.
I can’t help but feel that the accompaniment of its’ very own language is designed to perpetuate its’ very existence. You can’t doubt, disparage or argue with something when its been officialised with its’ very own jargon. You don’t question “super-sizing” your McDonalds meal. Nobody blinks an eyelid any more at the concept of being “fraped”. In Starbucks you’re judged if you DON’T know what a ‘macchiato’ or a ‘frappuccino’ is, yet all of these terms were created for no other reason than to promote and authenticate their product.
My interest is behind the psychology of all of it. I’m certainly not the first to investigate and scrutinise the Selfie phenomenon and I know I won’t be the last. Especially if this epidemic carries on the way it has.
The physicality of taking a photo of oneself in a perfectly normal, standard, maybe even boring backdrop is quite a confusing concept to me. If you’re stood on the brink of the Grand Canyon, hanging out outside the Taj Mahal, sharing a handshake with Hugh Jackman or sitting underneath a road sign for Route 66, then fair enough, you snap away. Its a modern-day-way of cementing a prominent event or time in your life, fair fucking doos. But when you’re slumped up against a taupe bedroom wall, sitting in an armchair or (the old classic) standing in a public toilet, where’s the necessity to eternalise that moment in time? Is it because you’re particularly *ahem, “feeling yo’self” at that point in time? If so, then isn’t that the way you look most of the time, do you need a picture with random people’s public bog graffiti peppering the backdrop? Are you afraid your face could drastically alter over the course of the day and you may well NEVER EVER look the same again?!
I need to reiterate. I HAVE DONE THIS MYSELF. I was flicking through a catalogue of photos only a few hours ago trying to find examples of myself with varying hair colour so as to send them to my friend (we were discussing options for hair dye) and I was actually a little shocked and disgusted at the plethora of Selfies. Smiley ones, sexy ones, stoic ones, sassy ones, silly ones. Some barely altering in visual appearance from the previous one. Pointless.
What I instantly realised was the majority of these were taken nearly two years ago in the wake of the break up with my partner of five years. It doesn’t take a trained psychologist to explain the motive behind them now does it. Insecure, lost, anxious, low self-esteem, nervous, confused about my future. Remedy? Selfie. What better way to boost one’s ego, improve your mood. So is that the prevailing agenda behind everybody’s Selfie-taking??? Reality is there’s MANY a healthy, productive and nourishing means of improving the way you feel about and look at yourself: Exercise, charity, seeking out a new talent and putting that new found skill to good use. But the culture of today applauds this egocentric action. It has formulated a generation of vain sheeple; exploiting people’s desperate need to keep up with the person adjacent and their outward appearance. It’s spawned a status quo where focusing on our looks is an acceptable and integral practice. You only have to look at a beauty magazine to corroborate that. Referring to a previous blog of mine; it appeals to and endorses the lowest and worst aspects of our human nature.
But are these photos of generic expressions with their expertly applied make-up and perfectly preened hair hiding a much more deep and meaningful story? I’m of the firm belief that the time period in which my highest volume of Selfie taking took place was because I was feeling a lot of inner turmoil and upset. Despite the instigation of the break up landing at my feet, it still left me feeling a little dejected and flummoxed. Who was I now? What was I going to do with myself? I was, shock horror, officially a single mum and that’s a badge I always told myself I’d never have to wear. Where would I go from here? Would anyone even want me now? So I started having sun beds (not promoting them people- they’re cancer-tastic, remember that), when possible putting more effort into applying my make-up and wearing clothes that showed off my new “revenge body” (a term I heard the other day and thought was just genius. Girls do that – we break up and we get hot. Even if its unintentional like mine was – I find it very hard to eat when I’m stressed and upset and my increasing the amount I was going to my boxing classes wasn’t to look good or even get fit, it was to release built-up tension and rage.) and proceeding to take photos of the end product.
Now this is where I get a bit conflicted because, intentional or not, I did manage to quite effortlessly shed my baby weight. The sunbeds (and sunshine, it was Summer and as surprising as the prospect of sunshine in Cornwall during Summertime may be, there was actually a little bit of it) sorted out my poor complexion. I dyed my hair which is another go-to for post-break up victims: “new hair, don’t care”. I had a back-full of fresh tattoos and boxing had given me a killer set of abs and guns. But simply having accomplished all of that clearly wasn’t enough. Why did I need to broadcast those images on Instagram and Facebook? (Instagram more so than Facebook, I’m a lot more conservative on Facebook than I am on Instagram) Was I, despite my better knowledge, looking for approval and self-ingratiation from people I pretty much never see let alone know all that much about? Or was I just proud of my efforts and image over-haul and looking to share the fruits of my labour? With regards to the former; WHY did it take me physically looking good to start to feel better internally? And was I really feeling better internally? If I did, would I be taking such regular photos of myself? Who was I taking those photos for? Did I really care if someone I used to work with or went to primary school with ‘liked’ the photo of my new hair-do? I hadn’t changed the colour of my hair for that person, I hadn’t even done it for my ex’s benefit. It was for me, all of it was, so why the deluge of Selfies? Had I, in the wake of this transitional time, morphed into someone whose self-worth was intrinsically tied up in other peoples’ opinion of me? A quality I have always identified in others and disparaged them for. Was I behaving in a way that most people do during such circumstances? If so, to what end? Where was the finish line? Did I have the potential to transform into a full blown narcissist who only left the house when every aesthetic aspect of themselves was in their mind flawless; whom interrupted interesting discussion with her friends to take a pissing Selfie (thankfully that never happened)?! Had I been more aware of it at the time I could well have spiralled into a whirlwind of self-addressed questions and cutting character assasinations – if I didn’t know who I was before, I certainly didn’t fucking know now!
But then it stopped. Or at least stalled. I met someone who threw me way off track. The man I am with now, who is without a doubt (apart from my darling child) the greatest thing to ever happen to me. Suddenly the compulsion to take a picture of my face before I left the house for a night out completely slipped my mind. I was now a lot more interested in seeing and speaking to this fascinating, beautiful, clever, funny, endearing, complex man. This man who yes, found me attractive, but made it clear from the get-go that there were many more qualities about me that drew him towards me. Qualities that you can’t pick up on in a Selfie.
Now I’m not saying that his interest in me “completed” me. I am of the strong belief that you can’t love someone else in their entirety until you’ve truly learnt to love yourself. And cynics could say his confirmation of my good looks and likeable personality making me feel better was just as bad as the posting of those Selfies on social media; with the intention of getting ‘likes’ (because lets face it thats the only reason people upload those things isn’t it? Isn’t it??) from complete randomers. But it pretty quickly stopped me caring what other people thought. I started only caring about what he thought. My hairstyles, clothing choices, make-up etc was for him and no one else (well ok yes and myself. I think the person girls ALWAYS do those things for is ultimately themselves). And any photo I did take of myself wasn’t for the purpose of social media, it was for his eyes only (switswoooooo). And now pretty much every Selfie I do take; he’s in it because I’m only interested in preserving memories of the two of us living our lives together not the moments when I’m having a good eyebrow day or wearing a killer outfit. Because he has become my everything, the value I once placed on my appearance and thus the perception other people had of it, really doesn’t fall on my radar any more. If I do look good its because I want to for myself and for him. Sceptics can call that unhealthy, obsessive, whatever. I think its part and parcel and symptomatic of love. I think there’s a lot of women out there who can relate to that. Shouldn’t you want to impress the person you’re in love with?
Now, in fear of offending serial Selfie-takers who maintain a consistant Selfie record even when they’re in a relationship, I wish to state that this is only me. And I am by no means judging or belittling those people. I am surmising and critiquing myself. A little self-exploration.
What my thesis hinges on though is my question about those serial Selfie-takers; cos I know quite a few of them. Are you indeed taking those photos because, as some of you have taglined those photos, you “love and appreciate” yourself? If so, excellent. I love a woman who loves herself (giggidy) – its a rare and very attractive, honest quality. But is compulsive narcissistic behaviour truly an aftermath of loving oneself, really? Or is it a crying out for attention from a very lost individual? Because pretty much every serial Selfie-taker I know, I believe to be a very aesthetically attractive person and I think they know that. What I’d find to be more attractive is if they accepted, realised and admitted that instead of seeking validation in other people’s perception of them. Because whereas I find a woman who is in touch with and embraces her beauty very attractive; I find a woman who YOU KNOW knows they’re beautiful but fishes constantly for compliments and approval from anyone and everyone, ridiculously unattractive. Not to mention really fucking annoying.
Like those guys who take pictures of themselves pre, post or during their workout at the gym. Do you need people to know you go to the gym? Because judging from the size of your arms, pecs and calves, thats pretty damn obvious. And are you going to the gym just so you can take a photo of you doing so and prove it to us? Wouldn’t it just be easier to come to our house/places of work/places of study and work out right infront of us? It’d be a bit annoying and inconvenient but it could very well save time and cyber space.
What is this insatiable need to quantify our activities with visual proof? I ate dinner today, here’s a picture of it. I had a Starbucks today, here’s a photo of me drinking it. I got a manicure today, here’s a picture of my hand to prove it. I went to a concert today, here’s a photo of my ticket stub.
Again, not judging. I HAVE DONE IT. I know and love many people who have done and still do it. It does by no means mean you are a shitty person; merely a product of our environment and generation. I am just very curious as to what has shifted culturally in order to enable the manifestation of this modern paradigm. The inception of social media in general has certainly aided and abetted it, thats undeniable. But I guess I’ll never really know. One could theorise and speculate for hours, days. And the outcome could very well vary depending on whom you are examining. The reason one person loves and takes a Selfie could and probably is very different to the reason someone else does. I just don’t think in a thousand years time when modern days scholars are picking through the wreckage and rubble of what was once our seemingly so advanced civilisation; they’ll find scores and scores of pouting, kissing, squinting faces; the photos all taken by the very people in them and think, “These guys. These guys here. They were on to something.”