How do I look: Selfies and the Quantified Self

As I sit on a packed train heading towards the city, I notice three girls sitting across from me. Whilst I type this, they are adjusting their appearance, using their camera as a mirror. In the age of social media, this could only mean one thing: they were going to take a selfie.  In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past five years, a selfie is essentially a digital self-portrait taken by a smart-phone. Selfies have emerged in the wake of the social media age, which has changed the way we communicate with others, for better or for worse.

One of the major issues concerning the ‘selfie’ phenomenon is that of narcissism and the obsessive search for reverence from others.  In fact, the emergence of the media platforms ‘Snapchat’ and ‘Instagram’ have arguably elevated this problem to a higher level and has only intensified the most concerning issue of body image, which I will discuss later. Living in the age of social media, it is indisputable that narcissistic behaviour has spiked. The idea of “updating your status” or “tweeting” are narcissistic in principal.  However, the rise of selfies  have arguably taken narcissism to a new level.  Eric B. Weiser states that “selfies seem inherently to contain the most explicit elements of ostentation and self-propagation” (2015, pg. 477). Instagram, with features  such as hashtags, likes and followers is arguably much more susceptible to narcissism. Because of those fore-mentioned features, people become so obsessed with how many “likes” they get, that their posts are determined by what they think others will like, rather than what they themselves find to be interesting. The obsession for “likes” also leads to, particularly with females, someone exposing a little too much of themselves, which leads me to my second point: body image.

selfie1

Body image, particularly for females, has been an issue long before the ‘selfie culture’. However, there is no denying that the anxieties about how we individually perceive our bodies has heightened significantly in the age of the selfie. Helen Briggs says that “the more women are exposed to “selfies” and other photos on social media, the more they compare themselves negatively” (2014).  However, Pamela B. Rutledge believes that they are “a by-product technology-enabled self-exploration” (2013).  Both of these arguments have equal amounts of truth in them. The argument, in regards to body image, can swing both ways, as selfies can both cause anxieties about how we see ourselves compared to others but can also instigate positive change to improve our self-esteem. As a pessimistic person, I am more akin to Brigg’s argument that selfies are harmful to the way we see ourselves, particularly for females. That being said, I do enjoy taking the occasional selfie and do have a Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook account. So in a sense, I am part of the problem. Whether selfies are a real problem, however, is another question.

References

Briggs, H 2014, ‘ ‘Selfie’ body image warning issued’, BBC News, 10th April, viewed 25th March 2016,  <http: http://www.bbc.com/news/health-26952394&gt;  

Rutledge B., P 2013, ‘ #Selfies: Narcissism or Self-Exploration?’, Psychology Today, 18th April, viewed 25th March 2016, <http: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/positively-media/201304/selfies-narcissism-or-self-exploration&gt;

Weiser, EB 2015, ‘#Me: Narcissism and its facets as predictors of selfie-posting frequency’, Personality and Individual Differences, vol. 86, pp. 477-481. Available from: 10.1016/j.paid.2015.07.007. [26 March 2016].

 

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