Friday, 30 January 2015

Let's Talk About Selfies

Social media is being crushed under a bonanza of selfies. Oxford English Dictionary even crowned it word of the year for 2013. Really. And while the jury is out on whether the selfie is a 'bad' or 'good' thing, it's certainly worth reflecting on.

Do you take selfies? And if so, why? Do you even know why you do it?

Some say it's a fun way to show the world what you're up to; I'm of the belief it's a sad way to beg the world for validation on aesthetics.

Sometimes selfies can be downright toxic. If you have the misfortune of battling an eating disorder, I would suggest steering clear of tags on social media containing the word #recovery, #eatingdisorder, #anorexiarecovery, #bulimiarecovery, etc. Why? Because people's illness have also decided to jump on the bandwagon. Small frames are contorted into positions to emphasize the current state of malnourishment, and faces with dead eyes and pouty lips leer out, desperate for the affirmation that she/he is indeed 'winning' at the race to death.

Selfies litter Facebook, sometimes under the guise of a charity fundraiser. "Hey guuuys, here I am with no makeup, please comment below and tell me that it was worth the 15 minutes I wandered around the house assessing the lighting and taking dozens of tester-pics."

Some say it screams narcissism, but I believe it screams insecurity. People are selective about the selfies they release to their adoring fans. They somehow realise it's not a good idea to put a photo up of themselves eating cornflakes beside a pile of fresh laundry. But why do they think it's a brilliant idea to capture that moment as they sip the #greenkalepowerproteinCLEANEATING smoothie for the first time? I'll be honest, I'm much more curious about the happenings of your laundry than the happenings of your smoothie, and if nothing else I hope that demonstrates my disinterest in what you eat. Or what you drink at Starbucks. At least the laundry selfie would be a realistic snap of human life, and not the fabricated version of the perfect existence.

Being a teenager, heck being an adult, is hard enough as it is without the constant barrage of photographs that have been filtered to remove the dry forehead scales and the nice scars you got from picking your spots.

I will hold my hand up and admit that for a while I fawned over the collection of selfies I had on my phone. It was constant torture. Could I find a photo of myself in which I didn't look like a foot. Or a ghost. Or someone who didn't look like me but gosh darn it, wasn't she lovely!

Sometimes I crave that validation that I am attractive. That I wouldn't be kicked out of bed for eating toast. But I would rather build my inner security regarding my appearance on solid foundations. I would rather teach myself to validate myself, rather than post a photo online tagged #me and wait patiently for confirmation that I AM OK.

The odd photo of ourselves taken on our phones won't do us much harm. It can actually be fun to capture a moment when there's nobody else around to play cameraman. But we need to ask ourselves have we taken it too far.

I've watched a grown woman, old enough to know better, spend a whole tram journey taking selfie after selfie. She moved her hat a millimeter between each snap. I watched in fascination and horror.

To demonstrate my point: I just checked to see how many photos have been uploaded to Instagram under #selfie. Would you like to know how many photos there are?

226,103,236 photos. Yes, you read that right. There are 226 million selfies on Instagram alone.

Some questions worth being self-honest about:

Do you feel crushed if nobody 'likes' your selfie?
Do you feel elated if a group of strangers tell you that you're only gawjus in that selfie?
Do you spend excessive amounts of time taking selfie after selfie, trying to find the perfect one?
Do you post selfies to try to boost your self esteem?
Do you compare yourself to other people's selfies?

As with most things in life, the key is moderation. I am definitely not saying that seflies should be banned, or that we should throw rotten fruit at those who go a little overboard on the selfies. But what I am saying is that we need to question why we do this, if we do this. This post won't apply to everyone and I'm pretty sure my Dad couldn't tell you what a selfie is if his life depended on it. I believe we need to build our self confidence from the ground up. I believe we need to work at it, and rely on ourselves for confirmation that we are ok.

Selfies can offer short term validation, but ultimately true validation comes from within.

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