You would think the term "selfie" would have existed for years, given its prominence in popular culture today. Five years ago, before the era of smartphones surfaced there was no term declared for the technique used when taking a photo of oneself with an extended arm. With the growth of social media platforms such as Instagram and Twitter over the last few years, the growing trend of the "selfie" has now become a daily routine for millions of teenagers in 2014.
Before I go on, I must admit that I am generally guilty of this crime myself. As a fellow selfie master, I often have friends ask me why I feel the need to take so many pictures of myself. Egotistically, I am also often told how photogenic I am and asked how I look so good in pictures. Is this a good thing, considering my peers are subliminally hinting that I look better in digital images than I may very well do in reality?
According to recent theory, the trend of taking "selfies" is actually linked to mental health conditions, with a focus on an individuals obsession with looks and image. Studies have revealed that the majority of teenagers who are image and body conscious, have a compulsion to repeatedly take and post selfies across social media sites.
In upfront terms, selfies are evidently considered to trigger perceptions of self-indulgence and attention seeking-seeking social dependence, whether this raises a spectre of either narcissism or low self-esteem is down to the individual. It can be noticed that people who are guilty of flooding their Instagram accounts with selfies tend to be proclaimed "beautiful" people, who tend to post pictures of their daily makeup, attire or grooming. It's no secret that we are all inspired to take pictures of ourselves on a "good day", perhaps when significant effort is made to dress up for a night out or for special occasion, to moments such as showcasing off a new haircut or makeover. Must we showcase how fantastic we look on a certain day with the rest of the world in a narcissistic way to "show off" our looks? Or do we do it because for require the validation of ourselves from anonymous internet users?
I tend to post selfies of myself for two main reasons. As mentioned above, there are days where I am feeling ever so vain and of course reckon myself a little too much. The latter of my selfies fall into the reasoning that I tend to feel bored and resort to self portraits as a short-term activity. Taking a good picture of oneself can be a confidence booster, when it conjures good lighting and an Instagram filter to showcase us in a both deceiving, yet more beautiful way.
Interestingly, when I first upgraded to an IPhone two years ago I wasn't all that enthused with Instagram after all. I had less than a hundred followers, mainly friends and family. I would take the odd photo but rarely over indulge in photographing every single place I visited, meal I ate and outfit I wore. After being on TV and therefore acquiring a following, my Instagram followers sporadically accumulated to 6000. Now, whenever in need of an ego boost I can take a photo of anything uninspiring and receive hundreds of likes within minutes. Of course, this means that if I post a selfie then I will have many comment on my appearance too.
"You look stunning in this photo", I read from one of my followers who had posted at the bottom of a selfie I took two weeks back. "So Perfect", another comment reads. Since gaining so a wider following on Instagram and having people view my photos, writing such lovely comments has only made me realise the confidence boost Instagram can actually reward you with.
The issue with Instagram and selfies is that it brings us closer to celebrities and enforces the notions of beauty ideals. Digital narcissism continues to put pressure on people to achieve unrealistic goals, making us more vulnerable to image complexes. Given the nature of Instagram unlike other social media platforms where it's core focus is pictures, "beautiful" celebrities and models are most popular to follow. Naturally, teenage girls are going to view the photographs of Kate Moss and Cara Delvinge as aspirational which can arguably be deemed more self-destructive to many with insecurity complex's, rather than of an innocent casual interest. Instagram's filtering system also exists in order to provide our pictures with an aesthetic 1950's cinema effect. It's all about the beauty and clarify of our phones images and therefore Instagram acts as a device to showcase our mobile phone gallery in the most visually appealing way to a public domain. Pictures of our home garden's and holiday snapshots may not be as striking through a normal phone screen, but with Instagrams filter's we have the chance to enhance them to more stunning level. This is done with our selfies too. Knowing the truth about our images, we are not posting them for ourselves to see. These images are exhibited to others and are essentially showing-off mechanisms.
With Instagrams "liking" system, it functions in a way that is a self-presentational strategy to reward ourselves with appealing and attractive photos by the quantity of likes. The measuring system itself is arbitrary where the quantity is dependent on followers and hashtags, rather than any sort of merit. Nevertheless, the "liking" and clicking system merely acts as a way to quantify how appealing users photos can be perceived to many. Throughout the decade, social media platforms such as MySpace and Facebook have always had "liking" and "commenting" systems, where friends boast about the amount of feedback they receive on their posts. Instagram continues to perpetrate this with its simple mechanism.
Since being on Big Brother and gaining a following in the four figure mark, it has made me realise how when bored, posting a basic vain selfie can result in a mood enhancing ego boost that temporarily shifts my mood for a few seconds. However, with the ability to manipulate pictures with filters and lighting, the long-term effects of "selfie" taking can be seen as quite detrimental to the self perceptions of our image and consequently lead to unrealistic ideals. We all remember Myspace's "angles" paradox, where we would meet someone who looked entirely different in real life than how they did online. I can easily photograph myself as looking better through a camera lens that I do in real life at that present moment. At the same time, If I fail to take a satisfactory photo of myself at a desired moment, I can easily feel insecure or "ugly" on that day. I like Instagram as a platform of social media for its purpose to post authentic and aesthetic images for the display of my peers. However, I believe the pervasiveness of "selfie" culture combined with the accessibility of social media and smart phones is subconsciously causing us to become more narcissistic and superficial in ways that are considerably too vacuous in this modern era.