In many ways it is no question that the Oxford English Dictionary has chosen “selfie” as its word of the year 2013, stating in its blog that “the winner was a unanimous choice” as the usage of the word had gone up by 17,000%! The other contenders included were ‘binge-watch’, ‘bedroom tax’, ‘bitcoin’, ‘olinguito’, ‘shmeat’, (Im sorry but what the hell is schmeat?) and what I found most hilarious was its runner-up: ‘TWERK’! Could you imagine the word of the year being twerk? I just had to laugh.
Moving swiftly on…Not even the selfie could deny that it was victorious because it was riding on the back of two modern obsessions created by social media – a generation obsessed with oneself and a generation obsessed with the screen. I would love to know where this selfie culture all began because every person, good looking or not so good looking, takes selfies and posts them on their social media platform. Even I am guilty of the selfie trend and I know many of you reading this are too! So why do we do it? Part of the reason for their popularity is “The cult of the selfie celebrates regular people,” says Pamela Rutledge, Ph.D., faculty director of the media psychology program at the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology. “There are many more photographs available now of real people than models.” And posting selfies is an empowering act for another reason: It allows you to control your image online. Personally I think its great that there are more real women and men to look up other than super models and celebrities. A celebration of the normal is always a good thing I suppose even if we are filtering our images to soften our appearances. Sure all models are photoshoped anyway!?
But its a slippery-selfie slope, girls in particular are socialised toward seeing themselves as loveable and worthwhile only if others value them, psychologist Dr. Weber notes, and “selfie culture is a way for this tendency to go into overdrive.” When you post a photo of yourself on the internet to be looked at by your peers or people you may not know, when you get a like your ‘up’ but when you get no likes your ‘down’. There is also the danger that your self-esteem may start to be related and tied to how many likes or comments you receive once you post a selfie. These likes and comments are not based on who you are but what you look like. Dr. Weber explains that seeking validation is completely normal and is a healthy way for teenagers to develop an identity but with the likes of instagram for example, its easy to get quick hits of approval almost constantly, the selfie can almost become an addiction.
On a lighter note, 2014 has brought us the very amusing “Selfie Olympics”, yes you read that correctly, there is now an ongoing battle between the ordinary people of the world to take the most bizarre and unusual selfie possible. In hindsight you could argue that it is making fun of all the people who post regular photographs of themselves on there instagram or twitter, but I have to admit it is very humorous! It all started when a twitter account was made called “The Selfie Game”, there are a few similar accounts on twitter but all share the same principals.
Selfies seem to have become such an integral part of our culture that there are even guidelines on the internet to learn how to take the best selfie! Have we really become that narcissistic of a society? That there are regulations about what makes a good selfie or a bad one? Some might argue its all fun and games but Im undecided on that matter. Personally I am leaning more towards the darker side of the selfie phenomenom. I mean, its obviously narcissistic, with rising issues of self esteem and addiction and I really cant see the popular trend slowing down. After all selfies have been around for thousands of years – just take Vincent Van Gough as an example. Self portraiture was always popular but I bet he didn’t realise the impact painting self portraits would have on the contemporary Western world. I wonder in years to come will school children be looking at history books and see selfies rather than the self portraits of 18th and 19th century? –> Exhibit A: Kim Kardashian.