IT'S ALL about your social media profile; sexy, flirty, toothy, pouty photographs taken from your best angle. It barely looks like you but as long as you look good, right? Style over substance.
Smartphones have simultaneously revolutionised and ruined our lives.
With the right artistry, you can make yourself look like a graphic designer living in a monochromatic minimalistic Berlin loft complete with colour-coordinated cat. The reality is you work in an office feeling like stapling things to your head most of the time. But your 1000+ Instagram followers don’t know that: you perfectly filter the reality of your life from your manufactured virtual presence. It’s a game of perception versus reality.
When did we become so selfie-obsessed?
‘Selfie’ became an actual word in 2013 because it was in the dictionary, and we’re not talking ‘Urban Dictionary’, the Oxford Dictionary of all things.
It’s never been easier to take a photo of yourself thanks to the smartphone. For particularly difficult angles, enter the selfie stick (an extra-long arm or a coat-hanger can act as a substitute for those on a budget).
Remember the days when you had to actually go to a photo booth to get your photo taken for your passport? You were handed an ‘ugly photo’ sentence in the form of your renewed passport to expire in ten years. Not anymore. With the help of Instagram, Photogrid, and other photo-editing apps, you can take the shine off your forehead, cover that pimple, and slim your waistline on your own phone.
Personally, I still don’t have the audacity to take a photo of myself in front of people. Frankly, I feel too self-conscious. But I’m in the minority. I am willing to admit that once I’ve been photographed in a dress on Instagram, that dress is retired to the back of my closet. Why? Well, once I know the virtual world approves of my real-life look, I collect my ‘likes’ as a form of validation and the dress is through with. Much like Barbie dress-up (except I have a job and never want to be that girl in a pink convertible).
Today, Let me take a selfie isn’t just the title of a famed and annoyingly catchy song from RuPaul’s Drag Race; it’s a phrase I hear circa five times a day as I do the Spinningfields round on my lunch break. It is because the people of Spinningfields are shallow, vacuous narcissists? Or is it a societal mood-change that says, ‘you stuck to the squat challenge, you should certainly shove a pic of your ass in your news feed’ ?
The birth of the selfie generation emerged from the realms of reality TV: the everyday became extraordinary. Be the star of your own show, be the main character, and be whoever you want to be: the only catch is you need to make everyone believe it. Snapchat is a spectator sport, and it lets everyone know when you went to the gym, which of your friends has a cute kid, and what kind of music your friends listen to cruising around the city centre. I call the people watching my story silent witnesses: forever watching, but not partaking. It’s all about grandiosity because you have followers clinging to your every caption. Who better to promote yourself than you, right? The irony isn’t lost on me. I know people who have a superficial public persona and a perfectly poised Instagram account. In reality, their politics and their inquisitive minds are rarer than the perfect contrast on their catalogue of selfies charting their mark-up.
It seems social media narcissists are made not born. As a result, we’ve become more callous because platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram allow us to maintain a degree of separation between real and virtual life. (To all the trolls out there, would you have the balls to say what you’ve just two-finger-typed on that teenager’s photo to her face? I suspect not).
But whether online or in real time, the people are all real: the people putting their photos up for debate, and the people hiding behind their keyboards. If you’re willing to post at least four selfies a week, check-in to every restaurant you visit, and accept friend requests from total strangers because their selfie game is strong, you’re teetering towards the narcissist camp. You can still go back…
There’s a line between self-love and egotism. The selfie pandemic is indicative of a willingness to showcase our faces. This only becomes sinister when we’re so obsessed with our image and satisfying the needs of our social-media fans to the detriment of our everyday selves. We are all multi-dimensional, and to trivialise the breadth and depth of our lives into a series of well-edited and perfectly proportioned photographs loses the beauty in our flawed reality. Perfection isn’t always beautiful. Don’t lose yourself in your selfie.
Smartphones have simultaneously revolutionised and ruined our lives. We all know that person that sits there on their phone when you’re having a conversation. My friends know better: we have a phone embargo. No selfies at the table.
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