This was the year, the first ever “selfie” was taken by a man named Robert Cornelius. At the back of his photo, he wrote “The first light Picture ever taken. 1839”. Nowadays, everyone from our Prime Minister to The Pope is indulging in this trend of taking selfies. In fact, the trend has escalated so quickly that even terrorists are using it to communicate by posting their selfies on various social networking sites. Recently in France, a man beheaded his boss and took a selfie with the butchered body and sent it via an instant messaging application. Most of you must remember the attack that took place in a cafe in Sydney. It was shocking to see the onlookers taking selfies, while people were being held hostage inside the cafe.
In 2013, Oxford Dictionaries declared “Selfie” as their word of the year. Selfie is basically a self-portrait. A study by Psychology Today revealed that taking excessive selfies was related to narcissism and psychopathy. However, the study focussed exclusively on men. Various social networking sites like Facebook and Instagram, encourage people, especially the teenagers to partake in this trend. Self-objectifying has become a common phenomenon. Women, especially young girls, often post photos in which their head is not in the frame, either to show off a new dress or the famous “Then and Now” photos showing the effects of their diet, ending up, either intentionally or unintentionally, objectifying themselves in the way the male gaze does. Gail Dines, the author of “Pornland”, revealed that the pouting of lips, the pressed together cleavage, are visual vernaculars taken directly from pornography.
In short, selfies have become an obsession. Wherever one goes one can witness this act, be it is a mall or a place of sanctity. Nobody can forget the selfie taken by world leaders at the memorial service of one the most admired of leaders, Nelson Mandela. A time of mourning for the whole world was blatantly changed to a moment of fun. The incident was identified “as a sign of falling standards, declining morals and the imminent collapse of western civilisation”. The Mirror, a leading British Newspaper, reported the case of a teenager, Danny Bowman, who became obsessed with taking selfies and spent 10 hours a day taking up to 200 photos. He became more aggressive, eventually dropping out of school and becoming a loner. All this while, he was looking for that one perfect shot. In his words, “The only thing I cared about was having my phone with me so I could satisfy the urge to capture a picture of myself at any time of the day.”
This is exactly what is happening to the people around the world. Some activities are undertaken only to be posted on social networking sites. The “Ice Bucket Challenge” was a social phenomenon which went viral last year to raise awareness and funds for ALS. ALS is a form of Motor Neurone Disease, the very same illness that plagues the scientist Stephen Hawking. Half of the world that poured a bucket of ice cold water on itself might not even be aware of what ALS actually is. With the modern decline in face to face interaction, teenagers, by becoming a part of such movements, look for a sense of group affiliation and purpose for their lives. The problem isn’t narcissism, but the need for approval. The likes, the comments, these are all that such people crave for. Along with this comes criticism, this leads to dissatisfaction with one’s body, and eventually, lowered self-esteem.
With the launch of smartphones, accessibility is no longer an issue. The front facing cameras have further simplified the photo taking process. This has led to an increase in superficiality as people are becoming more concerned with their looks. The fear that a selfie could be clicked anywhere and anytime, and the fear of looking bad in them. Every moment of one’s life can be documented. Once this process starts, it never seems to end. In this process, people are missing out on life. According to a release by Snapchat, last year, its users were sending around 700 million photos and videos per day. Dubsmash, another video messaging application too has risen to fame last year.
Selfies are the latest explosion on social media. Its supporters argue that it is self-exploration. “Like a visual diary”. It can be easily taken and is also fun. A lot of people who travel alone have been taking selfies long before the invention of this word. Psychology Today describes the act of taking selfies as a form of empowerment, that allows a glimpse into the lives of people, their real selves. People feel more connected. What they do fail to understand, however, is that with “selfies” people can exercise more control. With the option of filters and various editing, reality can be more easily manipulated.
With selfies, one no longer has to depend on anyone else, they can now choose the right pose, and take as many as they want. How many of you stop after taking just two or three selfies? One does not even realise when one or two become ten, in extreme cases 200. Taking excessive selfies is like any other addiction, drugs, gambling, etc. One must know when to stop. When one goes out with friends, most of the time is spent in taking photos. In this process, they are missing out on life. What people need to do is to put down their phones and enjoy the moment. Breathe, talk, laugh, just don’t be on your phone.
Since I talked about ALS. Do check this video out 🙂