The ‘epidemic’ of the selfie in modern cultural is perpetually surrounded by the themes of ‘narcissism’, ‘vapidness’, and ‘self-obessession’ (Saltz, 2014).
However, there are examples of the selfie being used for more than vapid approval seeking from the netherworld of the Internet.
The #MenInHijab movement recently arose in Iran as a show of solidarity for the women who feel oppressed by the enforcement of head-coverings. Especially when the penalty for not following the law can be fines or even imprisonment.
This is only one example of the multi-faceted reasons for any individual to take a selfie.
These highlight the fact that selfie is not always about the self.
It can also be for political gain; to become closer with the seemingly isolated younger generation.
Is it not evident that the selfie is more than an insipid vehicle for teenage distraction. When you have the most powerful men in the world taking a selfie, it is not for online attention, it is to publish messages of peace, of friendship, and of relating to the younger generation.
And yet, despite this, the wider public generally accepts the selfie as way to make one’s life seem more idyllic, more airbrushed than real life. As seen on the pages of hundreds of microceleberites or ‘instafamous’ individuals.
But what does it say about our identities and our culture, when we use the selfie, not to create a self-branded perfect lifestyle, but to tear ourselves down?
The premise is this: upload a selfie, with a clear consent to be roasted.
(Reddit recently changed its rules so that phone ‘R/roastme’s we no longer accepted. This is to avoid someone photoshoping an innocent selfie to be roasted.)
Then, the Reddit community tears that person to shreds.
So what does this say about our so-called ‘narcissistic’ culture?
It means that we don’t have one.
‘Selfie’ culture is not about narcissism or self-obsession. Not every single teen that posts #beachbod picks is desperate for the attention and loving feedback of the strangers on the internet that comment on his or her image.
Sometimes the younger generation just likes taking a photo of themselves and saving it in their digital photo album that the world can see.
Sometimes the selfie can be used for greater social change.
Sometimes it can be used to show the ‘real us’ rather than an airbrush version.
And sometimes, rather than seeking praise for our pretend perfection, we post images of ourselves online with the sole intent for others to find all of our flaws.
We do these things for a multitude of reasons.
Some people do want vindication, and some want vilification.
In the end it comes down to this:
The selfie can be demoralising or empowering;
It can be vacuous or serious;
It can be a vessel of social change, or of argument;
It can be beautiful, or it can be ugly;
But no two selfies are the same, and neither are the reasons behind them.
So rather than tear people down about how vapid and self-obsessed they are because they enjoy taking their own photo, how about we realise that a selfie, is not just about the self, but about all of us together.