The act of taking a picture of oneself has somehow become a very contested topic. Some call it conceited and narcissistic, and others view it as self-love, body positivity and self-empowerment through positive reinforcement. However how did we get here and why has something which seems so innocent gained so much hate?
A google search of the word ‘Selfie’ brings up an array of different results. After the Wiki page, the first link is one which takes you to a pornographic site, ‘Half Nude Selfies: Hot Sexy Selfies- Almost Naked Girls’. The second link is one which contains ‘fitness’ selfies alongside a Pinterest post on how to take good selfies. Further down the page you reach a Career One post about what your selfies say about you in a professional sense. Now the broad results shown by the term are explore how diverse the selfie has become. Not only have they become somewhat sexualized, they also have become a part of how we ‘brand’ ourselves in the sense of how we want other people to view our online personas.
One interesting commentary on the act of selfie taking was completed by the artist Shahak Shapira in his piece ‘Yolocaust‘. After being fed up with people taking photos of themselves often depicting light hearted takes at questionable locations and sharing them on the internet. He compiled a collection of these photos and contrasted them with what the selfies were essentially mocking. One of the examples was selfies being taken at the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin.
Image Credit- ‘Yolocaust’ Shahak Shapira, 2017
The juxtaposition of these selfies exposes how people often take photos without thinking at many places, especially when travelling, even if it may be considered disrespectful. The Holocaust Memorial in Berlin was constructed in memory of all who were killed and suffered during WW11 in concentration camps and due to persecution. Placing the selfies in real images from these times shows how idiotic it is to use such a place of mourning and memory to snap a quick piccy for Instagram or Facebook.
This constant posting of photos and selfies on numerous social media accounts, relates to the increasing trend of individuals attempting to ‘brand’ themselves in their online persona. By creating an interesting profile where individuals come off as happy, adventurous and living exciting lives, people are ultimately creating consumers out of their friends lists. Where the individual has the control to choose what parts of them and their life are consumed. It’s easy to post about the fabulous dinner you just had a fancy restaurant accompanied by a photo of yourself and 3 other friends with delicious looking plates of food in front of you. Followed by a quirky caption of course. However what probably isn’t seen quite as regularly is the following Monday’s dinner when you come home from work, too tired to go grocery shopping and too poor for takeout so you literally settle for a bowl of Weet-Bix to sustain yourself. Unless you’re running the Uni Students on a Budget Facebook page, this usually isn’t the image people portray of themselves, online where anybody is able to see and judge.
The ability to choose what we convey ourselves as online has lead to some discussions regarding female sexuality and empowerment. Many girls post selfies of themselves on Instagram and Facebook which sometimes lead to backlash. Posting naked or nude selfies online has been criticized and praised by equal amounts. Many people are quick to ‘slut-shame’, claim those who post the pictures are attention seeking whores who are just hungry for likes. But many also find the act of posting these pictures themselves, and thus controlling their self-image in this way is empowering and beneficial for self- confidence reasons. Citing that it really doesn’t matter to anyone else what girls (and sometimes boy’s) post of themselves on the internet, and people should have the right to choose to do so without hate. One of the recent famous examples of this was a photo posted by Kim Kardashian after giving birth and celebrating her return to her normal weight.
The selfie has been ridiculed and laughed at, but really there is a lot more to them than just a quirky self-portrait followed by a humorous caption. The logistics of creating an online persona go way deeper than ‘just a photo’, with technology shaping the way we allow others to see us constantly.