Let it be known that not only is ‘selfie’ an official word in the dictionary, but in 2013, it was dubbed word of the year by the Oxford dictionary (BBC, 2013). Such a title can only be a true testament to how selfies have become an integral part of our everyday lives. If that’s not enough validation for you, why don’t you stroll over to Instagram yourself and look at the 272 million hashtags that fall under the same category. Selfies have become a social phenomenon, being utilised not just by the everyday person but celebrities, politicians and even astronauts. However, there are concerns that the selfie movement has also arisen a narcissistic movement amongst those who participate.
It seems that those who protest the idea, argue that the selfie is merely a means for insecure, self-centered and shallow women to seek the attention and gratification of others. Some critics believe “We are living in a culture of people who are very much involved in themselves… When they turn that camera on themselves they believe they are so important and so interesting…” (Farah, 2014). However what they are lacking to observe are the undeniable positives t0 the selfie revolution.
Selfies shouldn’t purely be seen as stimulants for the vain and shallow, they should be considered as powerful tools of creative expression and communication. Jerry Saltz goes as far as to even say that selfies should be considered as a new genre of art, ‘a type of self-portraiture formally distinct from all others in history…something like art.’ (Saltz, 2014) And like art, everyone perceives something different from it.
I think it is important to note that selfies can be used as a tool to control an individual’s image and the only way that it could possibly be narcissistic is because we don’t always document the mundane moments of our lives such as the 5 hour Netflix bender we’re currently in the middle of.
I believe selfies are a powerful way for someone to shape their identity online, giving them the right to decide exactly how they want to be viewed by the world. Selfies allow people the option to completely re-define how they portray themselves in a technique Nicola Evans calls ‘seizing the gaze’ (Evans, 2016). For years, women in particular, have been the objects of this gaze, but now they can chose whether they want to post that perfect photo that took lots of preparation or that cheeky double chin with a mate for a laugh.
This kind of control generates a power that has the ability to not only empower ones self, but greatly influence others. Senft, defines empowerment as ‘the capacity to make meaningful choices, act on those choices when interacting with others and…draw on resources that allow us to enforce those actions’ and I believe that is exactly what happened in the the 2014 #nomakeupselfie campaign. (Tiidenberg & Cruz, p. 83, 2015)
This online movement aimed to help raise awareness for breast cancer research in the UK by taking a selfie of yourself without makeup accompanied with the hashtag #nomakeupselfie, making a donation and tagging several friends to do the same. In a time where selfies were on the incline and narcissistic claims were surfacing, the #nomakeupselfie campaign aimed to challenge the stereotypical image of females wearing makeup in order to encourage them to feel comfortable in their own skin.
The campaign was said to have been sparked by Fiona Cunningham who was the first to post her #nomakeupselfie in support of Kim Novak who was ridiculed for her appearance at the Oscars the month prior (Duffin, 2014). While you may be wondering what on earth that has do with cancer, the answer is nothing, but if this trend had the ability to encourage women to break away from their comfort-zones and challenge social expectations while raising 8 million pounds for breast cancer at the same time, how could that possibly be a negative?
Overall, in a world where there are regulations, rules and standards all around us, it can be liberating to have the freedom be able to control our image, our identity and how we wish to portray ourselves to the big bad world, so no more hesitating over the shutter button!
BBC, 2013, ”Selfie’ named by Oxford Dictionaries as word of 2013′, BBC News, bbc.com, viewed 12th March 2016, <http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-24992393>
Duffin, C 2014, ‘#nomakeupselfie campaign started by teenage mum from Stoke raises 8 million for Cancer Research’, The Telegraph, telegraph.co.uk, viewed 14th March 2016, <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/10722672/nomakeupselfie-campaign-started-by-teenage-mum-from-Stoke-raises-8m-for-Cancer-Research.html>
Evans, N 2016, ‘Week 2: Looking at Ourselves’, BCM232, Lecture notes, University of Wollongong, Australia.
Farrah, J 2014, ‘The Selfie Craze: Are We Becoming a Narcissistic Nation?’, The Huffington Post Australia, huffingtonpost.com, viewed 13th March 2016, <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/judy-farah/selfie-craze_b_4983014.html?ir=Australia>
Saltz, J 2014, ‘Art at Arm’s Length: A History of the Selfie’, New York Magazine, vulture.com, viewed 12th March 2016, <http://www.vulture.com/2014/01/history-of-the-selfie.html?mid=twitter_nymag&utm_content=buffer18f61&utm_medium=scoial&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer#>
Tiidenberg, K, Cruz, E. D 2015, ‘Selfies, Image and Re-making of the Body’, Body & Society, Sage Publications, Vol. 21, No. 4, pp. 77-102, uowplatform.edu.au, viewed March 13th 2016, <https://moodle.uowplatform.edu.au/pluginfile.php/607709/mod_resource/content/1/SelfiesImageandtheBody.pdf>