SCREEN & OPINION: Selfies Anonymous


In 2013, Oxford Dictionary proclaimed the word “selfie” as the word of the year.  As you may have noticed, the ‘selfie’ has moved beyond a simple method of taking a picture of oneself to becoming a worldwide cultural phenomena.  And it’s not slowing down anytime soon.  Celebrities like Ellen takes selfies while hosting the Oscar Awards .  Leaders of the free world take selfies while at memorial services.  Grandmas take selfies.  There are even different variations of the selfie now: welfies (workout selfie), delfies (drunken selfies), bookshelfies (selfies in front of book shelves).  Everyone of all shapes, sizes, social classes take selfies.  And even a Beatle in 1966 took a selfie.


George Harrison – Fish Eye Selfie 1966

The blaring commonality amongst selfie takers is that the act of taking a selfie exposes a basic human desire – the want to feel noticed, appreciated, and recognized.  A typical Instagram/Facebook/Twitter post looks like this: First, teen or mid twenties (boy or girl) posts a selfie looking pouty, pretty, or ‘jokey’ – I know sounds like a snow white and the seven dwarves spin-off. What follows is a wait, watch, and see how many ‘likes’ the photo gets and how many complimentary comments pile up: ‘you’re so gorgeous’, ‘why are you so perfect’, ‘you are my dream girl’.

Sounds pretty innocent right? Not completely.  According to UK psychiatrist Dr David Veal: “Two out of three of all the patients who come to see me with Body Dysmorphic Disorder since the rise of camera phones have a compulsion to repeatedly take and post selfies on social media sites.”  Dr. Pamela Rutledge in Psychology Today indicates “selfies frequently trigger perceptions of self-indulgence or attention-seeking social dependence that raises the damned-if-you-do and damned-if-you-don’t spectre of either narcissism or very low self-esteem.” And people are actually suffering from this in real life – as 19 year old self-proclaimed selfie-addict explains:

I agree with the doctors that selfies can lead to real problems.  And personally, I just find the repeated taking of selfies to be extremely annoying and thirst-like (yes I judge).   Blame it on the individual selfie-taker or the world we live in where judgment of body image runs rampant in traditional and social media, outside validation is key to self-esteem.

The root of selfies can be traced back to narcism and vanity.  Narcissism – being obsessed with receiving recognition and gratification from ones looks; and vanity – excessive pride in or admiration of one’s own appearance or achievements.  Placed in the selfie context – this is becoming a big problem in our digital age.  Vanity in an egotistical manner can alienate friends and acquaintances.  Yes, your selfie inside a VIP section of the club is cool. Yes,  your first class seat selfie is awesome.  But is this an accurate representation of your real life? And what is the true purpose of posting your selfie on a social media platform? Self-empowerment or validation, or both? I guess only the poster will know.

But the next time you go to post an image of yourself on Instagram/Twitter/Facebook observe and ask yourself – how much significance do you put on your looks when defining yourself?  How much significance do you place on what other people think of you? And how much of it is you using your looks to try and make you feel good for a short period of time. From a human to a human, you are much more than your selfie.

Now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, I’ll stop lamenting and end with a hilarious video exposing the ‘selfie-addict’ and their futile attempts of quitting at ‘Selfie Anonymous’. It’s really that difficult huh!?