The Evolution of Selfie Culture: Self-Expression, Narcissism, or Objectification?
While it will probably never be included in a museum photography exhibit, the first amateur self-portrait taken by aiming a point-and-shoot camera at a mirror may be one of the most monumental advances in photography culture to date.
Photographers — as well as painters, cartoonists, and all other 3-D and 2-D artists — have created self-portraits through the ages. As inexpensive digital cameras and social media have gained popularity, it’s never been easier to create a gallery of regularly uploaded profile pictures taken via cell phone, laptop, or camera held at arm’s length.
Urban Dictionary defines these photos, dubbed “selfies,” as, “A picture taken of yourself that is planned to be uploaded to Facebook, Myspace or any other sort of social networking website. You can usually see the person’s arm holding out the camera, in which case you can clearly tell that this person does not have any friends to take pictures of them.”
This tongue-in-cheek definition doesn’t make taking selfies any less popular. The subjects of these photos, thankfully, have started to trade peace signs and “duck lips” for other edits. Instagram filters can add an “artistic” flair to a pic, and the Mac program Photobooth makes it easy to pretend you’re taking your photo anywhere from under the sea to on the moon.
A quick search of #Selfie on Instagram returns almost seven million photos. Is this a rise in narcissism, or a cry for validation in the eyes of our peers? Or is it a platform for promoting positive self-image and self-worth?
Dr. Amy Slater and Professor Marika Tiggemann of the School of Psychology at Flinders University in Australia studied the effects of Internet use on girls age 12-16, and found that of the 96 percent of girls who had some access to the Internet at home, 72.1 percent upload pictures of themselves.
These same women are more likely they are to experience body shame, dissatisfaction with their weight, and lower self-esteem, according to the survey, and of the 1096 girls surveyed, 40.1 percent said were dissatisfied with their bodies and one in two were terrified of gaining weight.
The anonymity the Internet provides creates an adult playground for cyber bullies. What one woman may find an empowering photo of herself, an Internet commenter can shatter with a sentence.
Celebrities from Rhianna to Justin Beiber regularly post selfies on their Twitter accounts. And now, women are posting selfies of themselves in their college apparel to cheer on their athletic programs. And by themselves, I mean their boobs.
What started as a University of Kansas fan’s down-blouse – or, in this case, down Jayhawks shirt — photo has spawned the creation of Twitter accounts, Facebook pages and newspaper articles cheering on college teams through cleavage, which, after the Jayhawks won in a come-from-behind victory, became the team’s good luck charm. And as we get closer and closer to March Madness, this trend can only gain in popularity.
Of course, this is positive press concerning breasts, which is a step up from the stories about a woman in Washington state who has been accused of using her double Ds to smoother and kill her boyfriend.
But however proud these women might be of their respective teams, most of these photos begin at the woman’s neck. Many selfies are solely body shots, sometimes to show off a new outfit or post diet and exercise bodies. Is this because these women would rather draw attention to their new dress or cleavage than their faces? Would they rather their identity not be attached to a photo that has a specific purpose of joining what some news outlets are calling a “boobment”?
Think of it this way: In order for a superstitions person to carry around a “lucky rabbit’s foot,” someone has to sever said foot from a rabbit. By photographically cutting off their heads, women become mannequins for displaying a shirt and their breasts. And what are mannequins? Objects. Sports fans are people, first and foremost. It’s objectification in its most basic form, no matter the intentions behind it.
While the culture surrounding selfies could be positive and even creative self-expression for some, or a fun and easy way of sharing ones sexuality, it’s a trend that brings up some disturbing issues and important questions.
What is your take on selfie culture? Harmless, fun, or disturbing? Share your thoughts with us in the comments.
Written by Lauren Slavin