As I take in the full image that is the ‘selfie’ of a friend of a friend of a friend staring back at me from my Facebook screen, I start to find myself actually feeling a little uncomfortable. In fact the more I muse over it, the more I find I’m actually feeling uncomfortable on a number of levels.
Firstly, as a fully ‘straight’ girl who is by no stretch of the imagination interested in members of the same sex (although that’s not saying I can’t appreciate and be a little bit jealous of the patent gorgeousness of say Ms Diaz or Ms Lopez!), when I observe the glossy pout, the pushed up cleavage and what I believe guys would refer to as ‘come to bed eyes’ that radiate back to me from the selfie in front of me I actually start to feel a bit like I’m perving or have inadvertently stumbled upon the internet equivalent of a men’s mag. In fact, truth be told I’m actually a little peeved that my boyfriend will be able to view this same pic and I can just imagine what thoughts will go through his head! Which makes me wonder what this girl was hoping to achieve from posting such a ‘sexy’ and suggestive pic to an audience that includes strangers such as I am.
Secondly I feel somewhat concerned for the girl in question who has obviously gone to some great lengths to perfect her appearance for this pic and get herself looking ‘just right’ – but it’s the ‘just right’ for WHAT that worries me…. One common idea is that the “selfie” tells other people how we want to be seen, but to my mind, this girl is trying to register attention. In fact those who take and post provocative selfies such as the one I’m looking at are asking for more than just attention. They’re asking for trouble. They could well end up attracting the wrong kind of attention and then have a hard time getting rid of it. It’s basically akin to ‘sexting’ (another growing and dangerous social media pursuit where self-taken sexual photos are sent via text.) which is a whole other topic but something that can, and has, lead to all sorts of trouble
Thirdly, its got me thinking about the whole prevalence of the selfie, especially across our generation. Why its so popular and more importantly what it’s meaning for us girls.
By way of clarification (for those who have been living on another planet for the past year!) a selfie is a kind of self portrait photo usually taken with a camera phone and usually posted somewhere in the social media network. Usually with the sole intent of getting people to react to them. Images can be shared with thousands of other people, and the results are immediate. It’s basically like shouting to a load of people ‘hey look at me and what I’m doing!’. And these selfie posters seem to get a buzz from it all.
I have to say though, I find the whole idea of taking the time to photograph myself and assume friends (and potential strangers) want to see the results all a bit, well, cringe worthy. Somewhat unfortunately though this isn’t the mind-set of many a celeb, who with their constant suggestive selfies have done nothing to dissuade the selfie taker in their endeavours. But whilst it might suit the needs of the celeb (which let’s be frank, are not going to cross paths with us mere mortals’ needs), the sexy celeb selfie is actually harmful to women as they are promoting viewing women as sex objects.
I really can’t pin down what kind of psychological factors drive a person to take a selfie and upload it to a social networking site. I guess everyone’s own situation is different, but here are some common theories:
Attention seeking – People like to get noticed on social media as it’s a perfect means of getting interest from as many people as possible. All of the ‘likes’ and comments from friends (and perhaps worryingly often strangers too) are a quick and easy way to fish for compliments and boost a ‘selfies’ own ego.
Show off! – It’s in our human nature to want to show off your own successes and now when you feel good or look good, it’s far too easy to reach for your phone and document it all through a quick click.
Confidence booster – Rather tellingly perhaps is the fact that the younger generation are the leading demographic for the selfie trend. This is most likely in part to the fact that they are recognised as having the most self-esteem issues (as well as the fact they are constantly plugged into the Net!) and many of these teens may well be uploading selfies in a misguided effort at dealing with their own self-consciousness. They are seeking affirmation from as large an audience as possible.
It’s Empowering – It’s quite possible that teens, especially the girls, are telling themselves that they are empowering themselves with selfies when actually, the reality is that selfies are not empowering. They are just yet ANOTHER bungled way, albeit a high tech and up to date way, of demonstrating how society teaches people (girls) that they are valued in terms of physical attractiveness. So many young women take selfies because rather than deriving a sense of worth from themselves, they depend on others to give them it, just as they’ve been taught from day dot. Right from being small, girls are exposed to a barrage of images denoting (unrealistic) flawless female forms. Ultimately us girls are led to believe we are at our best when we’re at our most decorative and these provocative selfies reflect that.
As I prepare to sign of my Facebook I notice the selfie girl has already clocked up over 40 likes and attracted nearly as many comments. I don’t read the comments but I hope for the selfies sake that they are all positive and help towards giving her some of the self affirmation she obviously wants (needs). I accept that the selfie is a reflection of the world around us but I can’t help hoping when it comes to having my own daughters, they follow my thinking. The selfie culture doesn’t enhance the self but degrades it.