- 20 Aug 15
True nobility, Ernest Hemingway said, lies in being superior to your former self. But what about your former selfie? Write Here, Write Now 2nd Level Winner, Rose Keating – pictured above in a selfie of her own! – attempts to provide the answer…
The selfie. Ahhh, the infamous selfie. Wherever you go in the world right now, this six-letter word will be there to haunt you. In public bathrooms, iPhones are clutched high for the right angle; at home on your computer screen, visions of perfect eyebrows, good lighting and the use of a girl’s bedroom mirror await your attention – and your ‘likes’.
Tourists beside local monuments capture proof of their wild adventures. Even celebrities have taken to the trend, posting their self-shots on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, for all of us to see. Trends like the Selfie a Day Challenge and the No Make-up Selfie fundraiser bombard us everywhere we turn.
Just last year, the word ‘selfie’ was added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary. It is definied as: “An image of oneself, taken by oneself, using a digital camera especially for posting on social media networks.” Most digital cameras, of course, come as part of your smartphone, meaning that the vast majority of us have them. Which explains why selfies have become so ubiquitous.
Yet, for something so apparently simple, this word carries with it the weight of much controversy and not a little tension. With over one million sefies being taken and posted online each day, by everyone from President Obama to Pope Francis, it’s little wonder that such a small word could have such big argument-creating capability.
Many believe the seemingly innocent spread of the selfie has negative consequences. Vanity, narrcisism and superficiality are all words thrown around in online arguments against the selfie. But recent studies at various universities say that it is much more than this. “It’s a kind of self-definition,” says Dr Terri Apter, of Cambridge University. “We all like the idea of being sort of in control of our image and getting attention, being noticed, being part of the culture.”
So what do I think of it all?
We may well get a feeling of being ‘in control’ if we post a picture and receive a relatively large number of likes and positive comments. And if we do, we may continue our day feeling confident, flattered and pleased.
But how many of us have posted a selfie on social media, and due to poor reception or other reasons, regretted it half-an-hour later? When we are denied attention, or fail to win people’s approval, it can often leave us with feelings of rejection, loneliness and embarrassment.
The truth is that it has to be slightly damaging, and demeaning, for anyone to measure their self-worth based on the amount of likes or favorites they get on a self-shot.
That said, however, I am strongly of the opinion that selfies can in fact be an incredibly positive thing. In an age where we are forced to compete with photoshopped beauties and 6-foot tall belles, insecurity and body issues are at an all time high, especially among young women and young men. Images of toned tums, tiny waists, wide hips somehow completely devoid of body fat, high, bountiful chests and pert bums greet us ladies at every turn in our daily travels.
Chiseled abs, high cheekbones, hairless bodies, full lips, strong masculine jaw-lines and toned yet not bulky bods are expected of men. Day in and day out, we are fed these images, whether through television, our latest favorite film, the glossy, glam magazine your mum gets, or even milk ads. We cannot escape them – and so eventually, the threat, which these levels of perfection represent, begins to wear us down.
So I say to you: take that selfie! Why? Because, this isn’t about measuring your self-worth according to other people’s reactions. If you happen to look in a mirror and think, wow, I like what I’m looking at, then be proud. The idealized perfections with which we are surrounded are unattainable – but if, in that moment, you look at your own image and see its strengths and its attractiveness, well, why not go ahead and capture that moment?
In this way, selfies are a tool that can be used to redefine what ‘perfection’ is. Freckles, spots, laughter lines, red noses and baggy eyelids: these make you what you are, and are part of the best ‘you’ in the whole world, so why don’t we see that as perfection?
Or doll up your face with false eyelashes and big red lips. Do what makes you feel good. Grab a camera and smile. Pout. Look serious and deep and Byronesque. Or make a funny face. This is your picture, for you, and if the world happens to like it too, hey, that’s great. But if it doesn’t: who cares?
So selfie on, guys and gals, because you really are looking great…
• Rose Keating was among the winners of Write Here, Write now 2015. The competition was run by Hot Press, in association with Dublin City Libraries, the One City One Book festival, Dublin City Council, the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Easons and Microsoft.