Comment: Selfie - taking back the Lens or vanity?
Throwback to when our Founder Jade French wrote her thoughts on the emerging 'Selfie'. Her thoughts on everything from Rihanna's instagram and Arnold Schwarzengger topless to the affirmation power and self-esteem buzz the human mind gets from Selfies.
I absolutely love clocking people on public transport taking a cheeky selfie. They try and act pretty nonchalant about it, and you think that maybe they are just checking their hair quickly, or at least sending a Snapchat. But no, that unmistakable pout, the quick ruffle of hair, and possibly a cheeky wink into the front-camera all shouts out one thing: S-E-L-F-I-E.
But a selfie is a great thing. In a world where cameras rove, paparazzi pap and CCTV sits in every nook and cranny, it’s an act of self-preservation. You are in full control of your image. Everything from the angle to lighting is down to you, styling and hair, even how much you trout the pout. It’s up to you how you want to look, even if it’s a bit ridiculous.
Is it vanity then? This act of glamming up to take a snap on your phone and instantly upload it to your Facebook, Twitter, tumblr, or Instagram? Or does it tap into something a bit deeper and sinister? It promotes a need to constantly validate our selves, to get a few likes and comments (doesn’t matter if they’re positive or negative, they confirm you’re alive). MySpace had it all in the PC4PC days (that’s picture comment for picture comment, for those born post-1996). There’s an incessant craving to update people, even people from primary school you didn’t speak to then and don’t speak to now.
And these selfies last for mere hours, minutes, seconds. They get churned into a larger picture of your life- a birthday here, a holiday there. They aren’t substantial; they don’t become part of a physically recorded history. They in fact get lost in the Internet, languishing down at the bottom of a Facebook ‘Mobile Album’.
But maybe that’s the appeal? There’s always a constant stream of acknowledgement. I’m still here. This is what I’m eating. It may seem banal, but really it’s a phenomenon; at once empowering and rather sad.
Selfie has been defined by the Oxford English Dictionary, in fact it’s their word of 2013:
(also selfy) noun (plural selfies)
a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website: occasional selfies are acceptable, but posting a new picture of yourself every day isn’t necessary
I particularly like that even the OED deems it unnecessary to post a “new picture of yourself everyday”. Setting the social media standards. There seems to be different rules too, between celebrity selfie and mere mortal selfie. You don’t need to see how Sarah down the road looks at 1am in the morning, but Rihanna is a different story.
In fact, it’s quite interesting that the celebrity selfie, where ostensibly the owner of the smartphone has the control of image, is still wrapped up in a complete lack of image control. It’s supposed to let us mere mortals see the A-list in a natural light. “We’re just like you,” the stars coo, and omg they’re not even waring makeup in some of these. They are so…real. Take Rihanna’s instagram for example, it’s groaning at the seams, here she is happy and another time sad, here’s a risqué sexy pose and here she is innocent and demure. But, Rihanna has apparently started co-ordinating photographers to take her selfies for her. This surely sullies what the selfie is for, an act of subtle rebellion against the media machine. Or perhaps these stars (notably female stars) are under pressure, to look just so even when relaxing naturally.
The world of male body building (and California governing) waded into the selfie debate, as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Wladimir Klitschk posted selfies of themselves topless. But this is a nostalgic nod to the past, a little wink in the direction of manhood. They’re still bristling with muscle and testosterone. They are very much in on the joke. Unlike Rihanna, who knows there is no time for joking when her image is at stake…
According to Claire Craig, “the image making process can be incredibly affirming… [and] can promote confidence and enhance self-esteem”. Of course, Claire has probably never been on the end of a scurrilous Sun photomontage, but I get the point. When taking a selfie, you are the image-maker. The sense of achievement as you put that final Instagram filter down can be unparalleled, especially if you weren’t looking so great and now suddenly you wonder why you’re not on the books at Models 1. We look at our faces more than ever, constantly morphing our true selves with the help of Hudson, Valencia, and X-Pro II. And Rihanna should give it a go, loosen the reins so that we know that when (if) she pulls a silly face, well, goddammit she did it for herself.