A picture is worth a thousand words. We have all heard this phrase at least once in our lives, in fact, most likely more than that. However, have you ever thought how many words a selfie may be worth? According to The Oxford Dictionary, “selfie” was the word of the year for 2013, so there must be a lot to say about this one type of picture.
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Tumblr are a few of the many social media outlets that let users freely post their selfies on a mostly unfiltered basis. Scrolling through the newsfeeds of these applications, friends and friends of friends are able to find out who did what last weekend, who’s dating who and all other kinds of personal information, solely based off of the timing and location of an uploaded selfie.
Snapchat even allows users to freely send embarrassing selfies to their contacts for up to ten seconds, providing the opportunity to give someone a laugh without having to face too much humiliation by sending them a standard picture.
You might be asking yourself, why should I care that selfie was named the word of the year? Although this is an understandable question, the nature of this declaration carries certain implications for our present generation and the way in which we live our daily lives.
James Franco commented on this phenomenon prior to the close of 2013 and shed some light on this fascinating topic. His opinion does seem to carry some merit, considering his title as the Selfie King. Franco believes that the selfie in itself is a cry for attention.
“Attention seems to be the name of the game when it comes to social networking,” Franco says. “In this age of too much information at a click of a button, the power to attract viewers amid the sea of things to read and watch is power indeed. It’s what the movie studios want for their products, it’s what professional writers want for their work, it’s what newspapers want.”
A possible explanation for the growing number of selfies posted on social media may be the inherent human desire for attention.People seem to become instantly happy or proud of themselves once the number of likes they receive on an Instagram or Facebook post receives double, or even triple, digits. The affirmation from their peers that this picture is flattering in some manner generally sends a message to that person that they are accepted and thus their self-confidence receives an instant boost.
An article entitled “The Social Psychology of the Selfie” by Christine Erickson commented on this subject.
“Self-image is important, and not always in a narcissistic way,” Erickson says. “It’s how we define ourselves, and present for others to see. We rely on others’ perceptions, judgments and appraisals to develop our social self.”
This social self Erickson speaks of may not even necessarily be who we really are on the inside. Maybe this does not matter though. The seflies we take are merely images we hope to project onto others about how we are feeling. They are supposed to say something about us, and no one willingly wants to admit that they are feeling depressed, angry or upset via a selfie.
The idea of the “looking-glass-self” continues to further this notion that our own self-concepts are defined by interaction with, and the perceptions of, our peers. Due to advancements in technology, we are now in contact with hundreds, even thousands, of people on a daily basis, all of whom are constantly internalizing their opinions and feelings. Facebook is a prime example of how others opinions can affect our own self-image.
We constantly change our profile pictures and cover photos in concurrence with what pictures seem more popular or acceptable according to our peers. We can enhance our pictures with filters that can heighten lighting, create brighter colors and increase the prevalence of our features artificially. It may not be our faults that we have grown up in such an obsessively technological society, but it definitely has left many of us scarred and overly conscious of what others think.
Perhaps though, the selfie phenomenon has not affected a certain group of people too deeply. Celebrities seem to post spontaneous selfies, regardless of how good or bad they look because they know how obsessed their fans are. People generally do not stop loving Kim Kardashian once she posts a makeup-less selfie; instead they praise her for looking just like another normal person. This intimate moment that celebrities share, whether it’s backstage at a concert or behind the scenes of television show taping, seems to connect fans with their idols on another level unmatched by anything else.
For the rest of us though, the selfie presents an opportunity to create a picture that portrays us in an embellished manner. We scrutinize our features, take retake after retake before finally deciding which picture to post and which to delete.
Or maybe we just happen to be the type of people who like taking pictures. Maybe we’re looking too deeply into this topic, and maybe we’re not, but regardless, the selfie phenomenon seems to affect everyone in one way or another.
“I’m not really surprised that selfie was named word of the year for 2013,” says sophomore business student Alissa Foti. “Everywhere I look I see teenagers taking pictures of themselves, and one of those places just happens to be my own iPhone screen because I’m a human being and no one’s perfect, so stop judging me. When you’re with your friends, or if your hair just happens to look great that day, you need to snap a pic to show the world!”
From Foti’s perspective, the art of selfie-taking is much more innocent than it has been presented. It is an essential form of communication this day in age. Sometimes words cannot properly capture the ways we are feeling, but a selfie may be just the thing to express every last one of our emotions. Maybe we’re showing a different side of ourselves that only comes out on the weekends, or maybe we’re just in the mood to take a picture. Whatever the reason may be, it seems taking selfies is an essential factor in our existence as young adults today.
“This craze that used to be mocked is now widely accepted and frankly, expected,” Foti says. “My grandma asked me to take a selfie with her on Thanksgiving and I was terrified. This is the direction we’re going in.”
Of course there are a million different ways we could analyze the art of taking a selfie and why it occurs. But whatever we come up with, it seems that this trend is here to stay. Maybe you should just take some advice from Foti and when you get the chance to take a selfie, “purse your lips and throw your ‘V’ up!”