Saturday, 19 September 2015

Age of the Selfie.



'Tis the Age of the Selfie. According to some. To many it is an age of extreme narcissism, to me a new experience of self expression and connection. A discussion thread on my dad's Facebook introduced me to the idea that this modern self portrait was another means of reaching out to everyone else. Sometimes this reaching out can mean a search for approval, a need for someone else to confirm their good looks when they face an element of low self esteem. But this search for approval is still a strong desire to connect. Sometimes it means to say something much more distinct: it means to say "I am here."

Admittedly it is easy to understand why many link the selfie to an act of narcissism. It is often an act of self love, and a bold way of admitting that you think you are beautiful in some way but this is not narcissism. Narcissism is an excessive, or even erotic, interest in oneself without the awareness of external objects. If selfies were narcissistic we would not share them with the world but would keep them to ourselves for some weird form of enjoyment. Those selfies would be very odd. But most of us do not keep our selfies to ourselves, and instead we use them to connect with our friends and even strangers. We use them to express emotion, to be artistic, to be funny, and, if you are brave enough, to state that you are beautiful.

There is a trend on Twitter of young women, and sometimes men, posting a series of particularly beautiful selfies in one go. There is no purpose for these photos but to declare outright their own self love. These women say "I am beautiful" without being asked, and without an uncertainty that asks nervously for the onlookers to agree. They just wanted to say that they felt good today. Many of them are not 'conventional' looking. I find it powerful. I do not find these selfies irritating, or rubbed in my face, but I do find them inspiring and lovely to look at. They are lovely because such a force of self confidence is infectious. When someone does not owe anyone but themselves their own beauty, the sensation of that self belief trickles into the minds of others.

And so if a selfie be an act of self love then so be it. There is quite enough of self hate to go around for it not to matter. This newfound desire to connect with the world is much healthier anyway.