Selfie’s have become an unquestionably fixed presence on social media platforms, as one of the quickest and simplest ways to snap and post. They are so commonly used, we barely bat an eye to it anymore. So when a problematic selfie is uncovered, we are shocked out of our comfortable pattern of posting and forced to wonder why we find the selfie an issue.
Selfies are a singular post about you, that you control in it’s creation and end result. It is our way to self-document for the purpose of sharing it, when the purpose of the shot is not about documenting the moment, but you in the moment. It says nothing about what you are doing, where you are, but what you are doing there, you being there. A Selfie is a shot of your self, and it’s conception and framing will only ever accommodate this subject. It is the image you wish to be represented by, in the best light, the best angle or most flattering hairstyle. Selfies are never ‘accidental, whether carefully staged or completely casual’ we all know no selfie is taken on the fly (Saltz J 2014).
The practice of Selfies becomes pivotal in ‘how we experience the world and increasingly, due to the ubiquity of online interaction how we ‘shape’ our world’ (Tindenberg and Gomez Cruz (2015). On other different social media platforms, you choose even more specified conditions for selfies depending on its audience. A more permanent, professional digital environment of Facebook will condition you to pose the most flattering and pleasing shot. On Facebook, and to an extent Instagram, a small level of amateur professionalism exists throughout the thought process of posting my photos. Thus, recently has been a slow decline of the selfies I post, and more shots of me taken by others. Over on Snapchat, on the other hand a platform that lends itself to endless selfies, the conditions are less hostile and limitating. Endless selfies can be sent out, unflattering and imperfect alike, and are destroyed within seconds. They have no lasting impact to our image and representation, unlike the time capsules we post on Facebook and Instagram.
This is how you are choosing the digital world to see you, by regaining control of representation and you having the power. Rather than our identity being defined and moulded by those reflecting back to us, we project to them. Selfies, are an instantaneous snapshot of ‘where we are, what we’re doing, who we think we are, and who we think is watching’ (Saltz J 2014). Selfies simultaneously are about only us, and how people react to us. How many likes or hearts it will get.
It is here, the issue of Selfie’s arise, when the cultural trend of self-documentation’s purpose is contorted and misused. We all have the inherent notion selfies are about us, whether some view it as narcissistic or self-appreciative all depends on the context of the photo, or where the photo is taken.
When the balance of intent behind a selfie at Auschwitz, using a style of photo that takes away what should be the sole focus of the shot, generates the kind of controversy of when selfies should and shouldn’t be deemed appropriate. A selfie is designed to be only about you, and when you place a selfie in an area that shoudn’t be all about you, it suddenly feels wrong.
The controversy stirred by a photo of a hostage posing with the Hijacker of Egypt Air, intended to use the photo as a way of inspecting the bomb device attached to Mustafa. Many described it as stupid and disrepectful, and he was not the only one who did so (Telegraph, 2016).
When a selfie of self-appreciation clashes with social bias and constructions, we debate whether selfies like these are intended to garner attention for attentions sake, or the simple intent of expressing value of choice and empowerment on how we want to express ourselves on social media.
The issue with selfies, though created under our control and posted in such, immediately lose their control over what the reaction to them will be once they are posted. A Selfie is a shot of your self, and it’s conception and framing will only ever accommodate this subject. But both images were impacted by either its context or the public’s reaction. It comes back to the photos intent, and the underlying connotation this photo is what we think of ourselves, and how we want others to think of us.
Evans, N 2016, ‘Looking at Ourselves: Social Media and the Quantified Self’, Lecture Week 2, BCM310: Emerging Issues in Media and Communication, University of Wollongong
Tiidenberg K, Gómez Cruz E 2015, ‘Selfies, Image and the Re-Making of the Body’ https://moodle.uowplatform.edu.au/pluginfile.php/607709/mod_resource/content/1/SelfiesImageandtheBody.pdf
Saltz, J 2014, ‘Art at Arm’s Length: A History of the Selfie’, Vulture Magazine, (http://www.vulture.com/2014/01/history-of-the-selfie.html#)