Week 2: Looking At Ourselves: social media and the quantified self
Our identity defines who we are as a person. We may like to think we are all individuals who shape our own identity, but unfortunately that is not that case. As discussed during the lecture, our identity arises from our interactions with others. To expand on this, the people we spend time with, our experiences, and the world around us define who we are and how we see ourselves. But, has this changed over the past decade?
The ‘selfie’, what is it exactly?
“A fast self-portrait, made with a smartphone’s camera and immediately distributed and inscribed into a network, is an instant visual communication of where we are, what we’re doing, who we think we are, and who we think is watching”
– Jerry Saltz (2014)
Believe it or not, we are currently living in the age of the ‘selfie’. Actually that shouldn’t shock you whatsoever. Instead of taking a photo to help us remember a particular event or occasion, we are taking photos of ourselves and immediately posting and sharing them online. This culture of taking a photo of one’s self and sharing it online for all to see is becoming an everyday practice. Regardless of whether it is on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or SnapChat, I can guarantee if you were to open one of those applications right now you will see a selfie. It’s not news that technological advances have changed the way we interact with other individuals, but is the selfie phenomenon and social media influencing the way we look at ourselves and how others perceive us?
According to Saltz (2014), the selfie is changing aspects of our social interaction, self-awareness, privacy and public behaviour. With a shift towards using online media to determine one’s status and importance, the rise of the ‘attention economy’ and a shift in celebrity culture, those who constantly take and post ‘selfies’ on social media are gradually being seen as more narcissistic than those who do not. To some extent, the selfie is being used as both a social validation and gratification in that we post photographs of ourselves online as a way of boosting our self-esteem and seeking appraisal and positive reactions from our peers. The amount of likes or comments a selfie receives provides an individual with an indication of their social worth, but of course this is not the case for everyone. The number of friends on Facebook, followers on Instagram or the amount of likes, comments and shares a photo receives are directly related to how worthy we see ourselves (Bevacqua 2014).
You might think taking a photo of yourself is completely innocent and harmless, but the reality is that it may be doing more harm than good. Everyday we are bombarded and exposed to hundreds of images and messages about the ‘perfect body’ and other unrealistic ideals of perfection. As we become more aware of celebrities and these images, we start to compare ourselves to them. Not only can this be harmful in terms of our self-esteem, it has the potential to damage our self-image. This is due to our constant need to depend on other individual’s perceptions, judgements and ultimately their approval, regardless if they are our closest friends or individuals that we have never met in person before.
Bevacqua, F 2014, How selfies actually lower self-esteem, Frank Bevacqua Ph.D., viewed 1st April 2016, < http://frankbevacquaphd.com/how-selfies-actually-lower-self-esteem>
Saltz, J 2014, Art at arm’s length: A history of the selfie, Vulture, viewed 23rd March 2016, <http://www.vulture.com/2014/01/history-of-the-selfie.html>