I’m not proud to admit it but last night I spent half an hour in a bathroom taking photos of myself. Context is everything and I think it is important for you to know that I was at a restaurant for a friend’s birthday, eating, drinking and generally having a social life. A girlfriend had announced that she needed to use the bathroom and, being women, four of us decided to go with her. This is a weird trend within the subgroup of 18-24 year-old girls, whereby we go to the bathroom in groups, whether we all need to or not. It is partly for safety, but mostly is a way to go and gossip. As soon as we walked into the bathroom every one of us immediately commented on how fantastic the lighting was, and that it was like “a real-life Snapchat filter”. It was almost instinct for us all to pull out our phones and start taking so many photos of our faces that you would think we may have forgotten what we looked like. But trust me, I know what I look like. Because I take so many selfies.
Taking a selfie is a skill I have honed over the years. In other words, I have figured out the exact angle that highlights all my favourite facial features (try saying that 10 times fast) while downplaying the stuff I am not so fond of. Basically all my selfies look the same- angled down so my eyes and cheek bones are prominent and only a slight smile. In case you were wondering, this was the result of my selfie session last night. Not bad if I say so myself.
The selfie phenomenon is a cornerstone of internet culture and is very representative of the self-obsessed society we live in. At its core the selfie is just a digital representation of our narcissistic tendencies, and a need to feel love and acceptance. When I uploaded my selfie to Facebook, I refreshed my notifications for a few minutes after, making sure people were liking it. I doubt I am the only person who has ever done this, because most people nowadays are obsessed with social media, and how they in particular are portrayed on it. This is because platforms like Facebook and Instagram have become so ingrained in the daily lives of most people, they have actually become extensions of their personalities. The ways that people relate and are related to on social media directly affects their real physical life, and getting a bunch of likes on your perfectly angled and lit selfie has been proven to release the same endorphins that get released when eating chocolate or having sex.
The selfie however is part of a much bigger issue- a need to be acknowledged in a world saturated by media. Dr Terri Aptor has described this as “a kind of self-definition. We all like the idea of being sort of in control of our image and getting attention, being noticed, being part of the culture.” This essentially means that the careful ways in which most people curate their social media presence stems from wanting control over their own identities and relationships, in a modern context where most things are out of your control.