Picture Perfect: Society’s Obsession with Social Media and Selfies

There couldn’t be a more perfect topic to talk about for a blog called ‘Social Media Planet’ than this one. The topic is a focus on society’s obsession with self love and identity which is becoming an increasing issue thanks to the introduction and the continuing high use of social media.

Our identity of who we are arises out of our interactions with other people in our personal lives and our online ones too. We use other people as a mirror in which we see ourselves, whether it is a negative or positive reflection. By this I mean, you find your identity through other people by comparing yourself or receiving positive or negative feedback of who you are e.g. when people tell you that you are nice, beautiful or selfish. However, it is not as straight forward as someone saying you’re mean, and therefore you are mean. No, we shape who we are by choosing to ignore or resist messages we receive from others, much like a filter. Furthermore, we shape ourselves even more when people send us contradictory messages and we work to mold those messages to make a coherent whole (Evans, 2016).

Selfies and the possession of self image online are increasing through social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr, as well as other apps like Snapchat and WhatsApp. However, through this, not only are we looking for self verification and self identity, it can actually be damaging for the person posting and the people around them. This danger is because we mirror each other. Charles Taylor, a Canadian philosopher supports this issue, stating “Our identity is partly shaped by recognition… often by the mis-recognition of others, and so a person or group of people can suffer real damage, real distortion, if the people or society around them mirror back to them a confining or demeaning, or contemptible picture of themselves” (Taylor, 1997).
Continuing to think deeper into this, it intrigued me to ask that if the average person is shaped by others from the people around them, would this affect celebrities at a larger scale as they have a bigger audience than the average person? Although there is no real answer to that question, it can only be assumed that it would affect them as it would anyone else. We are all human after all.

The rise of the selfie has been linked to three cultural shifts; the shift to online media to determine status; the rise of the ‘attention economy’ (attention is the new currency); and the shift in celebrity culture (ordinary people becoming famous from online media platforms). Ironically, while ordinary people are becoming famous for posting images of themselves on Instagram (aka Instafamous) or by using other platforms to get their image out, celebrities from music to film, are posting pictures of themselves doing average things that creates a bigger connection with ordinary people. For example, Lorde posted a selfie in her bed without make up on, Demi Lovato has also shared a number of selfies without make up (which she now promotes a hashtag No Make Up Monday in support of feeling beautiful for who you are).
The nature of the selfie however, is to share with others and get recognition and verification. By posting on social media that is open to the public, you’re expecting for people to give likes, or hearts, or comments on how funny or amazing, or how beautiful you are; a verification of self worth. It feels nice to be liked and to feel proud of oneself so we keep doing it. However, when you’re expecting praise but don’t get as many likes or negative feedback, the danger is that you feel less of yourself and so put your self worth in the hands of others.

Reference List:
Evans, N 2016, BCM310 Looking at Ourselves, lecture 2, week 2: Looking at Ourselves: Social Media and the Quantified Self. Lecture PowerPoint slides, viewed 26 March 2016, accessed through Moodle.

Taylor, C 1997, ‘The Politics of Recognition’, in Broadview Press (ed.), New Contexts of Canadian Criticism, Ontario, Canada