The selfie (the act of taking a self-portrait with a hand-held device) has become a widespread phenomenon within Western culture. So much so the Oxford Dictionary named selfie 2013’s word of the year.
After reaching such a milestone some probably thought the phenomenon reached its peak. Instead, selfie culture gained even further mass appeal. The word of the year achievement served as more of a catalyst than a climax.
The increased popularity of the selfie throughout 2014 was arguably propelled by Ellen DeGeneres’ attempt to have the most re-tweeted photo ever with her Oscars Selfie. Following the selfie that garnered 3.4 million re-tweets and 2 million favorites, many celebrities, public officials and religious leaders began to take part in selfie culture. From Pope Francis to President Barack Obama – individuals of varying social status helped ensconced the selfie into contemporary social customs and practices.
But here’s the million-dollar question: have we assimilated into selfie culture for better or for worse?
The Huffington Post recently ran an article highlighting a study linking the practice of taking selfies to narcissism and psychopathy. It should be noted, this study focused on men who take and post selfies to social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
The Ohio State University study concentrated on the psychological motivations selfie culture has on men joining a phenomenon based on physical appearance. However, the results appear to reflect broader reprecussions of selfie culture. Lead author of the study, Jesse Fox, said in a statement, “With the growing use of social networks, everyone is more concerned with their appearance. That means self-objectification may become a bigger problem for men, as well as for women.”
But is anything all bad? Is anything all good? Or as with all things, is the practice of taking selfies just a matter of asserting tact and moderation?
A USC news story seems to suggest the selfie has it benefits as well its shortcomings. Selfies can act as a means of communication as well as simple self-promotion. Selfies can help to promote products, brands, and communicate visual messages beyond the simple emojicons used across social media platforms. All of this makes for a more dynamic form of digital communication.
To that end I leave you with these words: with great selfies comes great responsibility.