“But First, Let Me Take A Selfie”

“Popularly regarded as a shallow expression of online narcissism, the selfie is both adored and reviled; yet it flourishes as one of the most effective outlets for self-definition.” (Murray, 2015)

Selfie’ – “a photograph taken with a smartphone or other digital camera by a person who is also in the photograph, especially for posting on a social-media website.”

Selfies are such a controversial topic amongst mainstream media celebrities, and their effects are increasingly becoming more of a conversation; would one associate the selfie with positive self-esteem, or narcissism?

How would you differentiate the selfie, to the self-portrait? In a sense, the selfie is the self-portrait of this era and technology; but no one thought that Van Gogh [Self-Portrait, 1889] was a narcissistic attention seeker. So why is it that on one hand, social media promotes self-love, empowerment, and confidence, but on the other hand accuses people who take selfies as narcissistic attention seekers?

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I know that whenever I would post a selfie on Instagram, it takes a lot of courage, because I know that there is that one half of the internet that associates selfies with attention seeking narcissists; but it makes me feel good whenever people ‘like’ the photo; it empowers me and gives me confidence.

So which is it? Am I a narcissist or empowered?

Halperna et al (2016) discuss that “narcissist individuals take selfies more frequently over time, this increase in selfie production raises subsequent levels of narcissism.” So does this mean that selfies okay as long as there’s not an excessive and frequent amount of selfie taking and posting? Or is it that every selfie that you take increases narcissistic tendencies? I find this finding conflicting; there are many who might relate and agree with this statement, but from personal experience, some of the most selfless and least self absorbed people I know, still take the occasional selfie.

But there are two sides to a selfie, and it would be unfair to call everyone who took selfies as attention seeking because it would be fair to say that most people who have the ability (own a camera) to take a selfie have done so. So how is it even fair that half of a culture can be judgmental towards something harmless that they have probably done?

On one hand “women’s experiences of their bodies change through interactions, sense of community and taking and sharing selfies”, and it is this opinion that enforces the positivity that selfies and self esteem can bring to a community. It seems that social media is divided on this issue, there tends to be a very blurry line in between self-esteem and narcissism. Self esteem relates to our values, personal accomplishments and care that we show towards others; a positive self love! “Self-confidence, self-respect and self-esteem grow out of knowing yourself very well”.

Narcissism contrasts to this as an extensive negative version; narcissism is based on fear of weakness, and unhealthy focus on ones self. “Narcissistic people crave attention and admiration in order to ward off feelings of shame and to disguise a sense of inner defect. In other words, they have no authentic self-esteem and look to others to provide a substitute for it.” (Burgo, 2012)

Although some may be looking for attention and a way to ‘disguise a sense of inner defect’, that is not what the selfie represents, Murray (2015) asserts that selfies associate to self-definition, and self-exploration. Are we being criticized for attempting a search for ones self, and confidence within that? Although selfies may have a hidden negative effect for some; it has been demonstrated through the discussed studies, and enforced by experience, that selfies are majority a positive phenomenon.

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Seidman, 2015, “What is the real link between Selfies and Narcissism?”, Psychology Today, Available From: < https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/close-encounters/201508/what-is-the-real-link-between-selfies-and-narcissism > (Viewed 16th March 2017)

Gogh, 1889, “Self-Portrait”, Wikipedia, Available From < https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Van_Gogh_self-portrait_(1889)#/media/File:Vincent_van_Gogh_-_Self-Portrait_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg > (Viewed 16th March 2017)

n.a, n.d, Dictionary.com, Available From: < http://www.dictionary.com/browse/selfie > (Viewed 15th March 2017)

Murray, 2015, Consumption Markets & Culture, Volume 18, 2015 – Issue 6: Communicating Identity/Consuming Difference, “Notes to self: the visual culture of selfies in the age of social media”, Page 490-516, Available From: < http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10253866.2015.1052967?scroll=top&needAccess=true > (Viewed 16th March 2017)

Burgo, 2012, “Narcissism vs. Authentic Self-Esteem”, Psychology Today, Available From: < https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/shame/201212/narcissism-vs-authentic-self-esteem > (Viewed 16th March 2017)

Katrin Tiidenberg, Edgar Gómez Cruz, 2015, “Selfies, Image and the Re-making of the Body”, Body & Society, Vol 21, Issue 4, pp. 77 – 102 (Viewed 20th March 2017)

Firestone, 2012, “Self-Esteem Versus Narcissism”, Psychology Today, Available From: < https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/compassion-matters/201206/self-esteem-versus-narcissism > (Viewed 20th March 2017)

Daniel Halperna, Sebastián Valenzuelaa, James E. Katzb, 2016, “Selfie-ists” or “Narci-selfiers”?: A cross-lagged panel analysis of selfie taking and narcissism”, Personality and Individual Differences, Volume 97, Pages 98–101 (Viewed 20th March 2017)


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