Are selfies only for selfish shellfish?

2015-02-10 10:00

Do I need to define what a selfie is? I don't think so.

Photo-sharing has become one of our favourite past-times. Just look at how popular Social Media channels like Instagram, Pinterest and Flickr are! Instagram grew by more than 60% in 2014 in South Africa alone. Also, Facebook and Twitter the two largest social networks' content have become increasingly visual. I suppose the old adage of 'a picture tells a thousand words' is so true. We are drawn to visuals. What is easier: trying to describe to your friends someone or something you like or showing them a picture?

Taking a photo enables us to relive the moment, share it with others and for those who think about posterity as a record for the future. And why shouldn't we? A moment after all, is just that, a few seconds and life goes on. It actually takes discipline and a practical-mindedness to spot an opportunity for a photo. If you don't, that moment may live on in your memory but visually it is lost forever. I have settled on a simple rule: if in doubt, take a pic - you can always delete it if you don't like it.

But people are increasingly taking photos of themselves and sharing it. Why do we do this? Leah Tierney a consumer psycologist at Shutterstock wrote an interesting article on why we share on Social Media. She says that we do so to: convey our identity; nurture relationships; for an incentive; feel a sense of belonging and to advocate great content. Read the full article here. There is obviously a lot of joy we derive from it but some of these pics and text can be inappropriate as well. I attended a very insightful talk last year by Emma Sadleir (she is an attorney and hosted the Social Media slot on the Oscar Pistorius Trial channel) about the dangers of sharing of inappropriate content on Social Media. It was quite an eye-opener. She has since co-authored a book with Tamsyn de Beer on this very topic. The book entitled 'Don't film yourself having sex' - basically deals with the legal aspects in more detail and gives real life examples of what not to do while on Social Media.

But what do you do when you find that perfect photo moment but there is no one there to capture it? The answer is: you take the photo yourself! You do have your smart phone with you (all the time) don't you? Or better still, buy a selfie-stick to get that perfect angle :-) !

I have heard that some consider the taking and sharing of selfies as 'narcissistic.' The term comes from the Greek mythology of the young handsome Narcissus who rejected the desperate advances of the nymph Echo and then fell in love with his own image reflected in a pool of water. Apparently Narcissus would 'lay gazing enraptured into the pool, hour after hour," and finally changed into a flower that bears his name, the narcissus.' So it's basically an egotistic admiration of one's own attributes. Narcissism (an extreme form is classified as a personality disorder) the field of psychology tells us also includes an element of being vain and a love for mirrors :-) !

But is it really so bad to take the occasional picture of yourself? I don't think so. In fact I would even encourage it. If it is a special moment for whatever reason I say go for it (not that you need my approval!) Sometimes it is just the most practical thing to do. That said, if I post lots of selfies on Facebook on a daily basis then maybe there is reason to say: what's up with him?

Social Media gives us the tools to stay in contact with our friends. And a big part of staying in touch is to share with them what's on our minds or what we have been up to. I think it is really for everyone to decide what they share and how often. Sharing is caring after all :-) !

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