Recently I was at an airport waiting for a plane. I noticed a young woman a few seats down from me who was taking one selfie after another of just herself in a pretty ordinary waiting area. She had her back to me so I could see the photos she was taking on her camera and they seemed pretty much all the same but clearly she was seeking the perfect photo because she must have taken around 20 before she was satisfied.
When I later asked my daughter as to the possible reason for this exercise, she said that this person likely was posting it on Instagram to let her followers know that she was about to travel somewhere. Apparently people think that the mundane events of their life should be of interest to others and can get disappointed if their friends don’t ‘like’ these postings, which puts pressure on their friends to follow them and say they like them. It must be exhausting and time consuming to chronicle the minutiae of one’s own daily for others which also requires one to reciprocate and follow the minutiae of their lives as well.
chigau (違う) says
I have seen myself in the mirror.
I don’t know why everyone else in the webiverse needs to look at that.
Selfies are an alien concept to me. I don’t want other people taking my picture, so why would I do it myself?
Look, I’m as prone to old-fogeyism as the next guy, but…
It’s called “social interaction”, and yes, most people do spend rather a lot of time on it -- it just that the kids nowadays (with their flapper hats and their hot jazz music!) do it in different ways to previous generations. For example, they don’t spend a chunk of their holidays buying, writing, addressing, and posting individualised postcards, like my folks (and most others of their generation, and every other generation since picture postcards became popular in the late 19th century) used to do.
When I was growing up, the joke was that every teenage girl spent hours on the family phone chatting about nothing to their friends. Later, the joke was that every teenage girl spent hours at the mall, hanging out with their friends.
Teenage boys also hang around in packs, but they weren’t usually the but of any jokes about it.
Are selfies better than endless phone conversations or spending hours at the mall? I don’t know. But there does seem to be a need for social interaction among humans (and other primates). As another example, If you read older British fiction, you will note how often the men seem to frequent their clubs in the evenings, as opposed to staying with their wives. This is again an indication of how much social interaction matters to humans.
Which brings to mind one of my favorite Pratchett quotes, “Individuals aren’t naturally paid-up members of the human race, except biologically. They need to be bounced around by the Brownian motion of society, which is a mechanism by which human beings constantly remind one another that they are…well…human beings.” Men at Arms
Andreas Avester says
Taking numerous photos in order to get the perfect shot is something professional photographers do all the time. It only makes sense that a woman who wants to appear pretty in her photos would also do that. Personally, I have worked as a photographer, and whenever I’m taking photos of average-looking people, how I position my client makes a huge impact on how well the final photo looks. For example, if my client’s head is angled in the wrong way, I might be getting a photo with a prominently visible double chin. Making my client angle their head slightly differently can result in this unwelcome feature becoming much less noticeable. For most people how they angle their head makes a huge impact on how pretty their photo looks like. Changing how light falls on a face can further influence the appearance of the photo. Same goes also for different compositions.
This one https://andreasavester.com/body-hair-hairy-female-legs/ is the most recent self photo I have made. For it I put my DSLR on a tripod and I held a remote control in my hand. I must have taken about 100 shots on that day. The first problem was that in some shots I accidentally managed to get either my heels or my toes out of the frame. With my camera being on the opposite side of the photo studio, I couldn’t see whether the shot I was getting was any good, so there were plenty of failures. I also experimented with various different poses in order to see which one I liked best.
Also in Freethoughtblogs many authors write about their personal lives. Whether it’s a trip they are having, a health problem they are dealing with, or some hobby they are pursuing.
Mundane events and minutia is something I would perceive as boring to read about. I would also abstain from writing about such things in my own blog. But sometimes people’s personal experiences are interesting, for example, I often enjoy listening to my friends talking about the trips they recently had. Or just some fun experiences.
chigau (違う) @#1
There are people who are happy with their appearance. For such people making photos of themselves is just fun. By the way, it doesn’t even matter whether the person who is making selfies is perceived as beautiful according to local beauty standards. What matters is that they are happy with their bodies and they are having fun.
Most of the time I try to avoid letting other people take my pictures, but that’s only because I know that the average person is an awful photographer. I don’t want other people to have ugly photos of me. Yet I’m perfectly happy to pose for other professional photographers, because I know that I can look great in photos. I can also make good looking self photos in which I look great. I don’t let other people photograph me only when I expect them to do a bad job.
This has seemed to me to be a self-perpetuating phenomenon that’s highly annoying.
I think that most instagram posters really want people to “like” what they do in order to better validate their lives, and so they see others posting mundane aspects of their lives as well and decide that liking those posts will increase the practice of liking those types of posts--even if they don’t really care at all about the other person’s mundane posts.
I think this is more prevalent when people have children and plaster thousands of photos of their children over their social media feeds. You’ll notice that almost every single “like” received is from other parents doing the same. One might argue it’s because they are all partaking in a joyous sharing of photos, but I would bet good money they are just trying to perpetuate a culture that gives them the positive feedback they want every once in a while.
Selfie-sticks (long(-ish) poles on which to mount the phone for the purpose of taking selfies, often against a famous background) have been banned in many museums, partly due to the risk of damage to the works, the risk of injury (to others (people can be amazingly careless!)), and because crazed hordes of selfie-stick wielding can rather totally block / interfere with the view of others.
Even without the fecking sticks, selfies cause problems; e.g., Dutch fence off tulip fields to stop selfie-takers crushing flowers:
Part of the reason for the trampling seems astonishing:
One could argue at least some of those Instagram selfie posting fiends are vandals (albeit unintentional due to astonishing ignorance).
Why do you find it annoying? How does it affect you?
The horror! Something must be done!
Sam N says
@8, it no longer affects me. I deleted my facebook and instagram accounts, never used twitter. But if you don’t observe someone else’s behavior on social media, and feel some pressure to conform to their norms, maybe you don’t have a very sensitive theory of mind and/or empathy. Or maybe I’m just prone to anxiety. Whichever it may be, when I started feeling that I should ‘like’ some people’s posts despite not caring about them was my tipping point. If you read pieces by millenials on the topic, you’ll find more than a few feel compelled to that sort of conformity. Sure I’m already inculcated in so many other social rituals I find useless, many which I object to, and as an adult want no part in more of them.
It’s too bad google+ was deleted. It wasn’t good for revenue, but it was the one social media, thanks to its unpopularity, where my connections only posted thoughtful, longer items, and on rare occasion. Where no one on it seemed to fish for likes.
I am extraordinarily grateful this web site doesn’t support up or down voting of comments.
My girlfriend takes a lot of selfies. I asked her why. She is a Minor Internet Celebrity, so some of them she posts to Instagram, but not most of them.
She is insecure about her appearance because she has been criticized and bullied (mostly by men and boys) for her whole life. She takes selfies to affirm to herself that she has beauty.
If you’re one of those grumps who grouses about (especially) young women taking selfies, maybe stop complaining about that until we stop (especially) boys and men commenting about women’s and girls’ appearances.
Let them have their selfies. It’s not hurting anybody.
Sam N, @ #9:
And how is this specific form of social behaviour different (and worse) from literally every other form of social behaviour? People have always felt compelled to conform to the norms of their society. There is a fair degree of variation both across time and between cultures about the degree of compulsion and the range of acceptable divergence, but as far as I can see, that’s entirely independent of both the specific forms of social behaviour and the intermediating technology. Figuring out how far you want to conform to any given set of social norms is a perfectly normal -- although admittedly somewhat difficult -- process known as “growing up”, and we’ve all had to do it.
I feel less pressure to conform not because I “don’t have a very sensitive theory of mind”, but because I’m old enough to no longer give much of a shit. On the other hand, I’m British, so I’ve often had long, boring conversations with some absolutely ghastly people, purely for the sake of politeness, which is probably worse that feeling you should hit “like” on an Instagram selfie posted by somebody you don’t much care for.
I think that, as is true for many things, a moderate degree of selfie-taking and general social media exposure is helpful, or at least harmless, social interaction, whereas basing your whole self-image on likes received or feeling compelled to follow people you don’t even like is harmful. The important thing is the degree to which you are involved. Most healthy things become harmful if they become too obsessive.
“Also in Freethoughtblogs many authors write about their personal lives.”
Correct. And I think it equally uninteresting. That specifically includes MS’ own blogposts about his family affairs. I never read them past the headlines.
Curious Digressions says
Women, especially young women and teenage girls, are rewarded for complying with an extensive set of standards around their physical appearance. The are also ridiculed for engaging in or documenting their performance of beauty standards.
See: commentators mock girls for selfies. https://mic.com/articles/126162/arizona-state-sorority-girls-took-selfies-at-a-baseball-game-and-grown-men-mocked-them-for-it#.ADUI6iCRt
Anything young women do or enjoy is targeted. [Insert feminist speculation here.]
I don’t personally get the culture of the facebooks or twitters. Just because I don’t understand it doesn’t mean it has no value to people who engage in it. I do recall a similar foo-fur-rah around “friending” and “unfriending” on LiveJournal back in the day; back when photo documentation of every single (elegantly plated) meal was required.
I took a selfie of myself once. It was a new cellphone and I pressed the wrong button. Still, it did motivate me to figure out how to delete photos.
Sam N says
@11, I find it worse due to its omnipresence in my modern environment where work requires I have a browser open more hours than not. YMMV.
Smelling a LOT of “off my lawn” and “yells at cloud” on this one, Professor Singham.
Also, there is always an undercurrent of misogyny in selfie shaming.
I think that’s absolutely correct. Nice link, thanks for posting it!
Andreas Avester says
For all those people out here who are annoyed about seeing other people’s selfies: on Twitter you can just unfollow whoever is posting those. I have no idea how Facebook or Instagram works (I haven’t used those), but if you don’t like what you are seeing on these websites, just stop using them. I seriously don’t get all those people who complain about something other people are posting online. If you don’t like some content, just stop looking at it, there’s no need to complain about the fact that it exists. Each one of us decides which websites we choose to visit, so it’s just silly to point your web browser towards some site where selfies abound and then complaining that you don’t want to see them. It’s like people intentionally opening porn sites and then complaining that they see naked people on their monitor.
I highly recommend not being judgmental here. I have known young women who were beautiful according to current beauty standards, but who welt very insecure about their appearance and worried that they might be ugly. For them getting likes and compliments was a way how to improve their self-esteem and how to validate their existence. In these kinds of situations, you shouldn’t be judgmental towards the person posting selfies, because she is a victim of an extremely sexist culture which has planted in her head the absolutely disgusting idea that her self-worth depends on whether other people perceive her body as pretty. In such situations, the target for criticism ought to be the sexist culture and all those people who perpetuate it. You shouldn’t blame people who are victims of this culture. The victim is simply using selfies as a method of coping with a grave injustice that the society has done to her.
Yes, I have felt social pressure on plenty of occasions. No, I have never felt social pressure to post selfies online. Hell, I haven’t even felt pressure to create social media accounts (I still don’t have them). I think it’s not even reasonable to feel pressured to conform every single time you witness somebody else doing something.
First men routinely use derogatory language towards women and act as if their worth depended on how pretty they were. Next the same men complain that women try to cope with their low self-esteem and insecurity by fishing for compliments/likes by posting selfies. First you equate some person’s worth with their appearance, next you say that they are narcissistic for wanting to be perceived as beautiful. I see a problem here.
I sometimes write blog posts on my website, so I always keep thinking about where to draw the line between “boring private life minutiae that nobody else except me cares about” and “things that a reader might perceive as interesting.” For example, I probably shouldn’t write about how I went grocery shopping today. Who cares? Nobody but me. But what if I am writing about food packaging and plastic waste? Then my personal experience with grocery shopping could be incorporated into a blog post that might actually be relevant for other people. And where do I draw the line between a “personal story that others would perceive as boring” and a “personal experience that is interesting enough that others might want to read about it”? Was my last vacation interesting enough? How do I tell?
Tabby Lavalamp says
Curious Digressions @14
Holy crap, that article is infuriating! I thought it was going to be just normally awful misogyny, but that the mocking took place just after an announcer told the audience to take selfies for a contest? There aren’t enough tables to flip in rage.
Also, the grown-ass men who did the mocking make a living describing what’s happening in a meaningless game where other grown-ass men throw balls in the hope that yet more grown-ass men won’t hit the balls with a stick and run around a diamond-shaped play area. These aren’t serious men with serious jobs.
You’re welcome. There’s a lot more out there along those lines.
Speaking as a personal thing, I have been taking selfies from time to time in the last year, year and a half or so, and every single one of them is a huge victory for my mental health because they represent me fighting back against the ongoing feeling that I’m too ugly for anyone to look at.
I dunno. It just always seems to me that it’s a dick move to criticize anything someone is doing that they seem to be enjoying and is harmless. How is anyone else affected by someone taking selfies?
(Taking a hard line here so I figure it’s only fair to point out I didn’t just hove in off the street to complain, Prof. Singham’s blog is one of my daily reads and to me this one seems weirdly off-brand and a bit out of character because it is not actually reasonable!)
Andreas Avester says
I can so relate with this. Growing up, I believed that I was ugly. It never really bothered me that much, I just convinced myself that it’s OK to be ugly as long as I’m at least smart. When I started learning to work as a photographer, I experimented with myself as a model a lot. I did that only because I didn’t have the money to hire a real model to pose for me. I experimented with various poses and light setups and whatnot. After all, a photographer can learn either by reading textbooks or by actually experimenting and taking photos. And the latter is very important. At one point I realized that in photos I can look just as beautiful as any other model. My assumption that I was ugly was caused by unrealistic expectations and a failure to understand how all those images in fashion magazines were actually made. Realizing that my body is perfectly normal and not ugly felt nice.
Self photos have also helped me to cope with my gender dysphoria. A while ago I didn’t even dare defy social norms about how somebody with my biological sex was supposed to look like. Nowadays, I’m perfectly comfortable to post online photos of my hairy legs without even caring about gender norms or the fact that I wasn’t supposed to proudly advertise the fact that my legs are furry. Accepting the visual appearance of my body and not hating it has made me a happier.
As a photographer, I have also observed my clients’ body image insecurities. If I have an average-looking client, I can make photos in which this person looks pretty great. When my clients see images in which they look better than expected, they react positively, as in, “maybe I’m not as ugly as I feared that I might be.”
Personally, I believe that beauty standards are arbitrary. They shouldn’t have so much power over people. We are just obsessing over some bones and meat on each other’s faces. Nor should societies enforce standards about fashion rules, make-up, body hair, etc. aspects of or appearance. Unfortunately, the world is as it is. We cannot singlehandedly change what’s published in fashion magazines. But if some individual can use photography to improve their own self-perception, then I’d say that’s a good thing. As a photographer, I also try to convince my clients that they look just fine and that they shouldn’t hate their appearance.
We definitely shouldn’t tell anybody, “you are ugly anyway, you shouldn’t take photos of yourself,” or “nobody else wants to look at your ugly face,” or “your wish to like the appearance of your own body is narcissistic.” After all, people hating their own bodies is what’s unhealthy.