Recently it seems at least once a week there will be a selfie related story I will read on one news site or another. As selfies are highly connected, not only to criticism about my generation, but also representation of identity they are an area that fascinates me.
After reading another article about selfies and how self-centered young people are now days, blah blah blah, I began to reflect on the matter from a slightly different perspective. I started thinking about what purpose selfies serve. In my experience selfies are not as self serving as they might seem. Although it is easy to conclude that sharing them on social media sites is all for the greater glory of the self, there is often other purposes as well. Many times a selfie will be shared to show the photographer during a particular moment or event, they may also serve as a way of sharing a particular aesthetic element (good hair/ well done make-up) that the photographer wants to share with friends/ family. Is this self centered? To imagine that your friends and family care about you? Or is it simply embracing reality. After all I love seeing images of my friends and family on social media sites, whether it is because they had their hair done up nicely for a wedding, because they were at a party or on holiday. It gives me joy to see the ones I love so why should I not assume they get joy from seeing what I’m doing?
This train of thought then lead me to ask myself; are selfies egocentric/ selfish or are young people creating records for future generations?
I wish I could look at up-close and detailed images of my parents/ grandparents/ great-grandparents, especially ones taken from their youth. Unfortunately due to photographic technology not being so developed back then and the constant photography of ones self not being a big thing there are very few images I can look at. For my children/ grand child and hopefully great-great-great-great-grandchildren they will be able to have their selection of images of me at every stage of my life, especially since puberty. Is it selfish of me to hope my future relatives will be interested to know about me? I don’t think so. I’m currently trying to explore my maternal family tree, and I would love it if it could be made easier by more digital records, such as Facebook profiles, images, blogs etc.
Finally I think there are also practical elements to the prevalence of selfies. It is far more common for people to end up going to special events/ holiday etc in small groups (possible ones or twos) and so it is not always possible to ask someone else to take a picture of you. Therefore if you want a picture taken you must do so yourself. Even if there are other people with you, unless you know them very well it is unlikely you would want to give them your photographic device, most likely a mobile phone, as these portable device can be very easily stolen. The ease of use of these portable devices also makes them much easier and faster to take a photograph yourself rather than having to ask another person to do it.
In conclusion I do not think that all selfies are a reflection of the increasingly self-centered nature of younger generations. I think it is a reflection of both the advancement of photographic technologies, and the social nature of younger generations. This materialises as a desire to share every possible moment with those we love, as we would hope they share their lives with us.