Selfie in Modern World

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Deconstructing the word “selfie” reveals that at its core, it is about the “self” and promoting one’s appearance in an authentic way. It is curious then, that in order for a photo to be a “true” selfie, it must be shared with others. The selfie exists as a form of self-expression, yet is ultimately reliant on the social network for its legitimacy. This differs from other conventional forms of contemporary art, which are not immediately launched into the internet for admiration.

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“The selfie’s composition relies on the physical space but operates in a logic of presentation inherent to the network and its decorum” (Hess 1641). Dependent on the network for success, the selfie demonstrates how users can create new genres of aesthetic expression through digital interfaces.

This paper is particularly concerned with the implications of Web 2.0, and how the democratization of media has allowed for content consumers to also become producers. This shift fostered unprecedented amounts of user-generated content and advocated a participatory culture that now accepts even the most trivial contributions. The most ubiquitous pieces of digital media to pervade social media timelines are undoubtedly selfies. If the selfie serves as a form of aesthetic expression dependent on mobile technology, then is the increasing amount of narcissistic digital media a reflection of society’s developing identity formation?

This is the question which serves as the crux of this paper, and to answer it, attention will be first drawn to their prominence in popular culture. Invariably, the selfie is symbolic of larger online cultural preoccupations: “the longing for authenticity through digitality, the conflicted need for fleeting connection with others, the compulsion to document ourselves in spaces and places, and the relational intimacy found with our devices” (Hess 1631). If anything, taking a selfie is a demand to be seen. Selfie taking is a social practice that increasingly enables a society which has become obsessed with itself.

The point being made here is that each generation born into the internet becomes more dependent on digital interfaces for constructing psychological identities. Recall the research question leading this paper: “If the selfie serves as a form of aesthetic expression dependent on mobile technology, then is the increasing amount of narcissistic digital media a reflection of society’s developing identity formation?”

This relates to concerns about technological determinism: does the selfie have its own agenda, or is it a tool that serves the demands of people? As narcissistic media has become ubiquitous across digital platforms, it has become almost imperceptible to those who engage with it. Digital media has largely become self-admiring due to the Web 2.0’s democratization, which allowed users to construct their own identities online. Although many of these identities are cultivated with intellectual intent, the most pervasive form of media to take over online platforms is appearance-based.

Participants were instructed to either take a picture of a self-portrait on their own mobile device, then post it on a social media platform or save it to their camera roll. The experiment determined participants’ social sensitivity by documenting their reaction time to a social prompt, and their self-esteem by evaluating the size of their signatures.

After taking and sharing selfies, the study found that the reactions times and signatures of both participants decreased. These findings suggest that taking and uploading selfies have a negative impact on social sensitivity and self-esteem, which are integral to the development of a healthy identity. This is not to suggest that selfies themselves are unhealthy, but that uploading them online with the intention of validation and self-perception ultimately limits psychological growth.

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Selfie in Modern World. (2019, Sep 02). Retrieved from