Walking down the street in Downtown Los Angeles this afternoon, a man on a Harley pulled up and parked about 20 yards in front of me. He took his time getting off his bike, removing his helmet, and adjusting his leather. His long hair was tied back in a ponytail, he wore a full handlebar mustache, and tattoos were cascading down both arms. He took a long swig from a water bottle and then with piercing eyes, squinted closed by the sun, he remounted his steel steed. And then, this rugged, rough-and-tumble, travel-seasoned rider reclined on his bike, pulled out a “L.A., bitches!” sign and put on the cheesiest open-mouthed smile as he pulled his iPhone out and snapped a selfie.
Clearly, no one is immune to this epidemic.
There has been a lot of talk about Selfies from the perspective of what it means to the human psyche. It’s a fascinating shift in how we view ourselves and the world around us. From the “model” (or random teen) posting half-naked selfies on Instagram to the “Everyday Joe” who takes a picture of their latest travel adventure — we are constantly showing people what we’re doing and, perhaps more importantly, hoping their green-eyed monster begins to roar.
Selfies aren’t just the quintessential example of narcissism, they’re a statement that’s simultaneously “Look at me and what I’m doing!” and “Give me lots of compliments on how awesome I am because of what I’m doing.”
In short, selfies reek of insecurity.
But, perhaps the most profound thing is that the reason it’s a selfie is because the person taking it is actually alone. Think about it: You take a selfie because no one is there to take the picture of your activity. You’re by yourself — maybe doing something great, maybe doing something mundane — but you have no one to share it with, so you share it with people you maybe (emphasis on maybe) know online.
They then play their part and tell you, how “gorg” you are, how jealous they are, and that they wish they could have such an opportunity. Your ego gets stroked and you feel good for the moment, but then … you’re STILL alone. SO, time to take another selfie. This constant search for attention is something that bleeds into other aspects of our lives and has fundamentally altered how we view others, the world around us, and ourselves.
But, it’s more than just attention we’re seeking — it’s validation. We used to take pictures of where we were, places we visited, and the people who came along with us on that journey. We would click the shutter to capture what’s in front of us, and it was simply understood that we were the ones using the camera.
However, in today’s “look at me” world of instant gratification we post pictures of us, taken by us, in a vain effort to feel good about who we are and what we’re doing; in essence, to have others deem us important and worthy. The saddest part is that we are seeking acknowledgement and self-esteem boost from people who aren’t there. And once their attention goes away, we need to take another selfie so we can stay important. Stay relevant.
The selfie may very well be the harbinger of our disconnection as a society. We’ve turned inward and are using veritable strangers to bolster our fragile egos. We sit alone and feel that we’re “with people” because we’re posting pictures of ourselves online to hundreds.
And, the flip side is worse! We’re with a group of people in person, but we actively remove ourselves to seek approval from others who aren’t even there. We don’t interact anymore and I’m not even sure that many of us remember how.
We’re drifting away from each other, but under the distinct impression that we’re actually closer than ever.
We think we’re sharing cool things, when in fact we’re losing our sense of self and how we fit into the world around us. We’re completely disconnected due to our constant need to feign a connection, instead of going out and actually creating one. It’s arm’s-length intimacy at its finest and it’s dripping into other aspects of our existence.
The ego strokes we get from selfies and social media set an invisible, unintentional bar for our real-world relationships. We feel good when we get friends, acquaintances, or followers to like or retweet things we say and pictures we take … and because of those “positive feelings,” our real relationships start falling short. Your significant other telling you that you look nice might not compare to 100+ likes and comments of “Damn! You look HOT!” on a picture you post. And once that becomes internalized, you will stop seeking involvement from your significant other, as a selfie getting online compliments is “worth more.” This can subconsciously create a rift that is beyond repair, and bring out other cracks in an otherwise stable relationship.
Bottom line? Self-esteem doesn’t come from a selfie. It comes from within. It comes from feeling good about you because you like who you are, not what others validate.
My advice? Put down your phone and have a real discussion, with real live people.