THE SELF: AN ANALYSIS OF THE CONTROVERSIAL ‘SELFIE’

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Before proceeding, an important question would be: What is a selfie? According to the International Journal of Communication, a selfie is “a photographic object that initiates the transmission of human feeling in the form of a relationship (between photographer and photographed, between image and filtering software, between viewer and viewed, between individuals circulating images, between users and social software architectures, etc.). A selfie is also a practice—a gesture that can send (and is often intended to send) different messages to different individuals, communities, and audiences” (Senft/Baym, 2015).

So are selfies supposedly good or supposedly bad? Aren’t they just dumb photos that you take on your mobile and upload to social media? I believe that selfies definitely have a negative effect on our generation. They force us to constantly have a relationship with our own face that is a little too close for comfort, often creating a sense of insecurity and self-doubt. Although, selfies do interest me because they are a form of self expression, yet they are ruled by the social norms of a certain society. People feel free to post selfies without that much judgement, yet they must conform to a certain aesthetic rule.

When researching this topic, I googled ‘Controversial Selfies of 2016’ and to be expected, the Kardashian family’s name appeared in 7 of 9 headlines. Specifically, Kim Kardashian’s naked selfie posted on Instagram in 2016 took the world by storm. When she was criticised for it- because apparently people care that Kim, who published an entire book of selfies, posted one without her clothes on- she fired back that posting naked selfies makes her feel ’empowered’. “‘Empowerment’ is now an empty catchphrase, a term used primarily to salve over the near-total lack of power held by women and girls around the world, a kind of head-pat to keep us satisfied with subservience” (Filipovic, 2016). Although you would never hear the word “empowered” used to describe a man. “You don’t need to be ’empowered’ when you are, plainly and simply, powerful” (Filipovic, 2016).

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It’s great to know that Kim Kardashian feels good about her body. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the naked body, and there’s no doubt that the negative comments of Kim’s naked selfie were dumb and immature. However, the problem with the selfie is that women and girls are constantly being sent the message that being beautiful, sexy, and happy with your body depends on other people.

One of my favourite Australian graffiti artists Lushsux, took the Kardashian selfie to whole new heights… literally. The nine metre tall mural of Kardashian’s controversial naked selfie was plastered on the side of a print shop in Gwynne Street in Cremorne. The anonymous artist said he chooses his subjects based on “who deserves the piss taken out of them at the time or if they are meme worthy” (Craw, 2016). “Maybe I’m as attention seeking as her” (Craw, 2016). Personally, Lushsux sums up Kim Kardashian’s selfie perfectly, a stunt of attention, not empowerment.

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I do understand that this is one case study where narcissism overrules the so called ‘message.’ However, in my opinion, when social media movements create impact and inspire change (whether a selfie is attached or not) is due to the effects of the hashtag, not the ’empowerment’ of physically taking the selfie.

Reference:

T Senft and N Baym. 2015. International Journal of Communication. ‘What Does the Selfie Say? Investigating a Global Phenomenon’. Available here: https://moodle.uowplatform.edu.au/pluginfile.php/950604/mod_resource/content/4/whatdoesselfiesay.pdf [Accessed: 9 March 2017]

J Filipovic. March 10, 2016. Cosmopolitan. ‘How Kim Kardashian Killed the Term “Empowerment”‘. Available here: http://www.cosmopolitan.com/entertainment/a55017/kim-kardashian-naked-selfie-empowerment/ [Accessed: 9 March 2017]

V Craw. July 28, 2016. News.com. ‘Melbourne graffiti artist Lushsux’s Instagram account deleted in ‘politically-motivated censorship’’. Available here: http://www.news.com.au/entertainment/celebrity-life/melbourne-graffiti-artist-lushsuxs-instagram-account-deleted-in-politicallymotivated-censorship/news-story/405b576e3d0daf5800b4df3eebd4fe6d [Accessed: 9 March 2017]

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