‘Selfies’ The New ‘Vanitas’

selfie def

It is human nature to strive for a sense of belonging and I believe ‘selfies’ allow us to gain this sense through a process of instrumental conditioning. We post pictures of ourselves at our best moments, when we look good, when we are doing something awesome, when we have just accomplished, achieved or even purchased something. Then we post these images as mundane as they may seem to the internet and wait for the likes to roll in.Slowly we begin to teach ourselves that more likes equate to greater feelings of self-worth. It seems silly when written out like this but it is still true none the less. So why do we do this? Because it’s just a part of our culture? Because it makes us feel good about ourselves? Because it’s a way to express who we are? A way to shape the narrative of our lives? Or is it because we are all vain, self-cantered and narcissistic at heart? There are many who believe the latter.
Christine Rosen (2007) claims that Social networking sites are fertile ground for those who make it their lives’ work to get attention. She discusses how Self-portraits allow someone to show how they wish to be seen which encourages self-seeking and egotistic behaviours.
In ‘Selfie Use: Abuse or Balance?’ psychologist Pamela Rutledge sates that the issue with ‘selfies’ are they “frequently trigger perceptions of self-indulgence or attention-seeking social dependence” (2013, p. 8).


However is today’s ‘selfie’ generation really becoming more narcissistic?
I mean we are certainly not the first generation to explore self-portraiture, it has existed throughout the ages and has generally been used as a means of showing status. From ancient Egypt to the 1800’s people have been using self-portraits as a way of saying this is who I am, this is what I can afford and this is what I have accomplished.


Perhaps the influx of selfies is not a sign of an increase in narcissism but rather a product of human nature in a time of technological ease and availability. Humans strive to succeed in life and often we feel we have not succeeded unless that success is recognised by others. So it makes perfect sense to me that the internet is filled with ‘Selfies’ considering we live in in an era where you can snap shot and portray yourself in whatever manner you desire and then send this portrayal to a public audience with nothing but ease.


As bleak as it is for me to write this when future generations look back on our time ‘The Selfie’ will be the art form that defines us. Although most (including myself) would not consider ‘The Selfie’ a credible art genre it is undeniable that it is communication tool used to express the way a person wishes to be seen which in itself is a form of art (one we have mastered well). Whether this a good or a bad thing I am still undecided.


Rosen, C 2007, ‘Virtual Friendship and the New Narcissism’, The New Atlantis: Journal of Technology and Society, vol. 2, no. 17, pp. 15-31, viewed 15 March 2015, <http://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/virtual-friendship-and-the-new-narcissism&gt;.
Rutledge, P 2013, Selfie Use: Abuse or Balance?, Psychology Today, viewed 15 March 2015, <http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/positively-media/201307/selfie-use-abuse-or-balance&gt;.
Saltz, J 2014, ‘Art at Arm’s Length: A History of the Selfie’, Vulture, 27 January, viewed 15 March 2015 <http://www.vulture.com/2014/01/history-of-the-selfie.html&gt;.

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