The Selfie: A Sign of our Insufferable Vanity?

Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Channing Tatum, Bradley Cooper, Kevin Spacey, Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Lupita Nyong’o, Jared Leto and Jennifer Lawrence. These are the celebrities that graced Ellen Degeneres’ famous Selfie when she hosted the 86th Academy Awards in March this year. It was termed the greatest group Selfie of all time and was retweeted more than 2 Million times. How about that!

Then there was the infamous Selfie by POTUS during Nelson Mandela’s funeral, taken with David Cameron and the Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt.

You must have taken one recently on your Smartphone, chose the most flattering to post on facebook? Twitpic’d a few on Twitter? Filtered more on Instagram?

Urban dictionary has one definition of a Selfie as; A strange phenomenon in which the photographer is also the subject of the photograph, in a subversive twist on the traditional understanding of the photograph. Usually conducted because the subject cannot locate a suitable photographer to take the photo, like a friend. OUCH!

So what’s with the selfie? Are we too busy or don’t we care about the next person to grab the camera from their hand and take a picture of them? Don’t we want someone else handling our expensive gadgets? Don’t we trust others enough to let them take a good picture of us? Are we shamelessly embracing our narcissistic tendencies? Is humility a virtue? Anymore?

It’s high time we came to terms with ourselves – the Selfie generation. We take numerous photos and plaster them all over social media. I know I do. It’s all about pretty me, awesome me. Me, me, me! Vanity? Vanity? Vanity… Is it?

To some extent, it is. But maybe it isn’t just about self-absorption as it is a determination to take control of how one looks on camera. We are taking all decisions about our lives into our hands; why not do the same for our photos? Maybe we don’t like (read trust) someone else to do it better than us. We want things done in a particular way. We know ourselves. We definitely know our photographing strengths and weaknesses. Given this knowledge of ourselves, we don’t want to cede control to someone else. Not when we believe we can do a better job. So when we post the Selfie on social media or wherever, we are ideally telling the world; this is who I say I am.

The Selfie says a lot about us as a society. We are entrepreneurs. We are assertive. We are on the move. We don’t like to be told how to live our lives, most of the time at least. We are free-spirited. Free-willed. Over and above, we like to be in control. In an ideal situation, most of us prefer that we not take pictures of others. That they, instead, take pictures of us. This borders on egoism, I know.

BUT, in the case that no one is taking pictures of you yet. You still believe that someday soon, you will walk some red carpet and your dream will come true. That the world will (finally) focus on you. For a while. Or maybe longer. All in all, you keep the dream alive because your dreams are valid nini nini. Until that happens, you focus your camera on you by taking Selfies, hoping that the world with follow suit?

Getting the perfect Selfie is however not easy as I came to realize. You might have to take a few before you get the perfect picture worthy of sharing with your social networks. I read somewhere that if you have a double chin (like mine) you know to stick your tongue to the roof of your mouth to conceal it. That you hold the camera at a high angle to make your eyes appear bigger and cheekbones well defined. You presumably know which side of your face photographs best, so give that good side to the camera. Strike your pose while taking care to look into the lens – very important, I’m told. Snap away and Voila! You may now boldly post the picture on social media.



Who best, to show the best of you than yourself? Could that be so wrong? Who doesn’t want to be seen at their best?

While to some, a Selfie is a communication tool whose essence is to capture an instant moment instantly, to others, a Selfie is enough proof that we as a society, have become insufferably vain.

Which is it to you?


First Published on the Storymoja Festival Blog


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