Wednesday, 29 June 2016

"Let me take a #Selfie” - Zujanbeni M. Lotha, Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology






An article published in the Daily Mail suggests that over 17 million selfie portraits are uploaded to social media every week. Selfies have revolutionised photography by eliminating the need of a photographer. There's absolutely no occasion for it, and no limit in frequency. Eskimos may have 50 words to describe snow, but people today have thrice as many to describe the vast range of self-portraits - the driving selfie, the morning selfie, the food selfie, the bed selfie, the sad selfie, the travel selfie, and many more. Is this a mode of free expression, or are we simply being narcissistic?

“Let me take a #Selfie” 

It’s a busy day at Dimapur. Shopkeepers are opening their stores, mothers are bargaining with unreasonable hope, and there, right in the middle of the sidewalk, two girls are staring into a phone held high and making duck faces! Welcome to our world where posing without warning and taking self-portraits in expectations of validation is the ‘in thing’! In today’s digital obsessed world, the selfie culture has ingrained into our society new dimensions of modern style and outlook.

The word ‘selfie’ has been incorporated into the Oxford English dictionary and was the ‘Word of the Year’ in 2013. For a child, a selfie is playing with one’s expressions; for grownups, selfies are a part of daily lives. It might be a hobby, or an obsession when the first thing they do in gatherings and occasions is click a selfie, and upload it onto various social medias for ‘likes’ and comments. It might be a celebration of friendship, reunions, achievements, or good food. Selfies are now common in our society, and for those who own a camera-phone, have taken at least one selfie, irrespective of age or gender.

The trend is particularly strong among youths. The youth today are more conscious of their looks, as evidenced by the presence of a multi-billion dollar cosmetic industry. They consider their looks to be important when it comes to making friends, or impressing their romantic interests. Hence, youths beautify themselves for their selfies. Its magnitude is such that for some, a day is incomplete without a selfie. Students spend much of their time taking selfies editing them, and uploading them to Facebook and Instagram, while neglecting their studies and distancing themselves from actual conversations with people. I see people erroneously preoccupied with the ‘likes’ and ‘comments’ from people they do not know. People are obsess over their selfies so much so that they begin to compare themselves with models and celebrities they see on copious media outlets. Such unhealthy and unrealistic comparisons afflict especially the precarious teenagers with depression, anxieties, and other psychological maladies.
Each time we face the lens, we are conscious of our looks, and everyone wants to give their best pose and smile, yet how conscious are we of our decency? While selfies, in a way, indicate fast advancing and   modernised lifestyle, it can also tarnish one’s image if not used wisely.  Dinners, dates, shopping, and even sleeping is documented via selfies. People obsessed with selfies tend to be narrow-minded and selfish, as their primary focus is only on their own self. Nothing is as low and pitiable as self-advertiser.

Selfies have their consequences, positive or negative, depending on how individuals utilize it. Selfies used for a good cause as campaign or awareness will have a good impact on the society. It is true that selfie helps boost one’s confidence to face the camera. Certainly, it is not abnormal to take selfies, but to take selfies compulsively is abnormal. Uploading ‘unpresentable’ images can never be equated with ratiocination. Some selfie users even invaded dourly places and funerals, which is not rational at all. Even the style, the place, and the angle of selfies, experts assert, can disclose various secrets of a person’s personality. They say the facial expressions, emotions, and other personality secrets could be judged through selfies. If a person looks happy and is smiling in a selfie, he or she is likely to be kind hearted and co-operative. People who take selfies below their face are able to adjust themselves in any kinds of circumstances. Similarly, people who take selfies in public places, experts argue, are honest. Hence, let us be mindful of what we are doing. Moreover, people taking selfies are more interested in taking selfies than in heart-to-heart interaction with another human being. The values of human relations among persons have weakened.

As a person, I am not a fan of taking selfies. Why do I need to constantly boost my ego by taking high angle photographs while distorting my face? Why do I need to hide my chin fat? I am happy with the way I look, and I don’t need others to ‘like’ and validate my looks. Let us not be easily carried away by vanity. Instead, live free, healthy, and do something meaningful for the society. If one is not happy with the way one looks, remember we are all wonderfully created by God. It is not our task to add or subtract anything from the perfect masterpiece of our Creator. And if one is not satisfied with one’s bodily features, it might be time to put one’s phone down. Remember, we are not too weak to be controlled by technologies invented by us.
Selfies are fun, let it be decent. It is a hobby, let’s know the limit to sharing decent and admirable pictures.  Let’s use selfies in a better way and not commercialize ourselves for the ‘likes’ and ‘comments’ of virtual friends. Let not this culture lead us away from our cultural heritage of being social.


“Degree of Thought is a weekly community column initiated by Tetso College in partnership with The Morung Express. Degree of Thought delves into the social, cultural, political and educational issues around us. The views expressed here do not reflect the opinion of the institution. Tetso College is a NAAC Accredited UGC recognised Commerce and Arts College. The editors are Dr. Hewasa Lorin, Anjan Behera, Nivibo Yiki, Kvulo Lorin and Dr. Salikyu Sangtam. For feedback or comments please email:dot@tetsocollege.org”.

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