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The Year of the Selfie – Our Obsession with the Unbearable Likeness of Being

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Unless you have been lost in the desert somewhere for the last few years, you probably know what a “selfie” is by now. I have heard endless stories about selfies, and have seen them online and in print so often that they seem to be an expected part of everyday life. On the radio the other day someone said that 2013 had been proclaimed the year of the selfie. Well, looks like 2014 will be a selfie year as well; there is even something called The Selfie Olympics happening this year. Sounds as if those athletes in Sochi will have some competition from those guilty of self-love all over the world.

I have always heard that you cannot love anyone until you love yourself, and what has the selfie done but prove that a lot of people are in love with themselves. It has become a virtual obsession, one that has overwhelmed the way we think about each other and interact with the world. We have been moving towards a society centered on self for years now, but the selfie has all but confirmed our egocentric nature that would make old Narcissus envious indeed.

selfie 2Think about the scope of selfie-mania if you will. We have very famous people getting in on the act. While it seems that it started with young people, predominantly teenagers, the practice has taken off in popularity for all ages. Even grizzled FOX news veteran Geraldo Rivera got in on the act. I guess he was trying to say that if Justin Bieber can do it, why not a senior citizen who is best known for looking for Al Capone’s hidden vault (and turning up nothing but huge ratings).

No, the selfie is something that has the qualities of self-love, but also has elements of exhibitionism. There is no just for me aspect in a selfie, no Emily Dickinson writing poems only for herself. This “art form” is different; selfies are meant to be shared – and with the vast Internet population at that. They are not just sent to friends or loved ones, but out to the whole world to see.

Perhaps we can see this as a good thing if we look at the creativity that many people have invested in their selfies. In fact, that is what the The Selfie Olympics is all about. It’s not just a photograph of yourself, but one that is the most original and creative. So maybe the hidden artists within people are being nurtured and encouraged by this mania.

selfie 1Van Gogh painted his famous self-portrait long ago, and he is not alone amongst famous artists who wanted to put themselves on the canvas. There is no doubt something inside all of us that wants the world to see us the way we see ourselves, and the selfie has provided the most simple, fast, and readily available manner in which to do this.

I have looked at a number of selfies before writing this article, and it seems as if the celebrities who utilize this free and easy method of publicity always have a purpose. We can ask ourselves why Geraldo or Justin sent these pictures out, but the result is always starting another conversation about that person, and that keeps people in the public eye in a viable and potent way that was never available before.

selfie 5As evidence of this, let’s look at the most recent selfie posted by Bieber himself. This was after a public outing with singer Selena Gomez. The hot and cold romance between the two appears to be heating up again, according to the the story in The New York Daily News. It seems Bieber enjoys utilizing the quickest way possible to let his fans know they are an item again.

People’s interest in these self-portraits – almost always taken by their own cameras on a smartphone – continues to grow and proves the ultimate power of the selfie, which is an obsession with our own images. Whether this egocentricity is a positive or negative thing will no doubt be based on your opinion of people who like looking at themselves, but either way the selfie is probably going to be around for a long time to come.

Why not take your own selfie and let the world see you for what you think you are? Be bold, be selfie 4brave, and above all make a statement about yourself. You can even send it on to The Selfie Olympics. Who knows, maybe you will be a finalist. Go ahead; there’s nothing wrong with that – it just proves our obsession with the thing that matters most in this universe – ourselves!

photo credits: geraldo rivera, justin bieber and selena gomes – nydailynews; van gogh-artcyclopedia.com; bieber-celeb-selfies.com

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About Victor Lana

Victor Lana has published numerous stories, articles, and poems in literary magazines and online. His books In a Dark Time (1994), A Death in Prague (2002), Move (2003), The Savage Quiet September Sun: A Collection of 9/11 Stories (2005) and Like a Passing Shadow (2009) are available online and as e-books. He has won the National Arts Club Award for Poetry, but has concentrated mostly on fiction and non-fiction prose in recent years. He has worked as faculty advisor to school literary magazines and enjoys the creative process as a writer, editor, and collaborator. He has been with Blogcritics since July 2005, has edited many articles, was co-head sports editor with Charley Doherty, and now is a Culture and Society editor. He views Blogcritics as one of most exciting, fresh, and meaningful opportunities in his writing life.
  • Dr Joseph S Maresca

    I think the thrust of self-love is in the converse. You can’t hate yourself and simultaneously love others.

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