Narcissism or Empowerment?

We live in the era of the selfie, a fast self-portrait taken with a smartphone which then can be shared instantly on social media. The selfie has become a way to instantly communicate where we are, what we’re doing and as of 2013 ‘selfie’ is officially a word in the Oxford Dictionary and the dictionaries of the world. Some see the selfie as something only narcissistic teenagers take part in at a Justin Bieber concert, used to fill their Instagram profiles with the best parts of their life making them look like they live a luxurious life again considered narcissistic by some. Others see selfies as a form of empowerment. Men and women of the world have used selfies on numerous occasions to show support of social causes. From a social media tag to a mainstream term, the evolution of the selfie is a definitely a journey.

The Evolution of the Quality of Selfies – from The Brick to IPhone

According to Pew Research Centre (2013) 92% of American teens post selfies to their Facebook. Paul Malcore for rawhide.org wrote about ‘selfie obsession – the rise of the social media narcissist’ where he claims that “the popular teen obsession is time consuming and may lead to mental health issues”. According to the article psychologists have noticed a rise in narcissistic personality traits, insecurity, self-objectification, body dysmorphic disorder and depression that coincide with the rise of selfies. The article also associates selfies as an activity that only teenagers/young adults partake in and I don’t know about you but I’ve seen my fair share of selfies posted by my parents, aunts and uncles etc. on Facebook.

I see these and selfies of my friends and I don’t see narcissism, I see people documenting their lives might it be an a concert, an event or just a gathering with friends, showing their happiness and wanting to share it with the world. That leads me to the empowerment that the selfie brings. The most talked about kind of empowering selfie is the nude selfie. This kind of selfie is most common amongst women because men’s empowerment is not often connected to their physical appearance. Although thought by many to be controversial, many women including celebrities such as Kim Kardashian and Emily Ratajkowski who posted their nude selfies on to social media with #liberated.

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Many social media campaigns now use selfies and encourage men and women to take and upload a selfie in support of a social cause such as depression and mental health issues, women objectification, inequality and even the right for women to publicly breastfeed. The Free the Nipple Campaign have become one of the fastest growing movements, the mission behind the campaign is to raise awareness and affect change in the area of the inequality of men and women that is experienced in the world today. After a feature film the movement was sparked and has quickly become and international movement seeking equality, empowerment and freedom for all human beings.

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The ‘Brelfie’ has also become another way to use selfies for empowerment. Women who choose to breastfeed their children in public are often looked down upon and mistreated, this form of selfie gives mothers the change to celebrate their bodies and what they can do with them as well as showing those who disapprove of public breastfeeding that it is a natural thing. This growing trend in selfies has seen one in five breastfeeding mothers already take their own brelfie, following the lead of celebrities such as Miranda Kerr and Gwen Stefani. One mother shared with the Daily Mail “while some may see it as oversharing, its actually very comforting to know others are going through the same situations”

The are many opinions about what the selfie really means and what its purpose is. Personally, I feel that the selfie can be used for both narcissism and empowerment. You can tell if someone has shared a selfie on social media for the intention of attention, to get that perfect life illusion but on the other hand the use of selfies in many of these social causes and campaigns for example the nude selfies or Free The Nipple bring attention to the cause and although some may find it controversial and inappropriate, its effective and if the individual feels liberated and empowered for posting then they should not be torn down by ‘trolls’ for making a stand for what the believe in.

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