They say that they eyes are the window to the soul but how many of us are really looking at one another and truly seeing each other? Those who take ‘selfies’ and upload them to various social media channels are supposedly sharing their life but what are they really sharing? The only window which modern society deems more worthy to look through is that of a glowing screen.
The selfie is the window to narcissism.
Sure, selfies can be fun, silly and a great way to capture a particular moment with yourself or those close to you though it can also argued, “selfies seem inherently to contain the most explicit elements of ostentation and self-propagation” (Weiser, 2015). Has the selfie transformed to be so much more than just a peace and pout? Is it really possible that through the impact of social media channels like Instagram, the selfie has become a money-maker and a façade on so many levels?
Enter ‘The Rich Kids of Instagram’.
This documentary focuses on the lives of incredibly wealthy youth and the constant need to share their elite status on Instagram through a series of selfies and other uploads. Gone are the days where the rich were discreet. These young heirs and heiresses love the attention and love the dollar bills. Allain de Botton defines status as “one’s values and importance in the eyes of the world” and for these teens the only world they are focussed on is that of the digital one, fuelled by likes, shares and vanity. These self-confessed ‘rich kids’ believe that their selfies and Instagram platforms are the “journals of their life”, which funnily enough is only refuted by one of their parents explaining that the selfie is one of the key tools in creating a fantasy life upon social media. Below are the Rich Kids of Instagram and their opinions on selfies (I also recommend you check out their profiles. Oh how the other half live and the mass of their followings).
“I see Instagram as my canvas, if I was an artist and with that I am able to paint the picture of my life”. – Sammy
“I feel like cashfleezy [Nathaniel’s Instagram alter ego] is just like a second side of me that would be weird to show in real life but it’s because of social media I am able to do this”. – Nathaniel
“Everything I encounter, everyday, is on my Instagram. It is how I live”. – Damish
For these teenagers, their lives are saturated by the idea of self-marketing where their faces are the brands and their lifestyles are the objectives, ultimately leading to the rise of the micro-celebrity.
Selfies in some cases have also become great tools for making your audiences and followers feel jealous or envious of you. I now ask this question, how many of you have visited a famous landmark or city? Now I am sure that many of you have, but now I ask this, what were some of the things you did during this experience? Personally, I am guilty of whipping out my phone at one of the earliest opportunities and banking a tonne of selfies. Thinking in more depth about this, I understand that yes, I am taking these photos to remember this incredible experience, but I am also taking them to upload onto my social media platforms. Nothing will impress your friends more than a simple ‘guess what, I am in Paris and you’re not’ than a selfie in front of the Eiffel Tower. Maybe, somewhere along the way, I too have been caught up in the paradigm of egotistical selfies.
When we think about whom it is that we follow though on social media channels, can we really be blamed? We follow celebrities who are constantly uploading selfies, sharing windows into their opulent lifestyles and quite possibly, we, their audiences are probably in our own ways, trying to achieve elite status in the digital world desperate to acquire “acceptance from and connection to those high in the social hierarchy” (Marwick, 2013).
One thing for certain is that the selfie is here to stay and through the platforms of social media such as Instagram, it will continue to evolve, developing new forms of social interaction and ways of self identification.
De Botton, A. 2004, Status anxiety. New York: Pantheon Books.
Marwick, Alice E. 2013, ‘Leaders and Followers’, Status Update: Celebrity, Publicity, And Branding In The Social Media Age, United States of America: Yale University Press
Weiser, EB, 2015, ‘#Me: Narcissism and its facets as predictors of selfie-posting frequency’, Personality and Individual Differences, vol. 86, pp. 477-481. <https://www.researchgate.net/publication/281890158_Me_Narcissism_and_its_facets_as_predictors_of_selfie-posting_frequency> Accessed on 27th March 2016.