First, let me take a selfie – to post it on Instagram, and let me tweet this quickly, but before I need to check my Facebook. Does this use of vocabulary sound alien to anyone? Probably not.

Welcome to the 21st century: the social media at its summit with a 2013 year report in Britain covering a number of 33 million Facebook users. No matter where you are, if you look around you, or simply start with what you yourself are occupied with, the omnipresence of scrolling thumbs has become the norm. Rather than eye contact, physical gestures and the gentle resonance of compliments, our faces are permanently illuminated by our mobile phone display while we unrestrainedly post, like and tweet. The social addiction has certainly become irreversible, yet do we really benefit from this created parallel universe or has the reality detachment reached a critical level?

To be fair, social media has opened many doors for society allowing us to get connected without distance being an impediment. In that regard, the selfie phenomenon is not necessarily a preposterous trend, if it is meant to share a unique and special moment with family or friends. However, it is obvious that what pushes people towards this hype can be traced back to another psychological trend among the new generation.

Selfies generally are, as the name suggests, a picture with the focal point directed towards oneself. In other words, selfies are a way of picturing one’s most flattering side, possibly in every life situation, to exhibit them to the worldwide net. Confident people benefit from this hype, as they can expand even more on their narcissistic tendencies. However, people with less self-esteem who deliver themselves to the trend might trail away under the constant pressure of excelling and enhancing their appearance, in order to attract as many positive and affirmative feedbacks as possible. The fact that this statement does not display an exaggerated emotional reaction, from my point of view, defines the nineteen year-old Danny Bowman who recently uncovered the extreme consequences such a seemingly innocent hype might result in.

In fact, the teenager’s addiction for the digital self-portraits has crossed the lines and let his weaknesses break him down. With a decline from a model agency, Danny assimilated this experience by taking an increasing amount of selfies per day, sometimes no less than two hundred. His utopian aim was to attain perfection, yet once realizing his incapability of doing so, the disorders took drastic consequences. He became truant, he isolated himself from his friends and family, and finally even attempted suicide – the trend of selfies had driven Danny towards a Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD).

Thus, this example discloses how the constant urge of sharing selfies can culminate in a serious mental illness, especially for teenagers who are often lacking self-confidence and self-reliance. However, besides the possible consequences, the immediate result of people’s selfie obsession is often disruptive for those remaining exceptions who choose to treasure a moment with their own senses, and not through the indirect appreciation of social media users. In other words, the ambience of an exclusive and original moment set in a unique location simply loses its authenticity when a camera flashes and posing people invade the place. When investing effort to catch the right camera angle, or by retaking several shots because people’s eyes were closed, the emotional impact of the moment diminishes in terms of its intensity.

Ultimately, certain moments can solely be treasured to their full extent in complete privacy. However, the momentous seclusions cannot entirely be met if the familiar, as well as disturbing sound of the Facebook chat constantly rings out. Why go looking for social media friends, when we have human beings in person to share the moment with us? Best proof of this statement comes in the recently released advertisement: ‘Turn Off To Turn On’ – a campaign promoted by Durex.

Social media, with all the bells and whistles, might play a leading role in our contemporary society, offering an immediate update on the news at any accessible wifi hot-spot, a way of keeping easily in touch with long-distance friends or lovers, and finally to simply display and share whatever we want with the most crowded audience available. However, one must acknowledge that the virtual world cannot replace everything we experience in reality; fortunately the emotionally most intense situations need to be witnessed offline.

Laury Schaack

 

Sources:

http://www.rosemcgrory.co.uk/2013/01/08/uk-social-media-statistics-for-2013/
http://www.adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/related-illnesses/other-related-conditions/body-dysmorphic-disorder-bdd
Durex advertisement 2014 ‘Turn Off To Turn On’ campaign: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FQ6ToTwWA5U
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2588364/Selfies-killed-Schoolboy-took-200-photos-day-wanted-perfection-describes-addiction-drove-attempt-suicide.html