ME , MY SELFIE & Is your so­cial me­dia avatar (your on­line per­son­al­ity) glossier and more dar­ing than you are? Amy Mol­loy asks, are we cre­at­ing a gen­er­a­tion of nar­cis­sists?

Harper’s Bazaar (Malaysia) - - The Culture Bazaar -

On my Instagram page is a pho­to­graph of me do­ing yoga. Naked. I’m in bridge pose, so you can’t re­ally see my face, but that’s the only part of my anatomy that is hid­den. I would never dream of hang­ing a nude pho­to­graph on my living room wall, so why did I take off my clothes for Instagram? In real life I am nei­ther a nud­ist nor an ex­hi­bi­tion­ist, but in the vir­tual world I am so­cial me­dia hussy, des­per­ate for recog­ni­tion and at­ten­tion.

And I’m not alone. Ac­cord­ing to ex­perts, the In­ter­net-mad gen­er­a­tion of twenty-some­things is more self-ab­sorbed than ever. A 2013 study of uni­ver­sity stu­dents, led by psy­chol­o­gist Jean Twenge, found that in the past three decades, nar­cis­sis­tic ten­den­cies (chara­terised as an ex­ces­sive in­ter­est in or ad­mi­ra­tion of one­self and one’s phys­i­cal ap­pear­ance) among young peo­ple has risen by 30 per­cent.

It’s not our fault, re­ally. Although nar­cis­sism is tra­di­tion­ally seen as a psy­cho­log­i­cal dis­or­der, Twenge ar­gues it’s now a cul­tur­ally im­posed epi­demic. As late as 2009, Face­book had a limit on the amount of pho­to­graphs you could post to one al­bum (it was 60) but now you can drag-and­drop to your heart’s con­tent. It en­cour­ages even the most cam­era-shy to over­share. There are cur­rently in ex­cess of 240 mil­lion pic­tures on Instagram with the hash­tag #me, but how many of the pouters in th­ese pho­tos are ac­tu­ally in­tro­verts in real life? Is so­cial me­dia groom­ing a gen­er­a­tion of “look at me” women, whose on­line per­sonas are at odds with their true per­son­al­i­ties?

Take the ex­am­ple of my Instagram dis­rob­ing. I wouldn’t class my­self as par­tic­u­larly body con­fi­dent, but my in­hi­bi­tions were low­ered by the won­ders of tech­nol­ogy. Be­fore post­ing the photo, I could check the an­gle was flat­ter­ing, blur my cel­lulite, and add a black-and-white fil­ter to make it look artsy. Think about it: how many self­ies would you share if you were un­able to edit them be­fore they were up­loaded, in­stantly, like a Po­laroid?

Ac­cord­ing to a re­cent sur­vey by Dove cos­met­ics, 42 per­cent of women untag them­selves from un­flat­ter­ing pho­to­graphs and 55 per­cent of 18- to 29-year-olds say Face­book has made them more self-con­scious. Yet rather than avoid­ing so­cial me­dia com­pletely, we’re just find­ing more so­phis­ti­cated ways to gloss over our flaws and hide our weak­nesses.

In her 2012 TED talk, “Con­nected, But Alone?”, which has been watched by more than 2.3 mil­lion peo­ple, psy­chol­o­gist and cul­tural an­a­lyst Sherry Turkle ar­gues, “Peo­ple [use tech­nol­ogy] to cus­tomise their lives … you can end up hid­ing from each other, even as we’re all con­stantly con­nected to each other.” She calls it the Goldilocks ef­fect: not too close, not too far, just right.

We want ev­ery­one to see us, but only from our best side. What’s more, we ap­par­ently have no moral is­sues with post­ing a self-por­trait that isn’t a 100 per­cent hon­est re­flec­tion of us. Just look at the pop­u­lar­ity of “selfie surgery” and “vir­tual makeover” apps such as Face­tune, ModiFace, and Liquify, which al­lows users to dig­i­tally edit their face and body shape. Eye­lashes can be added, teeth whitened, skin smoothed, and ki­los shed, all at the click of a but­ton.

When Katy Perry re­cently posted a #cou­plie of her­self with fel­low singer Adele on Instagram, more than 36,000 fol­low­ers “liked” it. It has at­tracted in ex­cess of 4,800 com­ments, with many ask­ing if they are record­ing a duet to­gether (they’re not). Yet other view­ers had dif­fer­ent pri­or­i­ties: “What fil­ter did you use? asked one fan. “Have you Pho­to­shopped your face? I want to copy your cheek­bones.”

We are in­creas­ingly us­ing so­cial me­dia to mi­cro­man­age the way we’re per­ceived by oth­ers. New re­search from Trinity Uni­ver­sity in Texas ex­am­ined the rea­sons peo­ple

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