In de­fence of the self(ie)

Much as the selfie phe­nom­e­non is a vic­tim of de­ri­sion, does any­one not in­dulge in this mo­ment of self-ac­tu­al­i­sa­tion?

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - INBOX -

BAR­RACK Obama, David Cameron and Helle Thorn­ing Sch­midt were un­spar­ingly panned for tak­ing a selfie at Nel­son Man­dela’s me­mo­rial. Mi­ley Cyrus’ var­i­ous con­torted ver­sions of her­self, en­ter­tain­ing though they may be, are con­stantly de­rided.

Yet, Pope Fran­cis – Time’s Per­son of the Year 2013 – is her­alded as a sep­tu­a­ge­nar­ian su­per­star when he is be­nignly pic­tured in a selfie with a group of young Ital­ians.

Much as the selfie phe­nom­e­non is a vic­tim of de­ri­sion, does any­one not in­dulge in this mo­ment of self­ac­tu­al­i­sa­tion?

Apart from fa­mous peo­ple’s self­ies, so­cial me­dia is awash with a stream of “look-at-me” photographs, of­ten mas­querad­ing as blog posts, per­sonal opin­ions or in­sights into the world at large.

The word “selfie”has not only been named the 2013 Word of the Year, but has also de­fi­antly forced its way into the “ac­cept­able” lex­i­con. Since last year, its online use is up by 17,000%. The ven­er­a­ble ox­ford dic­tionar­ies.

com de­fines selfie as “a pho­to­graph that one has taken of one­self, typ­i­cally taken with a smart­phone or we­b­cam, and up­loaded to so­cial me­dia”. Dis­con­cert­ingly, though, it comes with a sanc­ti­mo­nious ex­am­ple,: “Oc­ca­sional self­ies are ac­cept­able, but post­ing a new pic­ture of your­self ev­ery day isn’t nec­es­sary.”

Al­though many shame­lessly join in the act of selfie-ing, some still vo­cif­er­ously scorn this con­duct.

We con­done some­one stand­ing at a podium (self-cre­ated or oth­er­wise) while brag­ging ad nau­seam about them­selves and their achieve­ments, yet we take of­fence at a selfie – which is only a vis­ual de­pic­tion of singing one’s praises.

But it’s just a form of nar­cis­sism, isn’t it? Not nec­es­sar­ily bad, but just another sym­bol of high self­es­teem? Some­thing that we are re­peat­edly told to load up on in or­der to suc­ceed at ev­ery­thing.

Other words spring to mind, like con­fi­dence, courage and con­vic­tion. As well as qual­i­ties such as be­ing bold, brave and as­sertive.

All th­ese words we could use to de­scribe a selfie.

I must con­fess, I quite like the selfie.

I had in­dulged in it my­self more than a few times, un­til I read in a trend style-o-me­ter that self­i­etak­ing over-40s are on the way down.

Nev­er­the­less, I think of the selfie as just another form of self-ex­pres­sion that we should not cen­sure.

Strange as it may seem, to me, a selfie some­times suc­cinctly cap- tures a par­tic­u­larly mean­ing­ful mo­ment in a per­son’s life.

When ob­served closely, a selfie of­fers sig­nif­i­cant insight into that per­son’s happy mo­ments.

Self­ies un­wit­tingly re­veal a lot more, too, than the orig­i­na­tor in­tends.

While trawl­ing through iphoto, pick­ing new pic­tures to frame, I chanced upon a se­ries of self­ies with my other half.

Un­in­ten­tion­ally, we had al­most per­fected the pose: beam­ing smiles at the ready, dou­ble chins well con­cealed and out­fits al­most colour-co­or­di­nated.

Not a sin­gle long arm, hold­ing the phone or cam­era, was in sight.

How­ever, I found the most ar­rest­ing part of our pic­tures was the back­ground.

While we took up less than half the frame, the back­drops were a stun­ning ar­ray of places that we had trav­elled to.

That, more than the grin­ning us, makes our self­ies spe­cial.

The old walls of Is­tan­bul, the curve of the Colos­seum, the misty dusk at the end of a Nepal trek, the proud dhow am­bling along the Doha coast.

More than our looks, our se­ries of self-portraits truly de­pict a dis­tinct time and place.

For us. cap­tur­ing our­selves in front of th­ese mag­nif­i­cent views, our self­ies de­fined the most mem­o­rable oc­ca­sions.

I picked out 16 snaps, then had them framed in dou­ble glass.

The frame is large and heavy, so it cur­rently sits on the floor, propped against the wall.

What is worth not­ing is peo­ple’s re­ac­tions to this bla­tant dis­play of ad­mit­tedly self-in­dul­gent self­ies.

Some loved it, re­mark­ing on our smiles and my vary­ing hair­styles.

Yet oth­ers have looked askance, un­able to de­cide if they like it or not.

Most prob­a­bly, un­sure of how to put it po­litely that they hate it. Some thought it most strange, and so un­like us.

Per­haps self­ies are a pri­vate grat­i­fi­ca­tion, even when they are out in the pub­lic realm.

The im­ages may in­vite com­pli­ments and com­ments, but only those who take their own will be able to ap­pre­ci­ate the essence of their life’s vignettes.

In this era of in­stant grat­i­fi­ca­tion, a well-staged selfie of­fers plenty of joy to the taker.

At their best, th­ese pic­tures en­cap­su­late con­fi­dent, proud, pri­vate mo­ments.

It is not a self­ish, nar­cis­stic act. Rather, tak­ing the selfie cap­tures for­ever a mo­ment of your­self. A part of your­self to re­flect upon later if you wish.

How­ever, the selfie is just one way of ap­pre­ci­at­ing our­selves.

Some­one else can eas­ily take a pic­ture of you.

But, in de­fence of the selfie, when did it be­come a crime to take a pic­ture of your­self?

In 2014, take some time for your­self, to be your­self.

Happy New Year, ev­ery­one.

Ap­pro­pri­ate be­hav­iour?: Th­ese lead­ers of state were crit­i­cised by many for tak­ing a selfie dur­ing the me­mo­rial ser­vice of South african for­mer pres­i­dent nel­son man­dela in Jo­han­nes­burg. — aFP

Ox­ford dic­tionary has named ‘selfie’ the new word of the year 2013. — aFP

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