Find your true self(ie)
Delve behind your selfie and discover the real you.
Have you uploaded an image on Facebook recently? Or Instagram? And, if so, was it a totally spontaneous, unfiltered shot? Alarmingly, we Brits are going to ever greater lengths to produce the perfect snapshot of our lives. New research shows a shocking 50 per cent of 18- to 25-year-olds* even have a ‘selfie stage’ in their home, a dedicated space for capturing ‘like’-worthy images with a subtext that says, ‘this is me being amazing in everyday life’. Only it isn’t everyday life – it’s a carefully constructed arena which, the respondents of the study confess, has been chosen because it has ‘great lighting’, ‘flattering background colours’ and an air of ‘general tidiness’. Sixty-four per cent of them will even keep the area clean for the sole purpose of enhancing their images.
Whether it’s our latest culinary efforts, a set of finely honed abs or a group shot with a cool bunch of friends, our sense of self in the 21st century has become closely linked to our presence on social media – how many friends we have, the number of likes we get and who posts a ‘personal’ message when we’ve had a difficult experience or succeeded in our latest fitness challenge. But, of course, it wasn’t always that way. Our sense of identity has its roots in a much older past, as acclaimed journalist Will Storr uncovers in his new book Selfie (Picador, £18.99), which traces the concept of self from pre-history to the digital age, and it’s well worth a read.
What we often fail to realise, says Storr, is that the things we believe are a combination of stories, superstitions and philosophies. Our interest in reputation – which, in part, fuels the selfie phenomonen – is rooted in our tribal past, for example, where the fluidity of hierarchical issues such as status was crucial. Meanwhile, the notion that physical appearance and moral worth are directly linked comes from the Ancient Greeks, he explains. They even had a word for it: kalokagathia from kalos meaning ‘beautiful’, kai meaning ‘and’, and agathos meaning ‘good’. And if you think this is just semantics, consider how the construct is still reinforced in popular culture more than 2,000 years later. How often is the heroine of a novel or movie depicted as being physically ‘ugly’?
FIND THE REAL YOU
Of course, there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with sharing your life online, it only becomes an issue when you lose touch with your deeper connection to yourself, placing more value to the way others perceive you. It’s even possible to confuse the two. It’s known as cognitive fusion in psychological circles: when you take on someone else’s point of view as fact. Now that’s venturing into dangerous territory.
While we all aspire to be the best version of ourselves, instead of seeking external validation for our worth, looking inside and getting to intimately know and value our true self can be deeply beneficial. Rather than investing in how we are seen, perhaps it’s time to ask ourselves what we really believe and practise living it. What really matters to you? What do you deeply value or want to experience today, this month, this year?
Perhaps we’d do well to heed the advice given to young Little by father-figure Juan in the Oscar-winning movie Moonlight: ‘There comes a time in your life when you have to decide for yourself who you are going to be. Can’t let nobody make that decision for you.’