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Why is it now acceptable to plaster pictures of your face all over social media?

Gone are the days where taking a picture of yourself was seen as being vain and slightly obnoxious.

Rebecca Lee

SELFIES ARE ONE of the biggest, most contentious things to hit the internet over the past few years. Gone are the days where taking a picture of yourself was seen as being vain and slightly obnoxious – today it’s all about me, my face, my body and, er, well me.

The term ‘selfie’ was named as word of the year by Oxford Dictionaries back in 2013, such was its popularity. It was defined as: ‘A photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically taken with a smartphone or webcam and shared via social media.’

But why exactly do we do it? How has it suddenly become acceptable to plaster pictures of your perfected pout all over the web?

There are a number of theories as to just why so many of us indulge in this face value phenomenon.

Not just a pretty face

The first is that it’s a way of boosting one’s ego. Many people take selfies as a method of showing off to society and a way of getting noticed by the opposite sex. According to Peggy Drexler, Assistant Professor of Psychology at Weill Medical College selfies are popular because they allow us to control the image of ourselves that we want to project. Think of it this way; if we want to appear more attractive or more interesting than we really are, we can. Also the more ‘likes’ or favourites we get the better we feel.

Another theory is that we’re drawn to people’s faces. A joint study by Yahoo Labs and Georgia Institute of Technology found that many of us prefer looking at human faces over cute pictures of animals and food on feeds such as Instagram. Interestingly, it revealed that pictures of people’s mugs are 38% more likely to receive likes than photos with no faces whatsoever.

Another, perhaps more simplistic, theory of this never-ending trend is that it’s quite simply an evolution of narcissim. Psychologists say selfies have simply become a way of life for us and that looking at one’s reflection is a basic human need which has evolved dramatically since cavemen pored over their reflections in puddles of water.

I have mixed feelings 

As a social media addict, I must admit I have rather mixed views on the rising internet phenomenon that we (excuse the pun) ‘face’ on a daily basis. In one way, I agree that selfies are a good method of increasing one’s self-esteem. After all, you just need to take a picture of yourself at numerous different angles, sporting different deadly pouts, post it to a social media site and, Bob’s your uncle, all those likes mean you can be seen as one super sex-kitten.

Selfies are also a good way (despite my personal disapproval at the makeup-free selfie concept) of raising money for charity. The ‘no makeup selfie’ craze which took over our Facebook news feeds last year raised a whopping one million euro for The Irish Cancer Society alone and that, my friends, is nothing to joke about!

They can also be seen as a bit of fun when posted in moderation. Think that star-studded world famous Oscars selfie by Ellen DeGeneres last year, or that jaw-dropping selfie of travel expert Lee Thompson on top of the Christ the Redeemer Statue in Rio.

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Less is more

But selfies can also be irritating, particularly when people insist on posting a picture of their gorgeous mushes on Facebook numerous times a day. Hell, even I’ve reached the stage where I have had to block people who are guilty of over-posting mugshots from my Facebook feed. Also don’t get me started on couples who insist on taking selfies. We get it you’re in love and, yes, we know just how good you and your other half look together but do we really need to be reminded? It’s not as if we’ll forget!

But perhaps the best reason to dislike the selfie phenomenon is that it makes us feel under huge pressure to look good all the time. When you look at the likes of Kim Kardashian, Rihanna and Britney Spears who all appear flawless in their mugshots (despite having hordes of hairstylists and makeup artists) you feel the need to follow suit – and the next thing you’re spending hours perfecting your facepaint to achieve that red carpet look all for the sake of a few ‘likes’.

Let’s be honest – it’s nice to be told you look great every now and then, and I must confess that I’m guilty of taking a shot or two, but you can go OTT. Selfies aren’t a meaningful form of validation, so don’t view them that way.

Rebecca Lee is a journalist and broadcaster. Read more on her blog or follow her on Twitter @rebeccaleemedia

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Rebecca Lee

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