The Selfie Self Affirmation Narcissism or Masturbation?
The Selfie has exploded like a fission bomb, spewing billions of
megabytes of electronic mug shots throughout the world wide web.
Facebook and Instagram have been awash in selfies for years. By “Selfie”
we mean the tech epidemic unleashed suddenly by the cell phone’s reverse
photo capability enabling one to photograph oneself easily and
effectively. The blitzkrieg blast of selfie photos suggests that human
beings have been dealing with a pent up desire to validate their own
existences for a long time. It’s as though we have been yearning to
shout “hey this is me!…I exist!…Tell me I’m for real!…Over here,
Look at me!…I want your attention pahleeezzzz”!
So, is this pandemic compulsion that drives people to point a phone at
their heads and pull the trigger really about “self affirmation”? Does
it have an “existential” meaning? “Existential” sounds too serious for
such a frivolous gesture…but it is about a desire to exist, this
psych-need for celebrity status must have been smoldering for years in
our collective subconsciousness. Not a surprise, considering that our
social world has become more impersonal anonymous, and emotionally
disconnected with every tech “upgrade”. It seems like we are all
gathered here today, running the newest version of life, “Life 10.6.8”,
and beginning to feel like we just don’t really exist!
The question is, can the selfie give us a positive sense being alive and
real, and noticed by others? Can it give us a feeling that other people
really see us and appreciate that we exist? Well it certainly allows us
to imagine that other people see us and care about whether we exist.
When you fling a self-taken photo of your face into cyberspace, you can
be assured that someone will see you, at least a glimpse of you, as they
scroll through their plethora of posts in a social media daze browzing
to kill time.
Someone may actually pause and focus their attention on you for a heart
beat or two. What this actually means in terms of affirming your
existence is difficult to say. I suppose if you believe that God loves
you, you could also believe that the hidden faces out there in
cyberspace acknowledge that you exist and rejoice in “knowing”
you…especially if they respond to the selfie like: “OMG you look
gorgeous”… or “I love the new hair style”…or, “yo dude, nice jacket”
or “Sexxxseee”. It follows that if you are able to provoke a reaction
out of someone, there is a higher probability that you really exist and
so the need for self-affirmation is assuaged.
So, thanks to the selfie, it appears that you may gain some sense of
self-affirmation. This is especially true if you have a good imagination
and believe in God, and as long as you ignore the fact that a selfie is
not the real you, just a facsimile. In fact, due to the distortion that
typically occurs with hand-held selfies, it may not even look like you.
The truth is that your selfie could just as well be used for your
obituary column to announce that you have died and no longer exist at
all. We so easily forget that “a selfie is not me”.
Perhaps narcissism is more closely related to the phenomenon of the
selfie than self-affirmation. The story of Narcissus is that he was
renown for his great beauty. When he saw his reflection in a pond he
became so infatuated with his own image, so obsessed with how attractive
he was, that he fell in and drowned. In another version of the story
Narcissus walked by a pool of water and decided to drink some. He saw
his reflection, became entranced by it, and killed himself because he
could not have his object of desire.
The selfie allows the same kind of obsession with one’s own beauty or
“coolness”, except that the reflection is in a pool of electronic energy
called a screen. The intensity of the fascination, gazing at one’s image
on a screen, can be just as obsessive. In fact it seems to be multiplied
by the ability to project one’s image, via the world wide web, into the
faces of the masses. The “selfie shooter” is not only in love with their
image for their own sake, they are so fascinated with it that they
insist on putting it in the face of the world to ignite admiration and
desire in all the nations of mankind. But would a selfie-shooter kill
themselves because they could not possess the object of their desire
after falling in love with me, myself, and I?
I guess that brings us to the question of the selfie and the forbidden
act of masturbation. Onanism, as it was called in the Bible, is a
concept that has a rap sheet of badness stretching over many lifetimes.
Our Judeo-Christian heritage has bashed the act of self-pleasuring for
over 2000 years. So what does taking a selfie have in common with this
activity of questionable correctness even in the 21st century?
Masturbation involves giving oneself pleasure in sexual way. However,
this sexual pleasure has been advertised from the time of Adam and Eve
as an experience best achieved through involvement with another person.
Both religions and governments have fought to convince people that
sexual pleasure is something that should be sought in relationship with
someone of the opposite gender…mostly so that it would be channeled
into the production of babies for larger congregations, and higher
economic productivity. For a myriad of reasons, it is still safe to say
that Sex is generally considered an experience, best consummated and
most capable of reaching its peak value and intensity, with a partner.
Our entire society, including its economic machinery, is largely driven
by the quest for sexual fulfillment through relationship with another
Judging from the billions of selfie images ejaculated into cyberspace
like sneezed water droplets, the selfie obviously provides a large
measure of pleasure and self-satisfaction. People enjoy capturing images
of themselves because it makes them feel good. In some cases selfies can
actually have an auto erotic quality. Photographing oneself scantily
clad and looking predatory or vulnerable can easily become an auto
erotic gesture. Imagine posting such a selfie on the web to be exposed
publicly to a voyeuristic world! Certainly it can provide the same
sexual excitement that exhibitionists feel by exposing themselves to
strangers with a flip of an overcoat, or the flashed opening of blinds
in the distant window of a city apartment.
In the same way that the sexual pleasure derived from masturbation is
universally considered an experience of lesser value than sexual
pleasure derived from love-making in a personal relationship, the
self-satisfaction and pleasure of the selfie photo must be considered an
experience of lesser value than a photo derived from a creative
interaction with a professional photographer. Masturbation, like selfie
photos, may feel safer and be cheaper than doing it with another person.
However, both experiences tend to become more intense and pleasurable
when you do it with another person, and when you have to form a
relationship to get what you want. Just like being sexually pleasured by
another person can produce the kind of letting go that feels so
exhilarating, being photographed by an awesome photographer can have a
similar exhilarating effect far beyond what the selfie can provide.
Bottom line: instead of masturbating, go find a partner and get
passionate…instead of taking a photo of yourself, go find a
professional photographer and get exhilarated. Why masturbate with a
selfie when you can be made love to by a photographer?
In conclusion it seems like we should all be embarrassed about taking
selfies. They have little value for self-affirming our lives, They
suggest that we are in love with ourselves, incapable of forming
relationships, and essentially auto-erotic jerk offs. But wait, that
can’t be right since we all do it…we all do the selfie
thing…so…all the people can’t be fools all the time…something like
that…Oh forget it. Forget you ever read this! It can’t be right. But
listen, if you think you might want to try making love with a real
photographer, give us a call. 🙂
ArtChick & Chielli
Copyright Church Street Studios LLC