Selfie-esteem makes us lose sight of ourselves

Selfie-esteem makes us lose sight of ourselves

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A tourist concentrates on his selfie at Golden Bauhinia Square in Wan Chai.
A tourist concentrates on his selfie at Golden Bauhinia Square in Wan Chai.
Photo: Dickson Lee/SCMP

To selfie or not to selfie? That is the question. The trend of using “selfie sticks” has taken Hong Kong by storm. This trend is particularly popular among tourists, who are often spotted using this new gadget to capture the best wide-angle images of themselves and their friends. 

Some describe this as simply another fad that will soon be replaced by another trend, but I think the selfie is here to stay. The selfie is still gaining ground since becoming popular in 2010. 

Improvements to the front-facing cameras of smartphones and the rise of social media apps such as Instagram have only boosted the popularity of the selfie. In fact, just two years ago, selfie was named the Oxford dictionary’s word of the year – a testament to its growing popularity.

The selfie may seem harmless, but I think that taking selfies detracts from our experiences. Some take selfies simply to create a lasting memory of an experience, in the form of a photo, but others take selfies for the attention: in particular, some users on Instagram post photos in an attempt to gain followers and become “insta-famous”. 

Psychologist Diana Parkinson reaffirms this, suggesting that selfies are “born from insecurity and a need for external validation” from our friends in the form of a “like” or a comment. But by doing so, we lose sight of what’s important: the experience itself. When we take a selfie at a concert or an art exhibition, we forget to focus on the experience itself, whether it be listening to music or enjoying the artwork.

In fact, some museums and galleries have recognised this problem and have started banning selfie sticks. One such place is the National Museum in London, which stated that selfie sticks detract from the “overall visitor experience”.

Moreover, our dependence on the approval of others for our selfies is dangerous. When we base our self-esteem on the comments and “likes” of others, we are far more likely to be affected by negative comments from others. 

Furthermore, as we carefully manipulate our image with filters and editing effects, and as we conform to society’s expectations of how we should look and what we should wear, we lose sight of our own identity. We lose sight of ourselves.

There is a certain allure about taking a self-portrait, but take note – selfies aren’t always the prettiest things.

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
Selfie-esteem makes us lose sight of ourselves

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