I think we all know someone with a selfie obsession. They post photos of themselves on various social media sites in different mundane situations expecting us to like, share, favourite, retweet and even comment on such humdrum proclamations as:
“New lipstick!” (photo: lips pouting, eyes bulging like a Bratz doll).
“Having a fat day” (photo: sad face, skinny jeans proffering a lean little bum).
“Lunch!” (photo: a smoothie, ‘nuff said).
Er, why? Why oh why oh why do people waste their precious moments on this? I shall pause briefly here to accommodate the decreasing percentage of the populace who have not caught up with the social media craze (c’mon dad, it’s about time!)
A ‘selfie’ is “a slang term used to describe a photo that is taken of oneself for the purpose of uploading it to social networking sites and image sharing websites… To take a selfie, the right or left arm is extended with the camera held backwards.” (webopedia.com)
All us social media users are prone to the occasional selfie but it’s worth pondering the why and wherefore of this newish craze. Worth pondering the impact on kids too.
I learnt some alarming stats last week when Australia’s Next Top Model’s selfie competition came to an end amidst a backlash from feminist activists, including social commentator Melinda Tankard Reist. The competition called on fans to post a ‘selfie’ on Instagram or Twitter, with the #antmselfie and #fox8tv hash-tags. The result was girls as young as eight posting photos of themselves in minimal clothing and in sexual poses.
Tankard Reist pointed to research by the Internet Watch Foundation, which found that 88 per cent of self-made images posted by girls online were captured and sent to porn sites.
“They are snatched and captured and sent to what are known as parasite porn sites. These girls have no idea that their images could be going there and here is Australia’s Next Top Model soliciting this,” she was quoted in news articles.
Research by Flinders University this year found a correlation between time teenage girls spend on social network sites and lower-self esteem, body image, sense of identity and a higher incidence of depression.
“Body dissatisfaction consistently comes up as one of the biggest, most important issues for young people and our research has shown that the alarming amount of time these girls are spending on the internet may have a huge impact on the way they think and feel about their bodies,” researcher Dr Amy Slater said.
Social media can present as a web of unhealthy competition and comparisons. It highlights the real need for truth to be spoken into the lives of young people. And that’s what campaigning group Collective Shout did last week. The anti-sexploitation group rallied followers to post ‘selfies’ of a pertinent message about true beauty rather than an image of a sexy body.
“I am not defined by my looks but by the strength of my character.”
“Crafted to perfection – no airbrush or makeover can compete.”
There were many more.
If I could add another, it would be to paraphrase Proverbs 31:26-27; “Beauty is walking with strength and dignity into the future, speaking wisdom and teaching kindness.”
The truth about beauty needs to be declared above the din of skinny social expectation – we’re all different, and we all matter. That’s all.
As printed in The Examiner for Keeping the Faith column on Monday July 29, 2013.