Selfies: ‘harmless self-expression’ or ‘narcissism’?

by | Apr 17, 2015 | News

Amy Wallace
News Reporter

Selfies are the cultural phenomenon du jour. Social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook are awash with them.

The Oxford English Dictionary deemed “selfie” the word of the year in 2013.  

Celebrities are not immune to the trend. One cannot forget Ellen DeGeneres’s star-studded selfie at the 2014 Oscars, featuring Jennifer Lawrence and Brad Pitt among others.

Selfie queen Kim Kardashian is releasing a 352-page book featuring her best selfies. “Selfish” will hit shelves next month.

While some view the activity as harmless self-expression, others see it as a display of self-promotion and narcissism. Is it time the selfie trend went out of vogue?

While chatting with a crowd during a recent military training tour in Australia, Prince Harry expressed his distaste for selfies.

“Seriously, you need to get out of it, I know you’re young, but selfies are bad,” he urged a young fan, according to an article in The Telegraph. “Just take a normal photograph.”

“I think it all depends on the individual, what they are photographing, why they are doing it, who they are sharing it with, and so on,” said James Nielson, Liberal Arts and Sciences professor at Humber College. “A selfie could be a narcissistic gesture by a person uploading to a site where they have hundreds of ‘friends’ they have never met and don’t really care about.”

In the quest to making selfie-snapping easier, selfie sticks are the latest new gadgets to have emerged on the market.

With the device, smartphones are secured in a holder, attached to a long metal rod. The stick’s length allows for a wider shot, and gives the impression that someone else is taking the picture.

This past holiday season, the selfie stick was one of the most popular gifts. Time magazine listed it as one of the best inventions of 2014.

Despite its popularity- or perhaps because of it – there is a backlash against selfie sticks as of late.

The devices are especially popular among tourists. Recently, they have been banned from a number of museums and landmarks, including the Palace of Versailles, Britain’s National Gallery in London, and the Colosseum in Rome.

This year, popular U.S. music festivals Lollapalooza and Coachella banned the devices. Coachella dismissed them as “narsisstics” on a list of prohibited items.

Ultra Music Festival in Miami prohibited selfie sticks at this year’s event.

“They will be turned away and we’ll probably make fun of you,” Ultra posted on its Twitter account.

The stick is visually disruptive to others, critics say, as well as a hazard to precious monuments and works of art. Some dismiss them as obnoxious, taking self-obsession to new heights.

“There’s kind of a weirdness about always trying to chronicle what we’re doing from day to day like this,” Nielson said. “Some people lose sight of their physical personality, they’re thinking of some virtual version of themselves.”

Christine Kebalo, 24, a first-year Paralegal Education student at Humber, admits to taking the odd selfie.

“I think it depends on my appearance, I would have to say maybe minimum once a month, maybe every two weeks maximum,” she said, adding that she takes more photos that she posts online.

Christian Kyriazis, 19, a second-year Baking and Pastry Arts Management student at Humber, snaps selfies occasionally.

“Usually when I’m out partying, maybe out at the gym,” he said.

When it comes to selfie sticks, Kyriazis does not participate in the latest technological trend.

“I think they’re a little bit ridiculous,” he said. “It’s so absurd to hold a camera five feet away from you to take a picture of yourself.”

Kebalo agrees.

“It’s smart for the person who wants the optimal picture, but at the same time it just looks hilarious if you’re going to do it in a public place,” she said.