Selfie – boon or bane?

I thank you for reaching here to read my blog and if you are here now, the introduction is self-explanatory. So, which side I am on? Well, you got to read on to find out.

I assume we all have a rough idea of what is a selfie. If my assumption is wrong, here is the definition of Selfie from the Oxford dictionary:

selfie

WHAT IS THE REASON FOR THE SELFIE HYPE?

The rage has hit an all-time high that selfie is already a usual vocabulary in our social lives. From ‘so-called’ celebrities to common men, almost everyone knows what is a selfie, and how to capture one with their smartphones.

Today, when smartphones are marketed for their processing speed (Nokia Lumia ad which famously claimed a user can complete 5 tasks in two and a half minutes), thickness (Oppo R5 – World’s slimmest smartphone advertisement), battery power (Gionee marathon m5 – 6020 mAh) or their touch screen (Samsung Galaxy S6 edge with dual-edge display), there are also marketing campaigns solely based on their front camera’s capabilities.

manipulation-smartphone-2507499_1280

There is a genuine shift in customers from just the necessities like processing speed, efficient display, weight/thickness or battery power, to aesthetics. The study of Human-Computer Interaction or particularly user experience design reveals that there is a post-materialistic life, where experiences matter more than just a product that does what it is supposed to do.

Sales of CD/DVD of popular albums plummeted from 2000 onwards. [1] For example, Madonna’s Confessions on a Dancefloor sold only 1.6 million copies, but her world tour generated about 200 million dollars. According to Pollstar (Bongiovann 2010), in 2009 the average ticket price for a top 100 act in the US was about $64, a CD made only $13.99.

Rich Huxley once said:

Black Framed Sports Logo (1)

Live concerts have become more popular and advantageous than CD/DVD albums. Consider this extract from The Encyclopedia of human-computer interaction 2nd edition –

Blue Brushstroke Dynamic Football (American Football) Sports T-Shirt

Well, it is not a scene from a movie but Philip’s wake-up light that just gives you this enthralling experience. It is an alarm clock focused on not only it’s basic functionality but to provide you with experience by transcending itself from the materialistic life.

So, in my opinion, it is the world of experiences, aesthetics and user-centered design which is the reason for hype in Selfie or any other social medium. One of my friends aptly stated, “The Concept of someone taking a photo is nothing new but the pivot in the idea is when you can capture yourself with handheld devices without any help from someone, and instantly share the moment with your immediate friends. It is no more a photo but an emotion or a feeling that is shared.”

 

WHY IS A SELFIE GOOD?

A smartphone lets me be an amateur. It emphasizes the fact that IT IS OKAY TO BE AMATEURISH, YOU DO NOT NEED TO BE PERFECT, because the focus is on sharing your emotions and not prove your ability to take the perfect photograph.

I do not need to follow specific rules (say, rule of thirds) because my audience is not experts but my peers, all I want is to share the joy and not the technique itself. Also, it expands the boundary of availability. I do not need a professional photographer to capture my private moments, I can do it for myself.

Be it an intimate moment with my partner, or if I want to capture my toned body after a session in the gym, I do not need to face the embarrassment of asking a professional photographer or even another person to do that for me, I could help myself. This brings us to another controversy on the lack of privacy and misuse of our photos, which I shall address later.

 

WITH THE ADVENT OF SOCIAL MEDIA, HAS LEVEL OF NARCISSISM GONE UP?

Now, we capture umpteen selfies, store them in the mobile gallery’s folders (or albums) and share them instantly with anyone. If we tune back a little to the olden days, the process was not so different.

We had dedicated camera (instead of smartphones), we made photo albums (physical, instead of digital) and showed them to friends or guests whoever came to our home (it was not possible then to send multiple copies of the same photo to many, because of expense). From a dedicated camera, then to a polaroid, and recently to smartphones, the shift has been steady and predictable.

So, sharing photos is not a 21st-century idea, history only repeats itself. But what is different now than before? Per me, the only difference is back then when it was not easy to share pictures instantly, we captured more photos as memories for ourselves whereas now, we sometimes snap pictures with the sole purpose of sharing them with others. It has slowly become self-centric and to an extent, narcissistic.

WHERE TO DRAW THE LINE OF CONTROL?

We have read news of people taking selfies in front of a dead body, a moving train, or in a graveyard. Some people have died trying to take selfies in dangerous positions and places. So, where to draw the line? My classmate nicely stated, “People have died not because of selfie but stupidity”.

Very true, but when technology gives rise to a dangerous trend, it is because we did not monitor its effects and train people to use it sensibly.” Our constitutions and laws were formed 100 years back. The speed in which technology advances, it is not possible to frame laws and set guidelines for every invention or discovery, which brings us to another anomaly: ETHICS.

It is up to an individual to decide if a selfie or a moment is ethical, or moral to capture. If one decides that, it brings me to the next anomaly: what is ethics? Is it different for different countries, geographies, and cultures? How could we generalize?

SOME QUESTIONS I LIKED, FROM MY PEERS:

  1. Why is it O.K to share my selfie on Instagram or Whatsapp or even Facebook but awkward to email the same? Why is it not posted on LinkedIn? So, does it depend on the audience and medium?
  2. Is one too old/young for a selfie? Is there an age or generation tag attached to it?
  3. What motivates someone for a selfie?

It is a debatable topic and there is more than one answer. Feel free to comment below with your thoughts. Hopefully, we would arrive at what is logical.

WHAT DO I CONCLUDE?

Social computing and User-centered design come under the broad spectrum of human-computer interaction which deals equally with cognitive psychology as it does with technology. Opinions on such themes can only be personal.

I consider capturing selfies with dead people/animal or a sick person, or in a graveyard unwanted and avoidable. Similarly, I would not want to share an intimate photo on a public forum and later be a victim of morphing, public shaming or any other misuse.

I would like to be careful about them, but at the same time not restrict myself when I feel something could be shared. It is a fine line I am drawing between privacy and accessing my rights to express what I feel.

Once again, it is only my opinion and I do not have THE CORRECT ANSWER in hand. I suggest the academic curriculum in schools could include these trends to educate children which shall help them become more responsible and sensible as they evolve into mature citizens.

There is a famous quote in the Tamil language –

“Alavukku meerinal, amirdhamum nanju”

This loosely means, “Even elixir if consumed more than the limit, becomes poison.” But wait, what is the LIMIT? Technology is a double-edged sword, beware. But, again, what to be beware of? The confusion continues.


What is your one takeaway from this? Do share your feedback by commenting on the post, or shoot me a personal message. Your feedback helps me write better.

Don’t forget to follow us on Instagram

– Ninja

[1] https://www.interaction-design.org/literature/book/the-encyclopedia-of-human-computer-interaction-2nd-ed/user-experience-and-experience-design

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Menaga sv says:

    Again a good reading piece bud!
    The thoughts are well articulated….And any reader would relate to it because of the nature of the content….
    My suggestion would be,
    The example quotes for emphasizing the ” its more about experience ” part went a little outta topic…..well it can bound to happen…..but if the analogy is chosen more appropriately it would have a better impact, …

    Apart from that ,…. Kudos to you!

    Like

    1. Niranjan says:

      Thanks for getting deeper into the topic and pointing out Menaga.

      Like

  2. Sathish says:

    Good write up, opinion are well within the limits !!!!

    Like

    1. Niranjan says:

      Thanks a lot brother, glad you liked it.

      Like

  3. Natalie says:

    i really like the quote “Even elixir, if consumed more than the limit, becomes poison”, it can apply to a lot of different practices or habits and seems quite apt for the selfie-mad community.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s