Week 5: The Selfie Illusion

In danah boyd’s blog post on “Super Publics,” boyd discusses the altered state of publics – what publics look like when they are infused with the features of digital architectures” and “about what it means to speak for all time and space, to audiences you cannot conceptualize.” Many selfie-takers are hyperaware of this extreme form of the public, and increasingly not only take selfies to remind themselves of a specific moment in time, but also to communicate with this super public about their existence. Perhaps this is the reason that according to selfiecity, more females than males take more photos of themselves—to illustrate to the world and themselves their existence, which has been historically ignored in a number of patriarchal societies. At the same time, this could also be the reason for the larger about of selfies posted by women—as these women could be performing for the presumably male gaze. Neither of these claims can be proven unless we ask the selfie-takers themselves, but it is clear than not only women are the ones who feel the need to perform for the super public.

Danny Bowman, a nineteen year old, would spend up to 10 hours a day taking up to 200 snaps of himself on his iPhone. According to the writer Alicia Eler:

In a story of isolation and fear in the digital age, this young boy became completely addicted to snapping and posting selfies. His life was ruled by clicks and likes; in a sense, the internet was his mirror, until, after overdosing on pills and being saved by his mother, he realized that he was more than just his selfie. “Gradually I realised everyone wasn’t looking at me. I didn’t need to check my appearance the whole time,” he told the Daily Mirror.

While this is an extreme case of selfie-taking, it is clear that Bowman was constantly aware of the super public as a source of validation, so much so it consumed his life. However, what he did not realize was that selfies only as an illusion—not as proof of existence, and that the user should be in control of the selfie—not the other way around.

4 thoughts on “Week 5: The Selfie Illusion

  1. Skylar_Elis

    It’s interesting, I had a camper the last two summers who had an addiction to social media and validation from his followers. Now, to clarify camp, or at least my camp, is a phone free camp. We allow it in the cabin in moderation but if you’re caught with it out of the cabin it is confiscated. Really cool rule and lends itself to be its own social experiment.. of who is most socially successful without technology as a crutch.

    Anyway, this camper got his phone taken away halfway through the summer because it was out of the cabin. He freaked out. Like, it was bad how emotionally dependent he is to his phone. The idea of loosing it for 14 days wrecked him.

    While both your article and my little tangent are extreme cases, they are still real people, who form real attachments to the feeling of acceptance online. I know from my story this was a manifestation of loneliness in the real world, and I’m curious if the guy in your story, or anyone who forms this attachment, isn’t a victim of loneliness. We’ve discussed this in class, I know. It isn’t a revolutionary question. But I’m curious if that is the only psychological cause.

  2. mbmistler

    This kinda reminds me of what I have experienced in my own life. I can admit to being too preoccupied with how I look usually when I am having a bad hair day or if I break out more than usual. I feel like that on those days I am more worried about how I look, and thus, will probably pay more attention to my reflection while I’m going throughout the day. However, when I look back to these days, there is no difference to how people treat me compared to other “normal” days. This kind of builds on your idea of how often our own self-consciousness can be an illusion, which in the end controls our self-confidence. I am learning to take it one day at a time and live in the reality rather than an illusion.

  3. abwrubel

    I do believe that the selfie has become a form of self-validation and a means of declaring ones existence. But I also believe that in this media driven world of cultural consumption, the selfie acts as a micro way in which people, specifically females, can align themselves with physical ideals present in our media.

Leave a Reply