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Articles > Rant July, 30, 2014

Can you ditch the selfie and live in the moment?

Thomas Roden
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Selfies are everywhere. Every single hour on social media there are endless waves of (usually) tasteless selfies being posted, and on a standard night out you’re bound to see countless people posing for them. It’s ridiculous, and it’s gotten to the stage where people (read: idiots) are actually dying while trying to take them. A few months ago, a man in Spain was electrocuted after climbing atop a train to take a selfie. Someone call the Darwin Awards – I think we have a winner.

Now I know that they don’t all end in death. More often than not, they’re pretty harmless and are just taken in the spirit of fun in the moment. But that doesn’t make it an awful lot better. The amount of time people dedicate to snapping the ideal selfie, and then to scouring their minds for a caption that implies a hint of intelligence or humour, is painful. Who really has the time to spend on this? Who really thinks “okay pause the world for a moment – I’m going to take a selfie so people can see that I’m doing things, and then I’m going to write a funny caption and people will like it”? Well, apparently quite a few people, as shown in the cringeworthy #SELFIE by The Chainsmokers.

So where has this obsession with selfies come from? I find it hard to believe that everybody in the modern world can be so full of narcissism that taking a photo of themselves has become a staple of everyday life. Nor can I believe that people are so obsessed with trying to show the world that they are enjoying a rich and entertaining social life that they would – in doing so – stop enjoying that social life to take a snapshot.

Then again, that does seem to be pretty typical of us. We are a generation that send texts instead of knocking doors; one that communicates with our thumbs and not our mouths, and one that feels the extreme compunction to document our every decision and movement on social media for the world to view and judge. So maybe we have become so self-absorbed in this world that is very much at our fingertips that our selfie indulgence is inevitable and unavoidable.
And celebrities getting in on the craze is unlikely to be helping either. What happens when you put conformity, youth culture, peer pressure and celebrity culture into a blender together? You get one big messy example of pop culture eating itself. And in this process of eating itself, it’s churning out more of the same each time. People who had previously not taken a selfie end up doing so because celebrities they admire are doing so.

Credit where it’s due, selfies have earned some redeeming qualities recently. The recent ‘#NoMakeUpSelfieForCancer’ ended up raising over £8 Million for Cancer Research, showing there is a silver lining to an otherwise black cloud. There is always this aspect to the popularity of anything – give it enough time and a good cause will capitalise on it and use it to further its cause. So it’s not all bad. But when there are shops in London installing iPads in changing rooms so people can post selfies while trying on new clothes, we’ve seriously got to take a step back, look at ourselves in the camera lens and realise that we may have got a little out of hand.

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  1. Lauren Cooney

    I honestly have no idea why people feel the need to photograph themselves every 5 minutes. Some people spend hours taking 100’s of ‘selfies’ and for what? A few Facebook likes? Why do we need other people’s approval? Be happy with who you are and stop searching for praise from others.

  2. Adithya Suriyapperuma

    You have got to be kidding me, right? Why is it every time a new trend comes around, we all have to be a bunch of drama queens and jump to the conclusion that its some sort of crippling detriment to the younger generations. How many times have we been putting ourselves through the same bullshit. We moaned like this about video games in the 80s, birth control in the 60s, rock-and-roll in the 50s and comic books in the 40s. So, that being said, when are we going to shut the hell up and stop getting so pissy every time we see our civilisation start to advance further and further.

  3. Charlotte

    My issue is when I go to gigs I am forever wanting to live in the moment like Jennifer and go and properly enjoy the crowd in the pits and stuff but I want to remember the gig and film it because I paid for it and I don’t want to forget!
    I’ve just accepted that I just have to record while I’m jumping around hahah

  4. Mariana Rios

    My biggest problem with selfies is that in the end it feels as if it “cheapens” people’s expressions. People become too self-conscious about stuff like lighting and filters and “the angle they look better in”, which makes me feel as if their facial and even verbal expressions become just for show. It’s as if no one cares about expressing any real and raw emotions because it means nothing if we aren’t able to manipulate a moment and alter into an illusion designed to evoke other people’s acceptance or jealousy.

  5. Jennifer

    I completely agree, I remember paying about £50 for a concert ticket, and filmed/photographed pretty much the whole thing on my iPod

    It’s only when I got home that I realised, whilst to everyone on Facebook I had an amazing time, taking concert selfies and posting concert uploads, in reality, I missed most of it, and can mainly remember staring at my iPod to check the veiw of my photos :/ ouch

  6. Tashayna Morgan

    Ahh, selfies! They’re everywhere, and frankly I don’t get it. I mean I can understand if it’s taken once in a blue moon, but the constant selfie uploads are getting pretty annoying.

  7. Jasmin Sahota

    This article reflects exactly my thinking regarding selfies – I have found that, majority of the time, those that deem it necessary to spend the whole evening taking selfies with everyone, to then post them on Snapchat or whatever else to highlight ‘what a good time’ they are having, have actually very little to say to each other when they put their phones down for a minute. Memories are worth so much more than an often superficial photo, which takes more away from a moment than it adds to it.

  8. Laura Lewis

    We let the world go by without even looking up from our mobile phone screen, we can stare at it for hours doing nothing, can’t we just put down those phones even for a little while and live like our grandparents did by actually having a conversation face to face

  9. Audrius Grubliauskas

    “But wait, let me take a selfie”… words that probably everyone are tired of…
    All I have to say is: Live the moment, make sure you get the most out of it, because most of the time when you’re reaching into your pocket for your phone to take a selfie you miss the best part…

  10. Meyra Rothwell

    I think its a way to remember that moment in time you have thats going to be lost forever but you make it last longer by taking a picture.

  11. Marco Borsari

    Like all the things in life, from food to love, one has to mantain a balance between enjoying the actual experience and dragging it to its exaggeration, trying to get the most out of it with the heavy risk of actually ruining the experience turning the emotions to boredom, the pleasures to frustration.
    In today’s society, people often strive hard to obtain those “15 minutes of popularity” which they believe could enrich their lives even with some simple “thumbs up” on a posted pic on Instagram, but totally forgetting that the everyday life can provide much satisfying moments which they would not even see happening, busy in thinking of some hashtags to describe them.

  12. Charlie White

    I completely agree, the fact that you need to think of taking a selfie in the moment just ruins the moment cause your then focus on the aspects of technology and not on the real life moment with is supposed to be shared with the people your are with in that moment not other random people you just have on twitter and Facebook!

  13. atlanta eccles

    I think the selfie is the epitome of youth in a media age obsessed with how the world perceives us and ‘making your mark’ on the internet. Conquerers in the past drove flags into the ground to claim territory, the “moon landing” didn’t per se NEED a flag but it was something physical that said suchandsuch was here and I think the selfie, in a way, is a modern representation of that. It’s no longer good enough just to take a picture of (for example) a celebrity, we need to insert ourselves into the frame to prove ‘I was there” “look what I’ve done” “look who i’ve met” to other people on social media to the point that, for some, the physical act of meeting the celebrity/idol means as much as proving it to other people later. However, I wouldn’t go as far to say 100% that by taking a selfie people can no longer live in the moment. I’m assuming the selfie started innocently as a quick snapshot that was “in the moment” to document the situation, however it is the human need to outcompete our peers that drove the selfie phase into a new level of obsession with perfection in the guise of something effortless. To the former, fair enough. To the latter group, I hope it’s worth the hours of effort for a few “likes” and 5 minutes of small time fame.

  14. kirsty matthews

    I dont think it ruins the experience…

  15. Melissa Davey

    I think it depends on the situation as I think its easy to understand why selfies are taken when going out with the friends, as photos are usually taken anyway and it’s a much easier way to share memories with individual people rather than having to shuffle everyone round and cause a scene in the middle of a restaurant.
    Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy taking selfies as much as the next person but only if the situation calls for it, rather than an act of boredom and self consciousness. I can understand the need to question those who take selfies every 30 minutes, but isn’t this just the result of social media sites, where many take the selfies to fit in and see how many likes they can get, rather than for any meaningful reason.

  16. Cassandra Townsend

    I’d like to say that I am one of those few people not affected by the “selfie syndrome” as I like to call it, however, since I finially updated my mobile, and installed things like snapchat, the number of selfies that I take have increased, but I know that I take them for memories, to show off and to be honest. the concept of a selfie has been going on for a lot longer than the word has been around, its just more commonly noticed than previously.

  17. Mollie Kane

    I feel that taking selfies is in no way a bad thing, especially as people would just like to capture the moment with themselves in it. Although, there is most definitely places people shouldn’t take selfies and some people go too far as it’s more posing to look good rather than enjoying the moment and for memories.

  18. April Quinn

    I personally don’t see anything wrong with people taking harmless “selfies” to capture a moment. It’s just like getting someone else to take a picture of you except now we have front cameras on phones so people can take them themselves.
    It does, however, annoy me at concerts, at meals, etc when people would rather take a shakey video or photographs instead of actually enjoying the experience.

  19. To be honest my wife and i have been taking selfie’s for 21 years and it has not made our life any worse than before, also i don’t think it would stop you from experiencing the live event. It seems odd that a few people are bothered about people taking pictures of themselves when you should be more bothered that technology is taking over a whole generation, God forbid if all the networks went down, there would be millions of people wondering around aimlessly and might actually have to talk to each other face to face!! …let the people be free from criticism and enjoy themselves.

  20. Ignorant Awareness

    I guess it’s a good way to show appreciation & gratitude of the fact that you have arms to be able to take selfies in the first place?

    All joking aside though, I don’t think taking a picture of yourself is that bad- not all of us necessarily have ‘clingy girlfriends’ (aka someone beside us at all times) to take photos of us whenever we want one.

    It’s really just a matter of convenience for me though- when travelling, I don’t want to disturb the locals to get them to take a photo of me next to something which (to them) might seem pretty mundane. (For example, I wanted a photo next to the soil in Brazil, because it was so red/ fertile/ unlike soil here- but I’m sure to the locals I just looked like (yet) another ‘estrangeiro estranho’) =P

  21. Farhaan Sadiq

    i can’t stand live music anyway, so you’ll have to ask someone else about that…

  22. Farhaan Sadiq

    I completely agree with you, i personally have never understood the purpose of ‘selfies’ and find them to be a totally pointless waste of time, the fact that celebrities are doing it now too, is quite shocking, you would think they had better things to do, then take a bad picture of themselves, and trying to make it funny by adding an irrelivant comment.

    • Thanks for your comment Farhaan! Do you reckon selfies are jeopardising the real experience? We take the time out to take these photographs – or 2D ‘snapshots’ , yet we may be missing out on the real, HD experience!

      • Ignorant Awareness

        …is your profile photo a selfie, Jyoti?

        • Ha ha! In fact, a colleague of mine took the picture, so it’s not a selfie!

      • Farhaan Sadiq

        when you take a ‘selfie’ the whole perpose, is that you get that perfect shot, which in my opinion doesn’t exist. I once went to a dolphin show at the sea life center, and saw this women trying to take a ‘selfie’ with this dolphins behind her, she was so busy trying to get the perfect shot, that she missed the entire show. if that was all she came for why bother coming to the show??? i think that this is a perfect example of how the ‘2D snapshot’ can take away the amazment of real life

        • That’s very unfortunate indeed! The worst has to be concerts/gigs! I wonder how many of us watch the live gig rather than through our video recording…