Reality star Kim Kardashian recently announced she'd be releasing a book of selfies next spring. Credit: Getty
Walking down the street in Downtown Los Angeles this afternoon, I noticed a man on a Harley pull up and park about 20 yards in front of me. He took his time getting off his bike, removing his helmet and adjusting his leather. His long hair was back in a ponytail; he had a full handlebar mustache and tattoos cascading down both arms. He took a long swig from a water bottle and then he remounted his steel steed.
A mere 10 feet from him, I observed this rough-and-tumble, travel-seasoned rider recline on his bike, pull out a sign that says, "L.A., bitches!" and put on the cheesiest open-mouthed smile as he pulled his iPhone out and took a selfie. Clearly, no one is immune.
There's been a lot of talk about selfies, and it's a fascinating shift in how we view ourselves and the world around us. We are constantly showing people what we are doing. And, perhaps more importantly, why they should be jealous.
A sign of insecurity
Selfies aren't just the quintessential example of narcissism; they are a statement that says both "Look at me and what I'm doing!" and "Give me lots of compliments on how awesome I am because of what I'm doing." In short, it reeks of insecurity. In fact, the reason it's called a selfie is that the person taking it is actually alone.
Think about it: You take a selfie because no one is there to take a picture of you. You are by yourself — maybe doing something great, maybe doing something mundane — but you have no one to share it with, so you share it with people you might know/barely know online. They then play their part and tell you that it's great/incredible and that they are "so jealous" and "wish I was there." Your ego gets stroked and you feel good, but then... you're STILL alone. This constant plea for attention is something that bleeds into other aspects of our lives, and has fundamentally altered how we the world around us and ourselves.
Why do we take selfies?
It's more than just attention that we're seeking; it's validation. We used to take pictures of where we were, places we visited and the people who came with us on that journey. We would click the shutter to capture what was in front of us, and it was understood that we were the ones using the camera. But in today's look at me world of instant gratification, we post pictures of us, taken by us, in a vain effort to feel good about who we are and what we are doing; in essence, to be viewed by others as important. The saddest part is that we are seeking acknowledgement and self-esteem boost from people who aren't there.
The selfie may very well be the harbinger of our disconnection as a society. We have turned inward and are using veritable strangers to bolster our fragile egos. We sit alone and feel that we are with people because we are posting pictures of ourselves online to hundreds. It's even worse when we are with a group of people, but actively remove ourselves to seek approval/validation from our online "audience." We are drifting away from each other, but under the impression that we are closer than ever. It's arm's-length intimacy at its finest.
Social media warps our real relationships.
The ego strokes we get from selfies and posts/tweets set an invisible, unintentional bar for our real-world relationships. We feel good when we get "likes" and "retweets" of things we say and pictures we take. Because of those positive feelings, our real relationships start falling short. Your significant other telling you that you look nice cannot compare to 100+ likes and comments like "Damn! You look HOT!" This can subconsciously create a rift between you that you cannot mend.
Bottom line: Self-esteem doesn't come from a selfie. It comes from within. It comes from feeling good about you because you like who you are — not what others validate. My advice: Put down your phone and have a conversation.
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Charles J. Orlando is relationship expert and author of the bestselling book series “The Problem with Women… is Men®.” Find out more about Charles on his website, or visit him on Facebook for real-world love advice.