If you’re a part of any social media network, you’re probably intimately familiar with the term “selfie”. It’s a word - a real one, recently added to the Oxford Dictionary just under a year ago - that means a person takes a picture of his or herself, usually for posting on social media networks. It’s become nothing short of a phenomenon over the past decade or so. It was basically a trademark of my entire generation. Ever since I became a teenager, the majority of my photos are ones that I’ve taken myself. Why? To be honest, because it’s a total confidence booster.
Smartphones have made selfies easier than ever before. The only thing better than taking pictures of yourself from a digital camera or a rear-facing smartphone camera is being able to take a picture of yourself while looking at yourself at the same time thanks to the front-facing camera. Vain? Maybe. But, at the same time, even the most unconfident of individuals can find that perfect angle that makes them think to themselves, “Huh, I don’t look too bad here.” The smartphone’s front-facing camera takes the guesswork out of a selfie. Prior to having one, one would take tons of photos blindly, hoping to find just one shot that looked really good. But with a front-facing camera? I can see exactly what the photo is going to look like before I even take it. Amazing. Now I feel great about it and it only takes the fraction of a time that it used to.
I have no doubt in my mind that smartphones and selfies have created an entire generation of overly confident individuals, at least on the Internet. At the same time, another aspect of smartphones can just as easily tear that confidence down: ease of access to social media and the anonymity of the Internet.
People, for the most part, simply don’t take selfies to keep to themselves. When they’ve finally found that perfect picture that they’re proud of, they want to share it with others. Social media has taught us that our worth can be measured in “Likes”, “Upvotes”, “Shares”... that kind of thing. Unfortunately, by posting these pictures you also risk partaking in another phenomenon that seems to be positively (negatively, actually) booming right now: bullying.
Bullying has been happening since the dawn of time, but it’s only recently hit an all-time high, it would seem, with the invention of Internet. It’s true that the Internet breeds confidence in more ways than one, even if you’re not sharing photos of yourself that you’ve taken yourself. In fact, people who are doing exactly the opposite are also feeling confident because they can be completely anonymous using the Internet. Given that smartphones have given us such easy access to the Internet, to just about any type of social media website out there, bullying is as impossible to avoid as a steady stream of selfies. It’s a win/lose situation for many. We want to be “Liked” and “Upvoted”, but when you have the confidence to put yourself in those situations you’re also risking getting just the opposite.
When I started writing this article, my original focus was to just talk about how well selfies boosted confidence. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that although smartphones and their front-facing cameras have given my generation a great deal of confidence (sometimes a little too much, it would seem), it doesn’t come without its consequences. The potential to be bullied and having that confidence completely stripped from a person is very easy to come across with social media sites like Instagram or YouTube. The good Internet giveth and it taketh away, and smartphones has only hastened the ability to do both.
It’s a wonderful, horrible thing to realize. On the one hand, who doesn’t want to be confident in themselves? On the other hand, who wants to have their entire day potentially ruined by a single comment? The whole ordeal is just a roller coaster of emotions, but that’s just the way my generation has grown up.
I’m only slightly worried as to how this will affect us as we get older.