The selfie, representation and a little clarification

In this morning’s discussion of selfies, I let it be known my dislike for the selfie concept and my discomfort with photos being taken of me in general. I feel in the subsequent discussion I did not fully represent my views on the matter, so I thought I would use this as a forum to properly convey my views.

I am aware many of those who are reading this will not have attended the seminar, so to summarise why the discussion came about: Professor Sayer asked members of the class to submit “selfies” of themselves for the rest of the class to talk about. I submitted two images of my by-line for the student newspaper, as well as a more conventional selfie. It was the first time I had taken a selfie.

I think most – if not all – people try to give a certain representation of themselves, whether this is in conversation with others, when performing a certain task, or indeed when a photograph is being taken of them. I think I may be slightly more sensitive to this idea than others, however, and I certainly like to control how I am represented, whether that is in writing or the way I appear to be in photographs. There are very few photographs of me on social media, and I am very selective with those that I allow on my Facebook timeline.

One member of the class asked me a great question which I feel I failed to answer sufficiently: surely selfies are the best way to gain the control over my image that I don’t necessary obtain when others take my photograph? My answer would still be no, but there are two reasons for this. The first is the very strange angle that the camera is in in relation to the subject/referent. The closeness, immediacy and indeed intimacy of the position of the camera in relation to my face almost lends itself to the gormless gawping that so many selfie subjects seem to have in common, and this is not how I would like myself to be represented.

The second reason is that the selfie tends to focus purely on the subject’s face, and I dislike the idea that I should be represented purely by my face. I think this largely stems from the lack of decision-making involved: I can choose whether to wear a hat or other accessory and I can choose what emotion I want to reveal on my face, but beyond that there is very little I can control and this therefore makes taking a selfie quite a high-risk choice. If the emotion on my face is different to how I wanted it to be when the photo was taken, I feel I have been misrepresented. If you see more of my body you can see the clothes I have chosen to wear; if you can see the scenery behind me you can see where I have chosen to take the photograph. The same cannot (on the whole) be said of a selfie.

I would also like to stress that my (perhaps extreme) view on the selfie does not stem from a want to be forgotten – like everyone I would like to be remembered. However, I would also like to choose what I am remembered for. I think everybody feels like this to a greater or lesser degree, and I suppose the great wealth of photos that can now be taken means that every drunken photo from the Sugarhouse will always be offset by the fantastic photos from your holiday. Personally, however, I would be far too worried about the former to give much attention to the latter.

I hope that clarifies everything and I would also like to stress that I don’t lose sleep over this subject, but I hope it offers some thoughts about trying to control how you are represented in an age when everybody has a camera and can therefore undermine that control.


A case in point.

A case in point.


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