Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

Opinion

April 21, 2014

Tidbits: "Selfie" destruction

CROSSVILLE — Technology continues to profoundly impact our daily lives, from the Heartbleed Bug that put hundreds of thousands of websites at risk of compromising customer usernames and passwords, to the little light that tries to tell me I'm about to run out of gas. Technology also impacts our language, with new words being created to describe the latest gizmo, gadget or trend.

Take "selfie," the 2013 word of the year from the Oxford Dictionary. A "selfie" is a photo you take of yourself and then post to social media sites. Oxford believes the word originated with one of our friends from down-under in 2002, who snapped a picture of his bottom lip after he tripped on a set of steps after being out celebrating a buddy's 21st birthday.

"And sorry about the focus, it was a selfie."

Now, we have all sorts of "selfies" posted every day on sites like Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat and others. These range from "I just got a new haircut and I wanted to show it off" to "Hey, look at me! I'm about to go out on the town with my friends, but first I thought I'd snap a pic of me in front of the bathroom mirror." I'm not personally a fan of the "selfie," but I've taken my fair share, I admit. It always seems like there is this awkward arm angle. You can always tell a "selfie" from a candid shot a friend got. I prefer the picture from the friend.

But "seflies" are here and they are here to stay. People take "selfies" riding down the road, lying in bed, at the gym, at a restaurant, exposing their abs, making funny faces and more. Some have even taken "selfies" of themselves pretending to sleep.

Last week, I saw more than a few of the "I'm at the beach with my toes in the water selfies." As we were trying to get the temperature back up to the 50s and 60s after spring snow shower on Tuesday, these "selfies" were rubbing salt on the wound for those of us not on vacation.

Mental health experts have even identified "selfie" obsessions, and it's not a laughing matter. Some people describe spending hours trying to get just the perfect shot, the perfect angle that makes them look like a superstar. Consulting psychiatrist David Veale at The Priory Hospital in London talks about a rise in those with Body Dysmorphic Disorder who have a compulsion to repeatedly take and post "selfies." A British teen's obsession with snapping the perfect "selfie" led to a suicide attempt.

Obviously, the "selfie" itself is not to blame for these consequences. It's another way the social media takes the same old feelings and emotions most of us deal with regularly and then magnifies them.

I like having Facebook. It's great to catch up with old friends and see what my far-flung social network is up to. But it can also take those things like keeping up with the Joneses or seeking approval to a new level. There have been studies that show Facebook use can lead to depression. People get down in their statuses aren't liked or responded to.

"Selfies" are much like this. If you post a picture of yourself and people don't like it or comment on it, does that mean you have some flaw? No, but if you already are struggling with issues of body image or depression, it can make you think that. If you find yourself struggling with depression, there are resources available to help you. Reach out to the friends and family you have "in real life," and find the balance you need to have a healthy, happy recovery.

Of course, not every person posting a "selfie" is seeking approval or fishing for compliments, but I wonder sometimes how well thought out some of them are. Sometimes, when taking a picture, we focus on the smile, the eyes, etc., but we don't notice the background, like a dirty bathroom. If you're taking a picture in your bathroom, you might want to get the dirty clothes out of the frame.

Also, many of our young people may not realize that their posts now will never go away. Be mindful of the image you are projecting into the world. Forego the skimpy "selfie" with the puckered up lips or the beer bottle "selfie."

The best "selfies" are those where you're just being you. Don't try too hard. Be yourself because lots of people out there like you for your personality — not your great hair or your six-pack abs or because you gained or lost five pounds.

• • •

Heather Mullinix is assistant editor of the Crossville Chronicle. Her column is published on Tuesdays. She may be reached at hmullinix@crossville-chronicle.com.

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