James Franco and Selfie Culture

The Meanings of the Selfie

I saw this article by James Franco about selfies, and I thought I would share. When I think of the selfie, I think of Myspace, with girls in tank tops outstretching their arms above their heads and snapping pictures, maybe in front of a bathroom mirror. Is that too specific? Nowadays, however, the selfie means so much. As Franco explains, everyone’s doing it, and everywhere. People certainly are mocked for being too self-obsessed. Nonetheless, people can’t seem to resist. Franco explains:

In a visual culture, the selfie quickly and easily shows, not tells, how you’re feeling, where you are, what you’re doing.

The more we enter the virtual world, the more we love to share, and with more and more speed. Understandably, the selfie creates a sense of intimacy; you’re only an arm-length away. However, the consequences of selfie-culture seem to lie in the question: Do they actually represent the truth? Franco claims that he likes selfies because they’re more personal:

The selfie is the new way to look someone right in the eye and say, “Hello, this is me.”

Though selfies claim to do just that, I find that they can be just as perfomative as any other kind of photo. The other day, I was watching an episode of Catfish on MTV, in which a boy had been in an online relationship with a girl for six years. She had sent him a couple of photos, all of which were selfies. Then, when they met in person, she looked radically different. He was, of course, pretty pissed. What’s more, the fact that there are strategies on how to take a good selfie is proof that they do not represent real life. If we honestly believed that they did, perhaps we would’ve called them self-portraits, instead of coining this new term “selfie” with its phony connotations.


this is real life?

this is real life?

Despite the selfie’s inherent fakeness, it holds immense transformative power. Indeed, taking a photo of yourself, manipulating the lighting, the angle, maybe adding a filter, is perhaps one way of showing how all truth is subjective truth. If you claim to be one way, and represent yourself in that way, how can anyone argue that it’s not true? The selfie symbolizes truth as performance.  The more we immerse ourselves in social media, the more real our virtual selves become. I guess it becomes a matter of interpretation on whether or not the virtual world gives us the power to deceive, or the power to define our own reality.


2 thoughts on “James Franco and Selfie Culture

  1. While I do think a lot something to be said for subjective performance as self-transformation, there’s a Jezebel article that pretty much sums up what bothers me about selfies:

    “Young women take selfies because they don’t derive their sense of worth from themselves, they rely on others to bestow their self-worth on them — just as they’ve been taught. From the time they’re itty bitty, little girls are bombarded with images of idealized female forms. They’re indoctrinated with Victoria’s Secret-style cartoonishly unobtainable passive Sexiness® and told that this is what they should Be When They Grow Up. They’re being sold “flirty” child-sized Halloween costumes modeled after “sexy” adult costumes. They’re told that they’re at their best when they’re at their most decorative.

    While selfies aren’t Yay Girl Power Kum Bah Yahs, they’re not indictments of the individuals taking them, either. In a piece for the Telegraph, Harry Wallop argues that selfies are a product of our age of celebrity-obsessed narcissism and could leave young women with low self esteem.

    It is an act as modern as it is narcissistic, perfectly capturing the self-regard of our age. But it is also, some think, a worrying trend that could leave young girls, in particular, with low self-esteem.
    But I think Wallop’s got it backwards. Selfies don’t cause self esteem to drop; they’re a reflection of the warped way we teach girls to see themselves as decorative. The post-approval-post cycle continues as people become accustomed to immediate e-validation. Which came first: the selfie or feeling like shit because someone said something mean about your face on the internet?

    Selfies aren’t empowering little sources of pride, nor are they narcissistic exercises by silly, conceited bitches. They’re a logical technically enabled response to being brought up to think that what really matters is if other people think you’re pretty.”


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