Thursday, February 22 2024

“We are the army of the selfie” a line of a 2017 song runs. An apt denunciation, showing how the social world is sucking us into a parallel life of photos, posts and likes. And while this song has gone out of fashion, the practice of taking selfies absolutely has not. Today everyone, young and old, takes selfies.

This mode of photographing, after all, is not that new. Before technology invented front-facing cameras, selfies were taken by turning the phone or camera. Technological evolution has only simplified and facilitated this process.

Not only that…thanks to the selfie, no one is left out of the picture anymore!

But then what has changed? Selfies have generated a strong obsession with one’s image. The fact that one can take and retake a picture until it comes out well changes the meaning and significance of taking pictures. With the selfie I look into a mirror – my smartphone – and into the eyes of everyone with whom I will share that photo, waiting to find out how many likes and comments it will elicit.

Selfie: what the latest research says

The practice of selfie taking, however, has gotten a bit out of hand, and the topic is often debated with a concerned tone especially because of the large number of teenagers who use them. Research conducted by the University Center for Statistics for Biomedical Sciences and the University Vita Salute San Raffaele showed that teens spend up to 4 hours a day on social media in 66% of cases and 2 to 4 hours in 37% of cases. The most used social networks are, in order: WhatsApp, with 92% preference, followed by TikTok with 88% and Instagram with 77%.

But where does this spasmodic need to self-report and show ourselves to others come from? Why is it that many times we prefer to spend hours and hours posting and publishing on social media instead of doing something else?

Sometimes it comes to mind that the reason why so many young people prefer to lock themselves away in this virtual world is due to a desire to escape from their own reality. Whether one spends time posting or looking at others’ postings on social networks, one is often looking for what is missing in one’s real life. Perhaps the need for confirmation, recognition, approval, affirmation, gratification… all of which are fundamental for each of us, but which in this way risk being misunderstood and poorly nurtured, being reduced to an emoticon on the screen.

The desire to receive likes: some reflections

Yet this emoticon is important to so many young people. The feedback we receive following a posting sometimes seems to be almost vital. But what do we show others? Thanks to the countless filters that apps make available there is an increasing tendency to show a retouched self-image, tending toward perfection. This practice can in the long run generate serious difficulties especially in acceptance and loving oneself.

Who said that in order to do well I must be perfect? Why must what I am depend on the judgment of someone who may not even know me?

Perhaps my identity is something more precious that deserves not to be put at the mercy of everyone. 

Each of us needs to tell the world our “I am there,” and we all recognize ourselves in the gaze of another, different from us. But in a true and concrete look that sees the reality of ourselves because our identity is something precious that deserves to be treated with care without being at the mercy of everyone.



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