Author – Eshaa Patnaik

Intense dialectic between exclusion and self-empowerment?

Time.com-Me-GenerationAre you selfie ready? The new Pond’s “#PondsSelfieReady” TV ad campaign uses this punch line to attract more youngsters to participate in their contest. My first reaction as any young self-respecting and media savvy person was that I should try it out and post my first selfie on Facebook at least. Most brands have tried to leverage the word to their advantage. So much so that in the recent 16th Lok Sabha elections, our prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi used it to his fullest advantage. Modi took selfies at numerous occasions and connected with the emerging crowd of “net generation Indians”. Our youth are imbued with sophisticated technical skills and to connect with them or use their language, one would require being media savvy.

For those who came in late, a selfie is a self-portrait photograph, typically taken either with a camera held at arm’s length or in a mirror. The popularity of the word “selfie” can also be gauged from the fact that Oxford Dictionaries announced it as the “word of the year” for 2013. This year there may not be something as popular. To be honest, it definitely captures a snapshot of our social-media-obsessed moment. Social media was earlier accused of feeding the voyeuristic urges of people, but now it’s taken on an entirely new meaning.

Our social media has one defining feature now. It’s absurd stress on self-absorption… Gone are the days of looking at oneself in the mirror and being happy at your reflection. Now we need nothing short of at least 20 comments on our selfie posted on Facebook to make us happy. I got many responses when I asked around about the so called “selfie generation” or category. Some felt that it was a sheer waste of time, some felt it was something that only teens engaged in; but the most interesting comment that I received was that the selfie helped in self-realization.

It satisfied the urge to announce that “they had arrived” and most importantly to use their space in social media as a personal memorial. The trend has caught on very recently of being individualistic and different. And nothing better than using the internet and social media to announce it to the world. The narcissist culture on cyberspace has firmly established itself.

Komal Jha Selfie Via wikipedia.org
Komal Jha Selfie Via wikipedia.org

Are we talking about a trend here or have the youth always been a confused and self-absorbed lot? Is it something to do with the present one, the Millennial Generation (starting from the mid-teens to 30), or it something like a fad and caught the fancy of all for some time? In a research study done at the University of Michigan, psychologist Jean Twenge has labeled the current generation of young people the “iGeneration,” or “Generation Me“.

In her books, Jean Twenge describes how young people today “take it for granted that the self comes first”, and has labeled this time a “narcissism epidemic”, stating that we are “living in the age of entitlement”. Sara Konrath, another researcher at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research calls the current generation “one of the most self-centered, narcissistic, competitive, confident and individualistic in recent history. It’s not surprising that this growing emphasis on the self is accompanied by a corresponding devaluing of others”.

Although going to the extent of “devaluing of others” may not always be very appropriate when we talk of selfies, but a generation gap wider than the normal gap seems to be the case here.

This brings me to my first question – Selfie? Intense dialectic between exclusion and self-empowerment? Without going too deep into sociology to explain away the selfie, it definitely poses us a question. Are we not either involved in empowering ourselves with exclusivity or excluding all others from our world? It definitely is a fad for now, but the popularity of this trend makes me believe it’s something that’s going to stay on.

Factfile –
http://www.narcissismepidemic.com
http://www.generationme.org
http://time.com

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Eshaa Patnaik
I owe my interest in writing and questioning things around me to my umpteen conversations with a close group of friends. As a society, we Indians do not like to question anything around us and accept things the way they are. I strongly feel that each day should be lived well and one who can enjoy the everyday mundane things in life is the luckiest of all. My favourite past time is arguing about some non relevant topic over a cup of tea. That according to me is a celebration in itself. I work full time in the software industry as a workforce management specialist and yet, I spare time to read my favourite authors such as Arthur Hailey, Nayantara Sehgal and Shashi Deshpande.
  • Rashmi

    Nicely written article.

    Raises a lot of question about the premise of the article and I would just say technological advance , easy access to the things have got us where we are. Good/Bad only time can tell.

  • Chris Brown

    Really interesting. As a parent of two teenage boys, the pressure to “follow” places far greater pressure on the individual than more important aspects such as respect and a solid work ethic. The need to be part of the group causes them to focus on themselves and how they look rather that the person they should be. Nice work Eshaa.

  • Karthik

    Everyone likes taking Silfie, but this generation got facebook and whatsapp or instagram to publish it. its fun to showcase to world with press of a button(touch). Good research Eshaa…

  • Eshaa

    Thanks Rashmi! Comparisons will always happen between generations. If our previous generations had access to the information revolution it would have been a similar situation then.

  • Eshaa

    Thanks Chris!

  • Eshaa

    Thanks Karthik! Exploring your world is so much easier now with just the click of a button.

  • Najm Nisa

    Very knowledgeable post !I didn’t know selfie was announced at the word of the year , good god ! Every time I logged into twitter ,I would see tweets from renowned brands holding a contest “Post your fefie-family selfie’ ‘post a selfie with your mom- mothers day contest’ ‘Post a spotless face selfie of yours- Kaya skin clinic’ ‘tweet a fashionista selfie-Revlon’ blah blah !I had nothing to criticize about a selfie but as It gained popularity , it got on my nerves. There were photographs oops I meant selfie’s every single damn place ! Not a trend I like .

  • Eshaa

    Thanks Najm! Yes, technical inventions can be a bit annoying to people at times but have been very useful as well. I especially like the way in which Hillary Clinton has used it to her advantage and made a makeover. She is now one of the most popular politicians in US.

  • Hemant Badiger

    My knowledge about “Selfie” was just limited to the fact that it’s popular among youngsters & celebrities but didn’t know it’s been used by companies to promote their brands & also by politicians to reach out the masses. Terrific research Eshaa, keep up the good work.

  • Eshaa

    Thanks a lot Hemant!!

  • Santanu Gomes

    Excellent article Eshaa, I liked the simplicity and depth of your writing. Eager to read more of your articles 🙂