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How many likes? #NationalSelfieDay

How many selfies do you have on your phone? Today is National Selfie Day, and love them or hate them, you’ve probably taken at least one selfie in your lifetime (some of you, at least one in the last 5 minutes). But what’s the big deal with selfies? Since the creation of the camera phone, people have been snapping pics of themselves and sending them to their friends or posting them online. It’s hard to go an hour without seeing a flawless celebrity selfie being posted up online, sometimes with a host of other celebs hanging out in the background, and almost certainly being liked and commented on by millions of people across the world. Whether it’s a no make-up selfie, or a selfie with 5 filters, taking away every possible imperfection, we cannot escape our obsession with them.

But why are we obsessed? There is an idea that was developed over 100 years ago by Charles Horton Cooley, that may help us discover the answer to our question. Cooley came up with the concept of the “Looking Glass Self.” He explained how each person develops a sense of self by doing three things. Firstly, we imagine how the people around us view us. Secondly, we imagine the judgements that people make about us based on what we think they see. And finally, we act accordingly. We change our behaviour based upon how we feel we are viewed. Cooley believed that our sense of self develops as we interact with the world around us. So, as we think about the power that social media has within our world, could our obsession with the selfie, be linked with this concept?

Whenever we post a picture of ourselves we are asking a question. Whether it’s the dream selfie that took 45 minutes to perfect, or a candid shot, designed to make people laugh, we always have other people in mind.

Possible thoughts are: How will I be received? Will the reaction from the people I know affirm or deny my current image of myself? If I don’t get a certain number of likes (insert number here) should I delete the picture?

I wouldn’t want people thinking that my worth was measured by how few likes I got on that last picture I posted. Unless of course I got a shed load of likes. Then feel free to stand in awe. 

No matter what age we are, there is a treacherous terrain of human interaction laid out before us. All of which have the potential to build us up, or tear us down. There is something foundational about our desire for affirmation, but should it bind us so tightly?

Brené Brown offers us some insight into this, “We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honour the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness and affection.” It is in this offering of vulnerability that we have the chance to grow in our ability to own our stories and gain a vital hold upon our own self-image.

Selfies can be fun and show various sides of who we are, but selfie or no selfie, lots of likes or no likes, we need to be able to share our real self (the good and the not so good) to people through healthy relationships and confidence in who we are.

Click here to find out about our Esteem programme which covers some of these topics with young people.

Gary Bruce

Youth Development Worker