Are all those Selfies Shrinking Your Soul?

Certain tribes around the world believe that every photograph taken of a person steals part of their soul, a part they’ll never get back. It sounds like the premise of a low-budget horror movie starring a washed up Tara Reid anxiously taking selfies to improve her self-esteem while unknowingly killing herself in the process. The question is – are they right? This narcissistic trend of constantly taking photos of ourselves to show other people that A: We have at least 1 hand (to hold the phone) and B: A functional face – is brought about by our new found need to appear more awesome. But is it having the opposite effect?

Gone are the days when people had a bit of mystery about them.  We’ve gone from a reserved to an extremely open society in a short space of time. “But Jon, you’re the author of a travel blog, your words are effectively selfies from the depths of you mind, stop being a hypocrite!” I know, and it’s something I struggled with when deciding to do this. It’s partly true that writing about my experiences and taking photos of myself in the midst of those experiences are kinda similar, but I’m doing what people have done for thousands of years, while the selfie is a new phenomenon that perfectly encapsulates a generational shift that we should be trying to halt.

Or am I just jealous and bitter?

The selfie isn’t really my angle. I never look good in them (whenever my girlfriend forces one on me) and it’s become an experience I really dislike. I’ve never been all that into having my photo taken at the best of times, but if it’s going to happen I’d rather give my camera to someone else and let them loose. I read a discussion on the topic of bloggers featuring too few (or too many) photos of themselves on their blog and it got me thinking. I hardly feature any photos of myself, the main reason being that the photo of that amazing view or building isn’t enhanced at all by my presence. You never see the authors of National Geographic articles (or travel articles in newspapers/proper websites) posing for pictures next to famous landmarks; it’s never been a part of travel writing in the past and I don’t see why it needs to be now.

Give the people what they want

People consume social media in the same way as any other form of entertainment. The masses want easily digestible images that require no thought and what better than a selfie in front of some great scenery to achieve that. A friend of mine commented recently that a photo she took of some amazing old rock-art in Sri Lanka got way less likes than a selfie of her before a night out. Am I missing out on a whole lot of readers because I don’t plaster my Facebook page with selfies?

The tribes might be right

The notion of photos stealing your soul might not be too far from the mark. Does someone who takes thousands of photos of themselves lose something in the process? Does the growth of the narcissistic aspects of our personalities consume other more noble ones? These are questions we might never get the answers to, but next time you are staring into your smart phone screen with your finger over the trigger, think whether the world really needs another photo of your face, you might be surprised by the answer.

Do you take a lot of selfies? Maybe you can explain the appeal to me; I’m always willing to learn!

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Jon Algie

A travel blogger from New Zealand who hates talking about himself in the third person and has no imagination when it comes to naming websites.
Nacpan beach, one of the beaches of El Nido, Palawan, The Philippines
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  1. July 5, 2014 at 1:44 pm — Reply

    Great read 🙂 i share your view on selfies, in the way that it would never pop into my head ‘oh this is a great place for a selfie! Imagine how much of someones soul dissapears if you film them at 60fps haha!

    • July 6, 2014 at 11:13 pm — Reply

      Haha, that might explain the attitudes of a lot of actors!

  2. July 6, 2014 at 1:36 am — Reply

    I don’t mind seeing an occasional selfie, but there are some sites that are just plastered with them and it screams narcissist to me. As you noted, a blog is already a bit on the narcissistic side as it is.

    When I visit a blog to read an article about a location, I don’t need or want to see the author with a selfie posing by something or with food placed next to their open mouth. I want to see images of the place, the buildings, the people, etc. An occasional selfie is fine, but if 3/4 or 3/5 photos in a post is a selfie, methinks they have some ego issues. It’s a definite turnoff.

    • July 6, 2014 at 11:21 pm — Reply

      I agree, the odd selfie (or other photo of the author) is OK, if it fits the post!

  3. July 6, 2014 at 10:06 pm — Reply

    We do feature selfies on our site. It’s all about going local, so we want to show ourselves at home on Gran Canaria. But above all, we want to promote Gran Canaria as both a relocation and travel destination. So, you’ll see more of the island than us.

    • July 7, 2014 at 11:20 pm — Reply

      I think as long as there aren’t too many it’s fine. Sounds like a great place to live by the way!

  4. July 6, 2014 at 10:44 pm — Reply

    555 Great blog title. I’m an GenXer so we’re of a different breed. I have friends who refuse to use FB and I don’t think the younger generations can say that. Selfies are fun for me, but not an obsession – I’d rather be behind the camera feeling creative.

    In h.s. my friend Lava told me that she believed pictures of her took a little of her soul away. It seemed strange at the time, but these days, I think you might have hit upon something true.

    • July 7, 2014 at 11:23 pm — Reply

      Thanks Lani, I’d much rather just be taking photos and not appearing in them too!

  5. Maria Falvey
    July 7, 2014 at 8:28 am — Reply

    It is intriguing. I don’t need a photo of myself to know what I look like, nor do I need a photo of me with (fill in the blank) to show that I was there but then I also don’t generally buy concert/festival T-shirts. Maybe the selfie craze is linked to the fear of missing out/being left out? *shrug*

    • July 7, 2014 at 11:24 pm — Reply

      Yeah, maybe people make up so much stuff these days that they need selfies to convince people they were actually there!

  6. July 8, 2014 at 9:28 pm — Reply

    To me “selfies” are the most annoying trend at the moment! I always have the urge to say: “I know what you look like, stop showing it to me every few days!!!” Some people seem to think they are hip following this trend, for me it’s a reason to “unfollow” them…

    • July 10, 2014 at 12:46 am — Reply

      Haha, the no make up selfies were worse!

  7. July 9, 2014 at 6:07 pm — Reply

    I couldn’t help but laugh at the though of this image ( as a selfie picture instead.

    Made my day.

    • July 10, 2014 at 12:47 am — Reply

      Haha, it could actually be a selfie!!

  8. July 13, 2014 at 8:57 am — Reply

    It’s like you read my mind! I think the same kind of things. I am not big on selfies but I never was big on being in pictures. I like seeing people I know in their photos occasionally, but not every photo. It’s like everyone is marketing themselves.

    • July 13, 2014 at 3:42 pm — Reply

      Yeah! That’s pretty much what social media has become – marketing ourselves, but to who?!

  9. July 17, 2014 at 4:46 am — Reply

    With the Selfie craze, the West should be a land of Zombies. Very interesting points, definitely. The Arabs of Jordan have similar beliefs too, and the archaeological sites at Petra are to die for. As with all cultures, respect is the number one priority.

    • September 25, 2014 at 11:34 pm — Reply

      Haha, some would argue it is becoming the land of the zombies!

  10. July 18, 2014 at 11:17 am — Reply

    The funny thing to its that almost all the selfies look the same, the only difference is usually the background. In this day and age it’s always about me me me…. and not us, they or we

    • September 25, 2014 at 11:35 pm — Reply

      Yip, it’s not a great road to be going down…

  11. Shane Parker
    December 21, 2014 at 5:46 am — Reply

    I miss the days when the word “selfie” didn’t exist…(and it wasn’t really that long ago)!

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