What's the obsession with selfies nowadays? I mean, is there no limit to the focus on ego, no end to the narcissism in this era of homo-selfieness? It's really disheartening to see so much self-obsessing people... Or is there something else going on..? Probably not...
Or am I totally wrong? I write today's short post to examine this possibility, however remote it may be ;-) So are the selfies just another sign of the consumerism driven selfishness of homo-economicus or not? Well, I don't know; maybe there's something to be said about the possibility of a selfless side to the selfie phenomenon.
We, modern humans suffer from the endowment effect, which is a psychological and behavioral trait that makes us value things more, simply because we own them. I say modern because in hunter-gatherer societies this is something unknown, and also in eastern cultures that are much more egalitarian than our western culture, the endowment effect is much less prevalent. Also children don't show the effect until they reach the age of 3 to 5 years.
This has to do with the prospect of losing something against the prospect of gaining something: the prospect of a loss weighs heavier than the prospect of a gain, so we become protective of that which we own. It's all part of the, partly cultivated, individualistic and status-driven western society. And what could be more individualistic and status-driven than taking a self-glorifying picture of yourself in front of a famous building or next to a famous person, or just you alone, with the status symbol of our times, the mobile phone. Or wait, scratch that; that should say iPhone for it to be a status symbol of course ;-)
Well, there seems to be a beginning of a reaction against the exaggerated consumerism that we all suffer from as well as our natural environment. Now I'm not talking about the super capitalistic and downright extortion-level business models built around the phenomenon, but we increasingly discover that we don't really need to own stuff. A slave-wage paying company like Uber makes use of this, the fact that we don't buy games, movies or music on DVD's or any other medium anymore, but simply pay a subscription-fee (again, no fair prices to be seen anywhere yet) and enjoy all that in the cloud. We're painfully made aware of the fact that owning a house might not be viable for most of us any time soon...
Also, attention seems to be shifting from ownership to experience. We nowadays value our experiences much more. Maybe because the majority of us earn a living doing some boring and repetitive day-job, time for personal experience has become more valuable to us, but it's clear to me that most young people I meet are much more interested to spend that money to actually do things, instead of buy things. Not that they're cured of consumerism, but I definitely see a shift towards valuing experience outside the drudgery of economical life. See the world, travel, try out sky-diving... do things, experience things.
And take a picture of yourself while you're experiencing things, then share those online. It very well may be that the selfie is not just egocentric in the classical sense, but just a way for us to document and share our experiences, our personal journey through life. I really hope that is the case. But I'm afraid it's not; in this age of mass-surveillance we're only assisting the ones who spy on us by placing our entire lifes online. It's basically self-surveillance while advertising the neoliberal message that the only real interest is self-interest. That's the subject of this video, one I tend to agree with. But we can dream, can't we?
Age of the Selfie in the Neoliberal Era
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