Friday 17 August 2018

Note to selfie - Take more pictures

Chrissie Russell

Nothing says 'sunbathing in California' like a picture of a bronzed, headless torso taken in a sterile, dimly-lit bathroom mirror.

Or so it seemed this week when Ireland striker Robbie Keane's wife Claudine posted a snap of her lithe, bikini-clad body on Twitter, telling fans: "Working on our tans today. LA is scorching!! Cx."

But anyone who saw the image knew it was less about the temperature on the West Coast and more about the model's scorching hot body.

It was the perfect 'selfie', a self-taken camera phone shot, ubiquitous in today's narcissistic, voyeuristic world of social networking. A picture may paint a thousand words, but the selfie only says three: look at me.

Sexy selfies, such as Keane's, are increasingly de rigueur online. Model Georgia Salpa's Instagram account is overflowing with busty, navel-gazing shots taken in mirrors, iPhone camera in right hand.

The holiday selfie is another firm favourite. Earlier this year, presenter Amanda Byram strained to capture an envy-inducing snap of Abu Dhabi, tweeting: "Good sunny Sunday morning from Abu Dhabi (before I lean too far getting a good angle and fall off this balcony)." While Saturdays singer Una Healy generated 6,240 'likes' for an Instagram shot of her crotch by a pool earlier this month.

As the face of Dublin Festival of Fashion, it's unsurprising that presenter Laura Whitmore has become a dab hand at the fashion selfie, posting poses in everything from cheap and cheerful Topshop glasses to high-end Victoria Beckham frocks.

Other Irish celebs' selfies have showcased the product-loving selfie such as Rosanna Davison loving her lashes ("Lashes put in today from @uptomyeyes in Greystones, I heart them!"); Pippa O'Connor strolling with her buggy ("Evening walk #StokkeXplory"); and Rozanna Purcell happy with her hair ("Thanks @GreatLengthsIRE for my bouncy blowdry").

In a world where image is everything, it's not surprising so many celebrities have latched on to this new means of promoting their brand.

"Selfies are another tool in the sales technique box," says Cork-based counselling psychologist and psychotherapist Sally O'Reilly (sallyoreilly.com).

"Many celebrities are sold purely on the basis of how they look. In this way selfies are advertisements, simply part of the business."

Irish glamour model and prolific selfie poster Laura Lacole agrees. "I think of selfies more as a business promo," she explains.

"If people compliment, I take it as a nod for that material. If people share it and like it, that grows and widens my audience which ultimately results in modelling work."

Promoting a self-image is nothing new – the self-portrait has after all been around for centuries. If they were alive today, perhaps Picasso would be posting face-manipulated Photoboost snaps and Van Gogh would gaze moodily in Tweetpics (#coolfilter).

But the crucial difference is that today's selfies aren't as much about tortured artists as torturing the viewer by presenting an enviable life.

Whether it's Rihanna snapping shots of her toned bottom or Meryl Streep striking a pose with Hillary Clinton, the selfie almost always casts its taker's world in the best light possible.

This explains why mere mortals (with no hope of marketing deals) have jumped on the selfie bandwagon.

"We tend to emulate celebrities," explains O'Reilly.

"We're bombarded with these images which then seep into our consciousness as 'normal' and attainable."

But she warns that the selfie 'perfect' life rarely shows the whole picture.

"My instinct is that it's more about keeping up the appearance of the good life, showing the good side, not exposing the normal, dull, boring, possibly even difficult or painful reality," she says.

Moreover, rather than demonstrating self-confidence, serial selfies could actually signal a lack of self-esteem.

"People who are secure, self-confident and self-assured, who love themselves, accept themselves and are secure that their relationships are based on real feelings and trust are not selfie candidates," reveals O'Reilly.

"There are many among us who need constant feedback, approval and admiration and the selfie is a way to meet these needs.

"As someone looking in, it's important to remember the selfie is a mere snapshop, an advert chosen by the seller. They are not the whole picture and shouldn't be trusted as representations of anything other than just that."

Irish Independent

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