I’ve always cherished the art and science of language. Having grown up the daughter of an educator, early on I was instilled with the importance of learning to speak with a vocabulary of depth and substance. Slang words, with few exceptions, were not welcomed, and certainly not encouraged in my household.
Many years later, I find myself looking intently and disturbingly at this growing trend of new words (or slangs) being introduced through pop CULT-ure into the societal vernacular, and I’m left to ponder what this co-opting of the English language is truly all about.
Just last week, I was paying a visit to my favorite nail spa to get a pedicure. Fairly relaxed and always alert to my surroundings, rather than burying my head in my cell phone checking messages or texting, which fortunately is a rarity for me, I chose to just people watch – one of my favorite pastimes. I noticed a little girl around the age of 10 or so, getting her nails done with her mom. She had finished her manicure and was sitting with her back to me with her hands under the nail dryer. I noticed she had a sweatshirt tied around her waste with a message prominently positioned at her back side that displayed in big bold letters: “BELIEVE IN YOUR SELFIE!”
I had to look twice to make sure I was reading it properly. No doubt, the message was unmistakable. But what is more unmistakable is how society and those who engineer its every move has literally shaped the behavior of so many, including and especially children!
After silently acknowledging this sight with sadness and frankly disgust, while seeing this little girl wearing such a thing and the mother who allowed her daughter to wear it, probably not giving one iota of a thought to the implications behind the message, I knew I’d have to spend some time pondering and thus writing my thoughts on the bigger picture of what’s happening here.
So what is happening?
In an article I wrote in 2014 entitled, Trending Now – NOISE! I say, “Mainstream media has long been regarded as the vehicle by which world views are inculcated. Whether fact or fiction, or some gray area in between, too many are still allowing the frame by frame images beamed daily from their TV screens (or these days, their devices) to report reality to them. Upon reflection, we might reconsider the idea that TV is not a promoter of independent vision but a medium by which vision is fed – hence the term: tel-e-vision (a.k.a Tell-a-Vision). As a result, most are not shaping their own view of themselves and their world but allowing some external influence to convey it to them, all the while becoming desensitized and disconnected from the truth of their own inner perception.”
The media (medium) is the message – the method by which words, and behaviors are fed to society – too often adopted and then integrated into ones everyday life.
Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation. – Oscar Wilde
I recall some months ago, perusing a variety of websites to get design ideas for my own. I’d stumbled upon a large creative ad agency’s website. Visually pleasing, I began to browse through the various pages and came upon a short video of a woman; a young ad executive who worked for the company. She proudly spoke about how her agency prides itself on its ability to “successfully influence the behavior of consumers through their unique process.” She of course was speaking to prospective clients, medium to large advertisers no doubt, ensuring them that this agency knew how to get the job of influence done!
Many are aware of the long practiced, tried and true methods of advertisers who routinely use words and messaging and behavior techniques to get the masses to adopt same. And same they have.
But back to the whole “believe in your selfie” thing.” What is this really all about? Although there seems to be some ambiguity as to when the word selfie officially landed on the scene of pop culture, it is said that it gained prominence in its use back in 2012 when Time magazine named the new slang term one of the top ten buzzwords of the year.
But here’s the point….
It’s not just the word or words, but the implications of what the words are suggesting.
Here’s a word: Narcissism
In yet another piece which I authored back in 2013 entitled, Tethered to Technology – Have We Reached the Point of No Return? I cite some research that was conducted and shared in a post: Facebook’s ‘dark side’ – study finds link to socially aggressive narcissism, in which it highlighted the fact that certain tendencies inherent in narcissistic personality types seemed to be further exacerbated or even initiated by constant use of social media sites like Facebook.
What’s key here is that along with the incessant use of social media sites, there is a code of behavior that sits comfortably by its side. The “selfie” phenomenon is said to have been proliferated as a way to promote a certain “flattering” image of ones self that could be posted and shared on these social networks. Ergo, the two were meant to go hand-in-hand!
Quoting directly from my “Tethered” piece I say…
“The [Facebook’s ‘dark side’] article quotes Carol Craig, a social scientist and chief executive of the Centre for Confidence and Well-being. She said young people in Britain were becoming increasingly narcissistic and Facebook provided a platform for the disorder. Craig states,’Facebook provides a platform for people to self-promote by changing profile pictures and showing how many hundreds of friends you have. I know of some who have more than 1,000.'”
“Self promote by changing profile pictures…”
And that’s where the disturbing epidemic of the Believe in your selfie resides.
So what is this really saying?
“Don’t worry, believe in your selfie. You have every tool to ensure that you will always get noticed.”
“Don’t worry, believe in your ability to stand out above the rest. We’ve made it so convenient for you.”
“Don’t worry, you won’t get left behind, as long as you follow our cues.”
Believe in your selfie, but by all means don’t truly discover the real you!
My pedicure is now done and I’ve moved over to the drying station where the little girl once sat. She’s done with her manicure now. So she flips out her phone, snaps a shot of herself, shows her mother and then says, “Mama, don’t I look pretty?”
Alexis Brooks is an award-winning broadcast journalist, #1 best-selling author of Conscious Musings – Contemplations to Transform Life and Realize Potential and is the host of the popular Higher Journeys Radio program, presented in association with Conscious Life News. Visit Alexis on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube!