For homo digital, whose life is developing on social platforms, defined by virtual likes and measured by numbers of virtual friends, visits and comments, Selfie replaces Self.
We used to be Selves. This was in the age of BC: Before CellPhone. Now, in the age of AC, After CellPhone, we are becoming Selfies. One might say that Selfie is just a contemporary form of a photograph of oneself, just with more sophisticated tricks to appear better and impress more. But for homo digital, whose life is developing on social platforms, defined by virtual likes and measured by numbers of virtual friends, visits and comments, Selfie replaces Self. The interplay between Self and Selfie can be confusing and dramatic as in the story of one nice girl, whose nick was Selfie-Girl.
But first she called her self Ugly Duckling. Delicately introverted, thirsty for recognition, she felt lost and unnoticed among peers. In her diary she composed long lists of things about herself she found embarrassing and wanted to change: from the color of her hair to the tone of her voice. She did not like how she looked and how she was treated by others. She was not happy to be who she was.
Then Facebook emerged. “Building my profile really became my second birth!” She was able to create herself exactly as she wanted. Inspired by the digital thrill of self-design, she played in a “virtual fairytale of my life.” Selfies became building blocks of her new identity. She could choose her look: change the color of her hair and eyes, form of her nose, shape of her legs or style of her dress. She could virtually be in the surroundings she wants: change the furniture in her room or the view from her window. She could virtually attend any party she desired. She could virtually be a friend with so many people. Fascinated by their daughter’s computer skills, her loving parents happily provided her with every new model of cellphone and full access to the most advanced apps and programs. She felt happy. She turned her Self of Ugly Duckling into Selfie of a Happy Girl. Her avatar showed a truly beautiful artfully crafted Selfie Girl.
She felt that “Selfie is my true I” and considered Selfies as an effective way of enchancing self-esteem, deepen self-understanding and improving relationships with others. “My Selfies reveal the best of my personality that can be missed in real life.” “I am anxious with people in the room. It makes me awkward. People do not find me attractive. But my Selfies show me without anxiety, free and beautiful. I always get lots of likes.”
Then Selfie Girl discovered that the relationships between Self and Selfie are more complicated and can be alarmingly confusing. She felt “lost in between Self and Selfie, between reality and virtuality.” “I formatted my embarrassing Self into my nice Selfie. What is my real I, then? Have I shown my true self or I am getting depersonalized?”
This self-searching inquiry was dramatically interrupted by a gravely serious illness. After several, very difficult and very sad months, medicine was able to suggest only palliative care. This young and beautiful girl was facing death. The girl and her family stayed close together, dealing with the tragedy with dignity and honesty. Her death and related practicalities was discussed. She herself asked that her gravestone be in the form of a Cellphone with her favorite Selfie. She felt this was the true her and she wanted to be remembered this way. After her death her wish was honored. (The gravestone master noted that he had already made a number of monuments in the form of a Cellphone with a Selfie.)
The Selfie Girl is a millennial who saw herself as Selfie. She represented the 21st century. The previous 20th is called a century of Self, with creation of a special discipline known as Self-Psychology. The current 21st century has started as a century of Selfie. The very word ‘Selfie’ was inaugurated, made its way to the Oxford Dictionary and gained the title of word of year. Is it time to Selfie-Psychology?
Elena Bezzubova, Ph.D. maintains a private practice as a psychoanalyst in Newport Beach and teaches at the New Center for Psychoanalysis in Los Angeles.