The Selfie: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

A selfie is an artwork of a person that gets put on display for public eyes to see (Evans N, 2017). It dates back centuries ago and has developed over time to something that people often question now a days. Urban Dictionary (2009) defines a selfie differently as it focuses on using Social Media as a platform to post and share. It also explains that it needs to be taken by the person in the photo itself.

According to Google the first selfie was taken in 1839 by Robert Cornelius, although I think that we can all agree that self portraits, even though they were not take by a camera, have been around for longer than we can think back to as self painted portraits were popular when cameras hadn’t even been invented.

To help me explain all of this history, I found this YouTube Video where this kid explains everything the way I wanted to, check it out!



Since Alex has done a great job of explaining everything I was going to focus on, lets look at the moral panics of the selfie, how selfies now a days are being used for great issues and campaigns, and also how they are creating issues.

Moral Panics become an issue or a panic when certain ways and “practices are adopted within society by young people, women, or people of colour” (Cohen, 2002). The biggest panic about the selfie is the sexualisation that some females (and males) present in their photos. Sexualisation has become a big issue in society now a days and is now captured by individuals themselves. Cleavage, bare flesh and not enough smiles has become the age where sexualisation has grown rapidly in the photos that we take today. Consciously or not, they are taken to make ourselves look and feel good about ourselves and to get the most ‘likes’ on our photos. Images get taken most of the time only to be shared onto some form of a social media platform, whether it be, Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook and so forth. Social media has now become “the broadcasting tool to create and advertise the personal brand. Their online avatar spruiks the image they want to sell to their peers” (Gorman V, 2013). To reduce the panic, one can only monitor and control the sensible usage of what young people do with their social media accounts along with who and what they are sharing.

Selfies while they can be sexualised and can demean individuals, they can also be used for creating awareness for issues that happen within the world. A great example of a campaign that went international was the ‘No Makeup Selfie Challenge’. It was created to produce awareness and to raise money for Cancer Research in the UK. It took over Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter in the matter of days and trended for months reaching people all around the world, even celebrities were putting their two cents in.

Creating awareness about big issues and getting thousands of people around the issue to support the agency or people involved is going to be successful of Social Media is used as it is the biggest communication platform in the world and can reach hundreds of thousands of people in the matter of seconds with a simple hashtag (#).

Another great example is the “It’s  okay to talk” campaign where males took a stance against depression and suicide within the male population to create awareness. The Campaign was driven by UK Rugby League player Luke Ambler after his brother in law committed suicide in 2014. It took men around the world by storm as the statistics came into the open and started to be talked about. The caption on the photos posted stated:

In 2014, 174 males aged 20-24 years died by suicide, considering all causes of death this accounted 34.9% of deaths among 20-24 year old males. That is a horrible percentage for such a young demographic. In addition, the single biggest killer of men aged under 45 is suicide. In 2014, 2160 took their own life in Australia. That’s 6 men every day, 1 man every 4 hours!

41% of men who contemplated suicide felt they could not talk about their feelings and only 20% of people know that suicide is the most likely cause of death for men age under 45.
People need to remember that a person is not inferior if they experience depressing or suicidal thoughts and more importantly it is not weak to talk about those thoughts with others, in fact it is probably one of the bravest things a person can to do.

So if you have something troubling you please talk to your friends or family! And to those who know of someone doing it tough, make sure you talk to them!!!

While selfies can make a positive impact around the world through making awareness toward particular issues there are also some issues that can be raised with selfies themselves. Like discussed before from Gorman, the selfie is about broadcasting and advertising your personal brand which can be an issue. Why you make ask? There are perfectionist in the world, and people that care (too much) about their image and how they are portrayed and if they can’t get that perfect selfie and don’t like how they look, serious issues may arise for some – serious  issues being depression, low self-esteem and suicide. One particular news story that is mentioned in ‘What Does the Selfie Say? The Global Phenomenon’ by Senft & Baym (This weeks reading) was the UK teen (Danny) that attempted suicide because he was not satisfied with the quality and outcome of his selfie. Aldridge and Harden reported for the Mirror UK that Danny left school at 16, lost weight to make himself feel better and took over 200 selfies a day which consumed 10 hours of his day. His mum Penny saved him from his overdose and has been treated for his technology addiction, OCD, and Body Dysmorphic Disorder (Excessive anxiety about person appearance). Danny told Mirror UK that he would often get bullied online by the comments he would get on the selfies he posted, but when he did get a nice comment he would be on a high. Although Danny had a life saving outcome to his story, there are many that don’t. While this is an extreme case of a negative impact of selfies, it is important to not forget the lesser extremes – the people that don’t appreciate their body, looks and way of life.

All in all, the Selfie has taken the world by storm with its campaigns, history and communication through networks that it is an ever developing product that will be around for centuries more.

If you or someone you know needs help you can contact the following:

Lifeline Australia: 13 11 14
Beyond Blue: 1300 224 636
Kids Helpline: 1800 551 800




Aldridge G et al. 2014, The selfie addict that took TWO HUNDREAD a day – and tried to kill himself when he couldn’t take perfect photo, viewed 19 March 2017, <>.

Baym N K, Senft T M 2015, What does the selfie say? Investigating the Global Phenomenon, The International Journal of Communication, pp. 1 – 14.

Cohen, S 2002, Folks devils and moral panics: The creation of the mods and rockers (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Taylor & Francis.

Evans, N 2017, The Self, University of Wollongong, NSW Australia.

Gorman V 2013, Social Media, sexualisation and the selfie generation, viewed 19 March 2017, <>.

Press Association 2014, No-Makeup Selfies raise £8m for Cancer Research UK in six days, viewed 19 March 2017, <>.

Unickle A 2017, The Evolution of the Selfie, viewed 19 March 2017, <>.

Urban Dictionary 2009, Selfie definition, viewed 18 March 2017, <>.

Wilson, G 2016, Why guys are getting personal online – the social media campaign driven by the boys, viewed 19 March 2017, <–the-social-media-campaign-driven-by-the-boys/news-story/b18cb728398904d8ec3710c567acf5ac>.



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