Fashion, Image: The Plight of the Selfie

Staff photo by Shawn Paik

Almost immediately upon arriving anywhere, the first matter of business is to take a picture. There is now an unspoken rule that if we do not have photographic proof of almost every second of our lives, we do not exist — our daily sense of reality rests on the ability for others to see us.

Social media platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat make it easier than ever to document our daily interactions and style choices. As a student living in New York City, it is just as easy to see people walking around dressed in the latest looks, sporting some of the most coveted fashions.

With the rise of fashion bloggers and street photographers, the pressure to look put-together at all times is now at an all-time high. Of course relishing in a fun or bold ensemble is not a bad thing, but when the only reason to dress up is to document it, some of the pleasure in the experience of wearing the clothing itself is lost.

Fashion should not only be about how many likes or retweets a look can generate. It should be a way of expressing oneself in the real world, regardless of whether we or someone else is capturing the moment. For the occasional formal outing or casual get-together, dozens of style photos are the norm, but the average person does not need a daily digital record of his or her own closet.

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Validation from social media extends far past the realm of fashion as well. People also do not look nor need to look camera-ready every moment of their lives, and the craze surrounding selfies is most troubling when it promotes the illusion that the person in the photograph and the person in reality look the same. Celebrities and students alike use filters and various editing tools to make themselves look more appealing or to exaggerate specific features.

The online world of photo sharing has created a virtual platform for people to judge and critique one another based on how well they can make themselves appear to be. The line between who a person is online and who he or she is off the screen is blurred, and sometimes not even that person can determine which is the truth anymore.

Granted, active sharing on social media is not entirely negative. Plenty of successful people have expanded their careers on photo platforms. Unlike a few years ago, the possibility of building a reputable career on social media is a reality, and more young people are taking advantage of this medium.

Social media mavens Chiara Ferragni and Leandra Medine boosted their fashion presence with photographs of fun outfits and daily postings on their blogs The Blond Salad and Man Repeller, respectively. Ferragni is now employed by prominent fashion brand Guess, and Medine boasts recognition from the highest of industry insiders along with a loyal fan base of readers.

The dilemma with hyperactive social media accounts lies in the purpose — having a large collection of selfies simply to prop up self-worth will never be of benefit in the long run. Discretion is essential — no one is interested in seeing every second documented under three filters and 30 hashtags.

Enjoy life, enjoy fashion and capture the moments in your own memory. After all, some things are just more beautiful off-camera. And for the especially good days, perhaps a quick selfie wouldn’t hurt.

A version of this article appeared in the print version of Fringe Fall 2014. Email Gianna Collier-Pitts at [email protected]

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