Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Selfies: Sweet or Self-Centered?

Selfies!!!!

Within this "Conversation Alley with Brooke and Dali," a duel blog post by two fellow travel/lifestyle bloggers, we shall discuss both the psychology behind selfies and then the truth behind the lens, if you will, with regards to those who take selfies in particular locales in which they misrepresent either the locale, themselves, or both.

We will venture as to why people might do this, the drawbacks of presenting such misleading information to the public, and how one might act differently with regards to adventure selfie-snapping (aka more authentically and honestly) while still being able to showcase the awe-inspiring, awesome places to which one has traveled.

What we’re on about


Brooke:


So, let's start off by laying the groundwork. Selfies in general. There has been a lot of talk and focus around selfies in the last few years, so much that it has become an official term. People tend to either love them, snapping selfies of their own face routinely (some people even spending hours of their days doing this), or of themselves together with friends or a romantic partner in abundance, and then posting such on social media in rapid succession. A montage of their daily, supposedly enviable lives. Or, people tend to loathe selfies, rolling their eyes at selfie snappers in annoyance and disdain, finding the whole supreme self-focus/promotion of themselves, groan-worthy and obnoxious. These are the two camps people tend towards separating into with regard to selfies.

Dali:


Selfies and self-portraits. Both formats are in fact not as new as we might think. Leonardo da Vinci, Rembrandt, Dürer, Van Gogh, Monet, Cézanne – these and many other famous artists painted themselves. Some of their self-portraits are simply studies of human face and body, while others aim to be more creative, or are surrounded by mystery. While others still are quite witty – Raphael included himself in the painting The School of Athens which can be seen in the Vatican. Jan van Eyck immortalized himself in a little mirror in his famous painting known as The Arnolfini Portrait.

Although there is a difference in the technical way the depiction is produced (selfie = pressing a button versus traditional self-portrait = time, material and skill), the rationale behind them nowadays is or might be similar to 500 years ago.  However, many people invest so much time in posing for selfies, "perfecting" their facial expression and appearance, some even then spend hours editing them just so, that even the old masters might have struggled to keep up.

“Just cut off my ear.”
Vincent_van_Gram

Vincent van Gogh likely would have been called a “selfie freak” by today’s standards, since he depicted himself more than 40 times during his relatively short life. This, of course, was more likely caused by the level of his shaky psychological well-being, rather than self-obsession. He even painted himself with a heavy bandage soon after cutting off his own ear. Strange thing to do, right?  But is it really?  




Scrolling through Instagram today, I have the strange feeling that this would be exactly the kind of IG banger to get the most likes, comments, and followers. “Look at me, I’m such a bad-ass, just cut my ear off.” 

This is where our journey into the selfie world takes a strange and maybe even dangerous twist. What I mean is a literal twist of cause and consequence. Van Gogh had, in actuality, cut his ear off prior to painting a picture showcasing such.  Whatever reasons he had, I’m convinced though that he hadn't done it with the self-portrait to come in mind. 

The connection to present-day and danger of such is that nowadays, though, people actually do all kinds of clickbait-y things (harming themselves or other people, doing extreme stunts, posing wearing nearly nothing) for exactly that reason – with a self-portrait/selfie in mind

Maximum shock value and loads of attention follow. Consequence becomes the cause.

So what exactly is wrong?

Brooke:

From selfie sticks to apps like Snapchat, to spending hours primping and posing for that perfect self-promotional image that showcases one at their “very best” and most attractive, to adding cutsie animal ears and stars to one’s eyes, morphing your image into some adorable animal or other types of creature, we have become a society obsessed with altering our own image and showcasing this heavily edited imagery as being authentic to an audience. 

Then, awaiting the responses from others, much like a dog with its tongue out, salivating for its meal (aka the reward) to come. Many of us have come to hunger for and thrive on this feedback. A not-insignificant amount of people even living their lives rather heavily based on and around it.

The whole setup of a selfie often playing out like so.  Pretending to “just” snap a photo of ourselves in an aloof, casual, oops-just-happened-to-snap-this-photo-of-myself-in-this position, and then posting it “just because.”  Then, when the flood of comments come in remarking on how “awesome” we look, or how jealous everyone is of where we are going/what we are doing, how gorgeous we look, how ripped our body is, or where we are, we pretend with false modesty to be caught off guard. “What? Oh jeez, I look like crap in this photo even though my abs are flexed and I’m standing here in a bikini/speedo, the wind blowing conveniently through my hair just so, my lips puckered, but thank you soooooo much. You are so sweet!!! Love ya!”

Thus, this is a different intent then artists of old likely had when depicting a self-image in an artsy, distorted, or symbolic way.  Our selfies of today are for a more narcissistic, self-involved, look-at-me reason.  Please, look at me, notice me, think I am sexy, find me worthwhile and interesting.  This is more the vantage point (whether people admit it or not) of selfies today.

We are a bit too focused on ourselves nowadays.  How we look.  Do others think we are "sexy?"  The number of followers we have.  The responses to our social media.  Consider the theme of all this: me, me, me, what people think of me.

Dali:

Trying to look nice on a photo is not a sin. Yes, most of us try to smile and pose in such a way that is appealing.  We all want to show our “chocolate side” to a degree. Simple-to-use software enables us to remove bags under the eyes or a couple of pimples in seconds. That is quite natural – of course, we want to be pleasant to look at when being showcased in a picture.
What really bothers me is how popular and extreme that sort of pretending has become though.  Acting performance is often presented as something normal and ordinary.  Sadly, this acting is often disguised as something “inspirational” but what it really does is generate envy, insecurity, and cause others to feel that their life sucks.  It nourishes the dangerous comparison culture leading to unhappiness.  But weirdly, exactly those accounts are rewarded by a ridiculously high number of followers.

Let me show you a couple of examples I have come across in my Instagram research where the self-presentation is straight-up false and thus, perpetuates envy and a life of false comparison, assumption, and expectation.

1. Geroldsee Chillax

This one is just stupid – a guy just sitting and “chilling” on the roof of an alpine cabin, checking out the view of Geroldsee, Germany. Seriously? If your property (car, house, hut, whatever) happens to be in a nice place, would you consider it normal that people climb and maybe damage it in order to present themselves as cool on the internet?  

Besides, although it might look like a deserted wilderness, it is not – in fact, there is a small village starting right next to the edge of this image and a very busy road behind it.  Thus, the image presents a lie with regards to the locale.  I can imagine Gerold’s inhabitants just looking up to their cabins, where this glorious scene was created, shaking their heads in disbelief.


In another image on Instagram, there is a man sitting on this cabin roof.

2. Picnic in Paris

Picnic right in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Sounds amazing, right?  Is there a place more romantic than this in the city of love? Well, actually…yes…plenty.  Parc Champ de Mars is a haven for weirdos, it is a bit smelly, and there is usually A LOT of trash everywhere (sadly, left not by weirdos but by the picnic people).  There are also tons of people pretty much round the clock sitting on the lawn. 

I like to imagine the woman in the picture posing for the photo shooting first and then telling their photographer: “Alright, we’re done, let’s get out of here, it’s crammed! Can you smell that too?” And then she grabs the croissants and eats them in the hotel.



3. Drag me to hell


Such a classic cliché image.  A woman holding a man’s hand and dragging him somewhere. Why?  It evokes adventure, it invites the viewer to come with her to wherever she’s going.  But at the same time, it’s just a staged “look at me, I’m at this amazing place with my amazing boy-/girlfriend” kind of situation. 

So for everyone, who cannot travel to amazing places and maybe does not have a boy-/girlfriend, I’ve got a message for you: This is NOT real. My wife never drags me around like this. We just…walk side by side, like normal people. By the way, ever tried to do such an image with a heavy DSLR camera held by one hand?



Now what?


Brooke: So, are selfies really signs of narcissism or arrogance?  Are they self objectifying? Or is that an overblown exaggeration? Let’s find out. First, quickly to define each of those:

Narcissism: Extreme self-centeredness and a grandiose view of oneself. Narcissists have an excessive need to be admired by others and a sense of entitlement. They’re likely to agree with statements such as: “I’m more capable than most people,” and “I will usually show off if I get the chance.”
Self-objectification: This is a tendency to view your body as an object based on its sexual worth. Those high in self-objectification tend to see themselves in terms of their physical appearance and base their self-worth on their appearance.  Many women today exhibit high degrees of self-objectification, this especially evident and on display on social media.

Arrogance: An inflated sense of self, usually tending towards thinking of oneself as better than or above others.

In a study done of 1,000 people between ages 18 and 40, participants completed personality questionnaires, psychological assessments, and then answered questions about how often they took selfies, how much they posted on social media, how many other photos they posted generally, as well as how much time spent on social media. They were also asked to rate how often they used various methods to make themselves look better in pictures, such as cropping, filtering, and retouching.
Results showed that both narcissism and self-objectification were associated with spending more time on social networking sites, as well as with more photo-editing. Posting numerous selfies was related to higher narcissism, self-objectification, and even in extreme cases, psychopathy.

This, of course, does not mean that everyone who likes posting selfies is a narcissist or psychopath. Not even close. That would be a major overstatement, blanket assumption, and exaggeration. 

What it does mean, though, is that a high incidence of selfie posting carries with it a correlation to these personality disorders and a sense of arrogance/significant degree of self-involvement. 

That seems obvious though, doesn’t it? If a person is spending hours taking photos of themselves, posing this way and that, primping for this very photo just so, and waiting excitedly for all for the likes and responses it will hopefully garner, that is a lot of time dedicated to the showcasing (and hopefully garnered attention for) of oneself.

It doesn’t mean that everyone who likes posting selfies is a narcissist or psychopath. Not even close.

Still, narcissism can explain only a small amount of the selfie-posting behavior that we observe on social media. There may be many other uncovered factors that also influence this behavior, as well as, other nuances to consider. How often does the person post selfies and to what extreme? How many hours of their time do they spend primping or prepping for these photographs of themselves? How much does their feeling good about themselves rely on and stem from people’s responses to their photos? These are important questions which can help pinpoint whether or not someone is truly narcissistic and self-obsessed, or just likes posting an occasional photo to show their friends something fun and/or cool.

I also imagine that another piece of this puzzle is the follow-the-pack mentality. If everyone else is doing it, we tend towards being urged into doing it too, even if it doesn’t fully feel right or “like me,” we often assume that because “everyone else” is doing something, that it’s ok, acceptable, even cool, and/or the thing to do.

Conclusion on the current selfie situation


Dali:


It is hard to draw a conclusion on this topic. Selfies are not evil, that’s not what we are saying. It just feels like more and more people are willing to do dangerous stuff, distort reality, or stage what they then present as their “ordinary” life (when in reality, it is nothing like this). All that for the sake of likes and follows of anonymous admirers. 

During my Instagram research, I focused heavily on travel photography and was shocked by how many proposal images I have accidentally come across, most of them obviously staged. I think it is very sad when social media, virtual life, and the eagerness to present ourselves in the perfect light has penetrated even those unique, treasured, and intimate moments of our lives.

On my travels, I also encountered countless cases of people crossing all kinds of barriers just to get the perfect Instagram photo. This has become increasingly ‘normal’. Don’t disturb wildlife and don’t risk your life for a couple of likes.  It is simply not worth it. It is also disrespectful and unconcerned with those around you.

People acting this way will eventually just spoil the fun of traveling for the generations to come. When there is a barrier, it is there for a good reason. Respect it. Authorities are restricting and closing many tourist sites because of tourists doing stupid things for "likes." If you agree with me and feel extraordinarily generous today, there is a petition out there.
Also, please don‘t pretend you‘re enjoying something for the purpose of staging a photo.  Simply enjoy and be where you are. Don’t go and have a picnic at a place which is not romantic at all just because it’s trendy on Instagram and for the photo you'll get from it. Go somewhere where it really is romantic. Don’t climb up other people’s property to look cool. Instead, just look around and enjoy the astounding view. Hold the hand of your loved one and do it just because it’s nice. Don’t do it for the Gram.

Brooke:


This is what leads to living a life chasing after other's reactions, responses, and praise, and ultimately, what results in living a life where you miss out on truly emotionally moving experiences and moments. Sure, take some photos of your adventures to share with family and friends later, but for the most part, be there, fully there, in the moments of your life.  Stop living life through your screen and in seeking of "likes" and the reactions of others.  Life is passing by every moment, and fast. 

 How did you pass your most recent memorable moment? Fumbling for your phone to get a photo of it, taking you out of the moment, and bringing your focus to the responses you will receive? Or actually full, mindfully in the experience, heart overflowing with fulfillment and joy?

You can find more about Brooke here.
You can check out more about Dali here.

Friday, May 8, 2020

What Does Authentic Friendship Look Like? Because In Reality, Many of Us Don’t Know.

It looks like many things, but to name a few of the core aspects…


Showing up. It sounds deceptively simple but for many, it isn’t. This means putting in the effort (even when at times, it might be inconvenient) and choosing to prioritize spending time with those to whom you are close (or with whom you want to be close).
Let me detail some of the ways we fail at showing up. Nowadays, many of us use texting as a substitute for spending one-on-one time with one another. Canceling or changing plans last minute has become commonplace, even the norm. Many a person now informing their friend when meeting up, “I only have an hour. Then I have to run some errands” (or watch my favorite TV show, or go to the gym, or vacuum the living room, you name it). This giving the time with your friend a sense of pressurized rushing. It doesn't allow for both of you, relaxing into your time together and reveling in it fully. (While sometimes this is, of course, acceptable and even necessary, it should not be the default approach when spending time with your loved ones).
A vast majority of us are allowing our time with friends to be punctuated and thus, interrupted by our mobile devices. Checking them every few minutes or even looking away from our friend mid-story to respond to a text. What is in actuality, abhorrently rude, has now become acceptable. Such behavior is a clear message to the person in front of you that you’re unwilling to give them your focus and attention, and that the electronic device is of higher, pressing importance. Even if one may not intend this to be the meaning, it is.

To be a great friend, put in the effort to show up. Mentally and physically.
Genuine listening. This is rare nowadays. Many of us think we are listening when in fact, it’s a low-grade form. In reality, only partial listening. This is because listening well requires total concentration, and this takes effort. It isn’t easy. You cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time. Otherwise, your listening is watered down and half-assed.
Thinking about what you are going to say in response? You aren’t listening. Playing with your dog while someone is talking to you? You aren’t fully listening. Reading through your to-do list while on the phone with a loved one? You are not listening. Not fully.
Why is listening, like showing up, so important?
Because both say to the person, and in the loudest sense, that they are of value.
The act of listening fully says: you are of enough value to me that I will go out of my way for you. I will focus completely on you. I will make the effort to extend myself for you, because I respect you and because you matter to me.
Truly listening is never effortless. It takes work. Yet, it is one of the most rewarding skills you can acquire, as well as one of the most valuable gifts you can give another. It’s the bedrock of a real connection between two people.
Openness and Transparency. First, to define each because they are different.
Openness means being interested in and cultivating growth, both of others and of the self. It means being able to hear the truth, even when it's difficult. It also means being able to deliver the truth, even when this might be painful.
Transparency is the trait of revealing oneself to others. Being willing to show others what lies within your heart and who you truly are. This means choosing bravery in vulnerability, instead of pride and hiding this away.
So while these two concepts play off each other, they are different qualities and behaviors.
People who are open can maintain and establish intimate relationships far more effectively than those who are closed.
Being open is, in a sense, a form of honesty (both with the self and with others), whereas being closed is, in a sense, a form of dishonesty.
To be open means being both willing to tell others, in a loving way, when you feel they are doing something to harm themselves or others, as well as being equally open to hearing this difficult feedback from the people that you care about.
It means being interested in learning, new ideas, and growth. To be open means allowing oneself to be intrigued by and to continually explore new knowledge and concepts.
Being closed is, of course, the opposite. Closed people cannot hear feedback from others, which could otherwise be likely to result in significant personal emotional growth. Those who are closed off do not share these observations with the people they love either. Those who are closed tend to think that what they know is all there is. That the ideas and values they hold are the right ones. They have no interest in exploring the other infinite possibilities and ways of thinking that life offers.
People who are transparent are willing to reveal themselves to others. Not just their strengths and accomplishments, but their challenges and mistakes as well. Transparency is essentially being willing to share with those around you, one’s own humanity. Most of us walk around wearing masks through much of our daily lives. That’s why transparency is so refreshing and such a draw. Because it's not a quality that we see very often.
That is not to be confused with oversharing or narcissism, two qualities that have taken off, running rampant throughout our culture as of late. That is not transparency. This “look at me, look at me” aura and behavior of our culture of late are not the same as transparency. Instead, that is attention-seeking, self-centeredness, insecurity, desperation, and bad boundaries.
Transparency is being willing to reveal to others to whom you are growing close, personal aspects of yourself. It's being willing to take the risk of being known. Transparency is a form of trust and self-love. It’s an invitation.
Oversharing, on the other hand, is a form of dumping. It's desperation and suffocating. It is not a two-way connection, but more of a one-sided relationship.
Loving honesty with one another. To piggyback on the previous point as this is similar to openness, in true friendships there is a willingness and bravery both, to be honest with your friends, as well as to hear their honesty as well.
Any genuinely close, loving relationship is one of mutual honesty. And yes, this sometimes means saying something difficult or painful.
This is an act of love though. Seeing someone you care about either stunting their own personal growth, doing something that causes harm to themselves or to others, and being willing to say something.
This is, in a sense, being willing to risk the relationship for the other person's physical or mental well being because you love them so.
Choosing instead to ignore it and say nothing is akin to stuffing one's head in the sand or figuratively saying, “I don’t care for you enough to voice where I see self-harm, or harm to others, being caused.” It is also cowardly and avoidant.
Now, with all of that said, an important note on this topic of loving honesty. This does not mean constantly telling someone when you disagree with the choices they are making in their life, or when you feel they are doing something wrong. That is being self-righteous, arrogant, and judgemental.
Further, when someone is continually making bad choices, it is the natural consequence of these bad choices that best stands to be their teacher. Not you. Let them suffer the fallout of their dysfunctional, unhealthy, or toxic decisions and behavior. This will be (if they choose to take it) the teacher which guides them toward something different and (hopefully) something better.
In giving loving honesty to another, we have to always consider that with it comes the impression of arrogance. In a sense, when telling someone you are worried about something they are doing, it’s a form of saying, “I believe I know better than you do, what will make you happy/be good for you.”
Therefore, if one is to offer loving honesty to someone they care for, it’s important to examine the motivations carefully. Might you potentially be mistaken in how you are seeing their supposed poor choices? Do you know enough about the situation or see the picture clearly enough that your thoughts have weight and validity? Do you have another motivation for offering the honesty (such as jealousy or judgment)? In which case, it wouldn’t be loving, healthy honesty but instead, something else.
Only in carefully examining why you are offering this honesty and how qualified you are to be giving it should the decision be made to do so. And, loving honesty should be delivered with humbleness. Otherwise, there is little chance of it being received well and actually contributing to the growth of the other.
With that said though, sometimes we do know what’s best for someone else (yes, more so than they themselves might). In not being the main player who is emotionally involved, we are sometimes able to see another’s situation more clearly while observing from the outside in. Even so, though, loving honesty is not a license for constant feedback and attempting to direct another's life.
It's only to be used in the event that one observes the person they care about: behaving in such a way that is stunting their own growth, causing hurt to themselves, or hurt to others. Simply disagreeing with a choice your friend makes isn’t an automatic license to voice it, since we all live our lives differently and that’s not just ok, it is good, and far more interesting that way. Who wants to be friends with someone exactly like them? That would be boring and one dimensional.
Healthy and Inspiring Influences.
To name a few that do not fit into this category:
  • The friend whom you always feel pressured to be as thin as or even thinner than.
  • The friend who peer pressures you to get wasted with them every weekend.
  • The friend who gossips incessantly about others, tearing them down and talking vehemently about anyone and everyone.
  • The friend in whose company you find you “aren’t quite yourself,” and not in a good way.
  • The friend who is hyper-focused on looks, status, appearance, and popularity, thus, bringing your own focus (and insecurity) toward similar junk values.
  • The friend who puts you down or discourages you.
  • The friend who never truly listens.
  • The friend who explodes at the drop of a hat, making loving honesty and openness between you an impossibility.
  • The friend who is all about their appearance on the outside, with little interest in what kind of person they are within.
  • The friend who is the perpetual victim, in that their life is the worst, everyone is always wronging them, nothing ever goes right for them, and the world just stinks.
These are all examples of “friends” (and I leave that in quotations on purpose) who are neither mentally healthy nor inspiring.
And yes, to answer the obvious, genuine friendships are both of those things. Healthy and inspiring friends are the ones who bring out the best in us. They are those whose influence pushes us to greater heights. They are not ok with watching their friends engage in behaviors that cause themselves harm. Thus, real friends dare to challenge you when they think you’re wrong.
Healthy friends do not encourage unhealthiness or self-sabotaging behaviors. They are the ones with whom spending time fills you with light. Their company makes you feel happier, warmer inside and encouraged. They are the friends that inspire growth instead of stunting or even reversing it.
Trustworthiness. This should go without saying but I feel a need to say it anyway. True friends are people you can trust. Whether that’s telling them a deeply personal, private story and knowing it will stay with them, or not having to wonder if they will be there for you in a time of need (because a real friend will make a point to be).
Trust takes many different forms. Trust means knowing you can count on someone. It's the awareness that if there is a problem between the two of you, it will be voiced and talked about (rather than left to fester, which would be something an emotionally immature person would do).
Trust means knowing that your friend will keep their word. That they mean what they say, and say what they mean. Trusting that a friend isn’t just going to tell you what you want to hear (because remember, that isn’t a real friend) but that they will be lovingly honest. Trust is feeling safe in believing in the steadiness of the relationship. Without trust, a friendship isn’t a real one.
Fun and play. True friendships have both of these in abundance. This is one of the purposes of friendship, is it not? Aside from friendship eliciting in both parties, the possibility of inspiring growth, the other purpose is to share joyfulness together. Connecting over shared experiences and building memories.
This is what a relationship is. A safe harbor, something that should regularly be offering an opportunity for growth, and a place within which to enjoy each other’s company and character. Every human interaction is an opportunity for growth and learning. And, friendship should be something that adds much light, joy, and laughter to your life.
For more of Brooke's writing on topics such as romantic relationships, culture, feminism, friendship, health, healthy relationships, family relations, books, reading, and more, check her out here on Medium.com.