Generation selfie: Has posing, pouting and posting turned us all into narcissists?
Forget saying 'cheese'. Today, every budding Instagram star knows the benefits of the perfect pose - whether a ‘sparrow face’, ‘pigeon toe’ or ‘teapot arm’. Anna Hart asks whether we've entered the Age of Vanity
“What on earth were you thinking?” I am looking at my husband’s Instagram feed, where a picture of me shivering in a wetsuit stares back at me: hair flat against my face, make-up free, bum blocking the beach. “I was thinking you looked really happy,” he says, wounded.
As I try to explain why I’m reacting like a celebrity who has just spotted a paparazzo up a tree, how this photo amounts to career suicide, even defamation, I realise that his is, of course, the saner voice. But these days mine is the normal voice. Most women I know would react the same way. In the age of social media and selfies, it’s become natural meticulously to police images of ourselves. I’ve never thought of myself as high-maintenance – I go make-up-free on holidays, can get ready for a night out in under 15 minutes and never expect to look better than passable – yet I know my good angles, I’ve perfected a selfie-smile and I have preferred Instagram filters. And I’m not the only one. Vanity has exploded on an epic scale.
We’re all familiar with the ways in which digital innovations have changed how we work, date, socialise and shop, but I hadn’t reckoned on my iPhone changing how I smile, how I perceive myself, and how precious I am about how others perceive me.
You may dismiss me as a member of a vacuous generation, and, yes, this digital vanity might be most extreme among the under-forties, but no generation is immune. According to a 2013 study by ComScore, the over-fifty-fives now make up 20 per cent of Britons online, and they are just as likely as 35- to 44-year-olds to have a smartphone. Forty per cent of 55- to 64-year-olds in Britain are on Facebook, 18 per cent of over sixty-fives. Newly retired baby boomers are travelling the world with their iPad Airs, taking selfies at Machu Picchu, writing travel blogs, getting arty with the filters on Instagram.