I have sworn to myself that if one more op-ed writer goes for the strapline ‘are selfies a dangerous narcissistic fad’, I will find them and throw a print of Egon Schiele’s filthy, beautiful Nude Self-Portrait in Gray with Open Mouth at them. So it’s really funny that I am now addressing exactly that question in this essay. I do still reserve my right to throw other things at you (maybe Amrita Sher-Gil’s Blood-Lipped Smiles?) if you make a sanctimonious point of it.
So let’s start with the material conditions: selfies assume wealth. You need a camera or a smartphone to be able to take them. You need internet to upload them on Facebook or Instagram. For all these things, you need a fair amount of money. If you are planning to circulate these selfies, you also need to live in a place with access to internet. In other words, selfies, like most other things to do with visibility, require a lot of privilege. Selfies are also often about being in expensive clothes at expensive places, doing expensive things. They are often about feeling good by INSpiring envy and giving meaning to consumption by making it conspicuous.