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Next time you take a selfie, think of this

There is no problem in taking a selfie, but can we think a little more about adding meaning to it?

Diana Moukalled

Published: Updated:

I, like many others perhaps, used to be embarrassed to be seen stretching out my arm in order to take a photo of myself with my camera or my smartphone. I used to do it discreetly, and mostly hid the photos or deleted them, as if I was trying to cover up a crime.

It is likely that I used to fear being “found out” for having taken photos of myself, and of being embarrassed by accusations of self-indulgence or of being a show-off, because I rarely published the photos.

That was my exact feeling up until a few weeks ago. Now, suddenly, a fever has spread throughout the world, a fever for selfies taken on smartphones, and published on social media networks.

It seemed that millions of people have lost their inhibitions about narcissism and vanity, and have begun to take large numbers of selfies, up to the point of self-obsession.

Selfie craze

To realize the size of the phenomenon, it is enough to read a story a British newspaper published as a joke, in which it said the government was considering plans to introduce a limit on the number of selfies which one person can publish on any social media website.

It is our fate to be part of a world full of undemocratic societies and regimes, and therefore it is imperative that we exploit every avenue to express ourselves, especially when the streets are threatened by the bullets of the regime or those of insurgents and troubled types.

Diana Moukalled

Today, there is real confusion about the phenomenon and the excitement of those who are involved in it. The media is still following the story of a young British man who became addicted to taking selfies and neglected his studies and his health, up to the point that he almost committed suicide.

This young man is not alone in being addicted to this phenomenon, as the organic link between smartphones and social media websites is on the increase, and with it our relationship with ourselves and others.

However, narcissism is not the only factor we should look at when attempting to explain the phenomenon of the selfie.

Here, it may be worthwhile to us who live in the Arab region to try to take advantage of this tool in how we express ourselves and our convictions, and how we defend them.

It is our fate to be part of a world full of undemocratic societies and regimes, and therefore it is imperative that we exploit every avenue to express ourselves, especially when the streets are threatened by the bullets of the regime or those of insurgents and troubled types.

This has happened!

Selfies used for good

Selfies have become part of electronic campaigns to fight racism, defend women’s rights, as well as other campaigns, such as encouraging the use of seatbelts while driving and to raise awareness of health issues.

Chanting in the streets has been replaced by protests of another form: through selfies of individuals who decided to publicize an issue via slogans linked to images—and so we’ve ended up with a large number of images of protesters.

There is no doubt that the evolution of technology and the diligence in bringing new ideas will result in more avenues of expression. It is no longer useful to lament about the failure of traditional media. Whoever feels that they have something to say, there are many arenas open now for them to do so.

There is no problem in taking a selfie, but can we think a little more about adding meaning to it, to go beyond being fascinated by our looks... to something deeper?

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on April 22, 2014.

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Diana Moukalled is the Web Editor at the Lebanon-based Future Television and was the Production & Programming Manager with at the channel. Previously, she worked there as Editor in Chief, Producer and Presenter of “Bilayan al Mujaradah,” a documentary that covers hot zones in the Arab world and elsewhere, News and war correspondent and Local news correspondent. She currently writes a regular column in AlSharq AlAwsat. She also wrote for Al-Hayat Newspaper and Al-Wasat Magazine, besides producing news bulletins and documentaries for Reuters TV. She can be found on Twitter: @dianamoukalled.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.