Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Are We the Vainest Generation of Them All?

  It’s Saturday night, yours truly is in her favourite Dublin night club having a great time.  The combination of vodka and Fiona-friendly music certainly has me in the zone.  I’m dancing away without a care in the world, oblivious to anyone around me but my friends.  I decide a trip to the ladies is in order, however upon arrival my state of blissful ignorance is brought to a grinding holt.  I look around to find my fellow females pouting & posing, basking in their reflections.  Some are even taking iPhone ‘selfies’ in the bathroom mirror.  Like any Facebook user my homepage is usually flooded with selfies, so it’s certainly not a foreign concept to me. However I assumed these DIY portraits were taken in the privacy of one’s own home, usually the bedroom. I was shocked to see women doing this openly, in full view of everyone inhabiting the bathroom. More shocking to me was the fact that they did it without even a hint of embarrassment or shame.  Then it hit me, no one is batting an eye lid because this is the new norm.  It’s no longer enough to be secretly satisfied with the reflection that greets us, we now need the whole world to see just how good we look.
  So were these young ladies smiling in these selfies? Of course not, nobody smiles anymore, and if they do it’s certainly not a genuine one. A true selfie expert knows how to execute the perfect smile, one that ensures his or her features look as flattering as possible. The eyes are widened (referred to these days as smising), while the cheeks are gently sucked in, giving the illusion of high cheekbones.  If smiling isn’t for you then don’t fret- the 'Duckface' is a perfectly acceptable form of selfie expression. Just follow the aforementioned eye and cheek technique, but this time press your lips together like you are blowing a bubble.  And don’t worry if you don’t like what you see, you can just delete it and go again.  Digital film has certainly changed the way in which we capture our ‘moments’ these days.  Spare a thought for the poor buggers in the past that had to wait until their pictures were physically developed by a third party before they could decide if they were sexy or not.  Back then even if you were happy with your images, the amount of people you could show them to was limited.  Thankfully the birth of social media has rectified this injustice.  Now everyone and their dog can see just how hot we looked last night.   

    Women are not the only culprits when it comes to our generation’s obsession with self-image.  Previously it was assumed that a man could simply pop on a pair of jeans and a top, and head off on his merry way.  Not anymore.  These days expectations regarding the male appearance have definitely increased.  We are living amidst the Geordie Shore generation.  A man seeking to attract the attention of a decent lady should meet certain requirements.  He must have a tan, a well-defined set of abs, and of course the biceps to go with them. I’m sure there has been a steady rise in the amount of men signing up for gym memberships the world over. I’ve witnessed first-hand this new breed of man in training. They tend to ignore all cardio equipment and head straight for the weights, which just so happen to be situated in front of the mirror.  Their intentions clearly have less to do with general fitness and more to do with looking good naked. But can we blame them? These days they’re under just as much pressure to look good as we are.   It’s stiff competition out there (no pun intended).   

    Once you’ve put in all that hard work in the gym, you’re going to want to show off the results right? Of course, and why shouldn’t you.  Behold the male version of the selfie: usually involving a tight fitted top with a low V-neck to give those pecks the recognition they deserve.  Some men take it even further, posing half-naked ensuring those chiselled abs are on full display. 

  So who’s to blame for this rise vanity? Is it reality TV shows like Jersey and Geordie Shore? Or are they simply highlighting a pattern of behaviour that already existed. Perhaps we can look to technology and social media.  Smart phones have certainly made the process of taking pictures easier than ever.  We no longer have to lug around a bulky camera on our nights out.  Plus we can download certain apps to make our pictures look more glamorous and professional. Social media then allows us to instantly share these works of art to hundreds of our ‘friends’. 

   Maybe it’s not vanity at all.  As human beings we all have insecurities that are perfectly natural.  These insecurities are no doubt heightened by our society’s infatuation with beauty.  Some of us may crave reassurance, and therefore post these selfies in the hopes that people will tell us what we need to hear.  Whatever the cause it seems a shame to me that people focus so much of their energy on what they look like, especially when they’re on a night out.  You’re so supposed to be having fun, enjoying the moment.  At the end of the day we’re all going to be old, saggy, and grey one day. What would you prefer to look back at, perfectly constructed images or genuine fun-filled memories? I know my answer. 

Yours Faithfully


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