Selfies: A depiction of female narcissism or a platform for political empowerment?

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Summary:
A cultural social media phenomenon of recent years, ‘selfie’ was declared the Oxford English Dictionary 2013 Word of the Year. Since then it has become a powerful means of self-expression, particularly for young women in their teens and early twenties. But do selfies merely represent shallow online narcissism? New research explores “the political urgency at the heart of the selfie phenomenon”.

A cultural social media phenomenon of recent years, ‘selfie’ was declared the Oxford English Dictionary 2013 Word of the Year. Since then it has become a powerful means of self-expression, particularly for young women in their teens and early twenties. But do selfies merely represent shallow online narcissism? New research published in Consumption Markets & Culture explores “the political urgency at the heart of the selfie phenomenon.”

Though he acknowledges that selfies are often perceived to be negative depictions of an ever-increasing consumerist society, Derek Conrad Murray suggests an alternative where selfies offer opportunities for political engagement and community building while also acting as a means with which to resist misrepresentation.

In his article, Murray remarks on the contradiction of the selfie, contrasting the extent to which the term has been accepted and embedded into cultural consciousness with the social condemnation of the act itself as the “butt of the joke.”

Murray locates the phenomenon in the context of post-feminism, exploring how young feminists have moved away from Second and Third-Wave feminism in the search for a platform for political action. He concludes with the suggestion that the “selfie is an instinct of self-preservation: a survivorship reflex.”


  1. Derek Conrad Murray. Notes to self: the visual culture of selfies in the age of social media. Consumption Markets & Culture, 2015; 1 DOI: 10.1080/10253866.2015.105

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