Fashioning the Modern Individual: The Age of the “Selfie”

Throughout history the “modern individual” has been obsessed by image. Fashions may have come and gone, but the inherent concern for one’s aesthetic appearance has endured throughout the ages; from the cosmetics of Ancient Egypt, through to the grandiose clothing of the 18th century citizen, and the distinctly sombre style of the Victorians.

Unsurprisingly in the age of  the tabloid magazine, Instagram and the “selfie,” the “modern individual” of the 21st century is no stranger to these concerns. We live in an artificial and consumerist driven environment, whereby the ownership of branded goods and the places we are seen, have come to mean something beyond the goods and places themselves; a reflection of our character and those around us.

Whilst this is perhaps true of other moments in history, the parameters of image construction, its maintenance, availability and permanency has dramatically altered. The 21st century presents a strange dichotomy; there exists a norm of self censorship, whereby we can alter images of  ourselves, control what peers and even strangers see of our lives through social media, all within a culture that encourages us to share publicly and unashamedly the minutest details of our existence.

This dichotomy is indicative of the importance of self-documentation; how we are recorded is important to people. In a matter of moments we can have access to a whole host of information, pass judgement on individuals be it unfounded or not. Yet in spite of this there is a desire to be seen, even if what we present to the world possesses an inherent and conscious falseness.

The norm of how we “untruthfully” present ourselves to our peers is perhaps best exposed in considering the conscious decision to present ourselves truthfully. Exemplary of this is the backlash surrounding the “No Make-up Selfie”. It had somehow become ‘brave’  and distinct from the norm to present oneself without a filtering process, completely unedited.

So how then are we to fashion the “modern individual” if the “modern individual” is merely an illusion, a collection of edited and staged moments?

To this there is no answer. The “modern individual” is strangely elusive; it is a false construction of identity based not on how we are in actuality, but how we present ourselves to be.

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