Selfie Discomfort and the Public Gaze / Hyperallergic

“The mirror of the Japanese is not the gaze of the others” (image via Flickr user timtak)

“The mirror of the Japanese is not the gaze of the others” (image via Flickr user timtak)

CHICAGO — I have to be honest with you: I feel uncomfortable receiving your selfies. Even though I have asked you for them, and you offered consent through your action of sending them to me. You made a decision to email me something privately, and that I can assure you is viewed privately, by me, at my computer inbox. But then if I say so, if I make the decision to do so, your selfie will become completely public.

Not just Facebook public, which suggests that possibly only friends and others you’ve decided to tag can see, but completely public, on the internet, visible to all. It’s this blurring of public and private realms that make me, as the curator of the ongoing selfie series, feel uncomfortable exploring my interest in voyeurism. I am not alone, of course; all who spend too much time on the internet are voyeurs, and in using the web we also accept our voyeuristic tendencies. Otherwise we wouldn’t be such vigilant searchers, finders, seekers, losers.

In keeping with the ongoing question of where the selfie is located in terms of power, I revisit the question: Is sharing an image of yourself an act of empowerment, or just an indication of powerlessness? Is the land of selfie discomfort that I so describe actually just a place where mirrors suffice and reflections entice? Or is it a consensual public performance where emotional repercussions are only as real as we make them? Your selfies send me more questions than answers, and continue to surprise me. I love to look at you. So thanks for trusting me with your selfie. Or rather, allowing me to share this space of selfie discomfort with you.

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