The rise of The Selfie is fascinating for anyone involved in human sciences, it’s as if the actual function of social media has finally been realised. Earlier today I was reading a discussion between Grigroy and Smerdyakov in Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov on the nature of faith. Essentially, Grigory was arguing that faith is a selfless act of love, a genuine giving of oneself to god. Smerdyakov, on the other hand, was arguing that faith is a set of rituals that people go through in order to attain salvation, as such he was arguing that faith is actually a selfish act. This may seem a rather abstract debate in relation to the rise of the selfie, but there’s a direct line between 19th century Russian theoretical discussion and the Instagram duck face.
The carrying of religious icons is common throughout history and across many religions, such icons can range from large statues down to miniaturised portraits set in jewellery or pocket pieces. The religious icon is a representation of a religious signifier, e.g. a picture of a saint or a scene from the bible. As the popularity of carrying religious icons has decreased the posting of pictures of self has increased. The Selfie is now worn by many in their identifying locales (e.g. Facebook, Instagram, etc) just as the religious icon was worn in the past.
People used to carry religious icons as a symbol of faith in their god, or as an act to bolster their faith. Today the Selfie symbolises faith in self, or a need to bolster faith in self (indeed there are apps which can make your selfie look more attractive !). It seems that faith has moved from an externalised affirmation of our position in the universe in relation to God, to an internalised affirmation of individualist self importance.
Self belief replaces external belief, it seems that Smerdyakov was right all along !