lifestyle

This woman isn't vain, she's insecure. Just like the rest of us.

By JAMILA RIZVI

This week footage of a young woman ignoring her friends in a bar to spend approximately 6 minutes taking the perfect iPhone self portrait went viral.

The footage was accompanied by audio of some pretty horrendous and cruel taunts from the people videoing her, which we’ve helpfully removed and replaced with Benny Hill music. Take a look:

The response from the online world to this video was ferocious and fast. The conclusion of which was:

That’s it, we have officially hit peak selfie madness.

And I agree.

The woman in this video looks – forgive my language – absolutely fucking ridiculous.

She slants her hips backwards from the camera lens to make her body appear thinner than it already is. She positions her lips into the perfect duck-like pout. She ruffles her hair for that perfectly tousled, “I woke up like this, and my natural beauty takes no effort at all” look. She bends, she twists, she angles, she contorts, she sucks in, she batts her eyelids and she even positions the phone at upper thigh level to get the all important “how hot is my bum” shot.

But as we laugh and cringe at her behaviour, let’s not kid ourselves: We’ve all probably done the same thing, or at least some version of it.

Now, when I’m in a bar I tend to be more focused on maximising the aioli I can get on each potato chip rather than capturing images of my arse. But have I had a day where my hair finally did what it was supposed to or my skin was uncommonly pimple and dark-circle free, and decided to record the joyous moment on my iPhone? You bet.

See? Here’s an example.

And when I took that photo, did I suck in my stomach as the camera flash went off? Uh-huh. Did I mentally reposition my mouth into what I thought was a pretty but intelligent smile? Yep. Did I tilt the camera just-so in order to make myself look half a size smaller than I am? Guilty as charged. And had someone been watching (or heaven forbid filming), would the result have been me looking very, very stupid?

Of course it would.

Most of us are guilty of participating in the so-called ‘vain’ culture of selfies. But while the exercise of taking an iPhone pic of yourself is narcissistic to be sure, it’s not necessarily fuelled by vanity. I don’t take a selfie when I look better than usual because my perception of myself is that my beauty rivals that of Blake Lively, Lupita Nyong’o or Miranda Kerr. I do it because most of the time I feel less than good about my appearance and so want to hold onto the rare moments when I like how I look.

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Take a look at some of the best celebrity selfies here:

And I suspect many of the world’s selfie-takers are the same; spurred on by insecurity.

It’s simplistic to reduce those who take selfies – teenage girls being amongst the chief offenders – to unintelligent, image-obsessed bimbos. Taking 1000 photos of yourself in the pursuit of a single shot that you are happy with, isn’t a mark of pride in one’s appearance; it’s actually quite the opposite. It reveals deeply held fears and insecurity that the other 999 photos aren’t up to scratch.

The societal pressures to look a certain way and present the most attractive image of yourself on social media are extreme. And for children and teenagers who live their entire lives in the digital space, where the number of likes on a Facebook photo can define their very reason for being – the desire to ‘look hot’ is pervasive. The rise of the selfie and the Instagram filter means that teenagers aren’t just made to feel insecurely photoshopped models in advertising campaigns but also beautifully lit, angled, and edited versions of their friends.

So why are we shocked that the less-confident amongst us are giving into these cultural pressures?

Yes, the woman in the video looks stupid.

And yes, her behaviour appears extremely vain from the outside. But take a moment to look beyond the great body, pretty face and tiny bikini. Because I suspect that what lies underneath is a woman who is as anxious and self-depricating about her appearance as you or I.

Don’t judge her for taking so long to get a photo she could be personally satisfied with – just empathise with the fact she was unfortunate enough to conduct her unbecoming perfect-selfie-seeking-efforts in a public place and get caught. Because other than the fact she was in a bar while taking those photos? She could really be any one of us.