Selfies, good causes, narcissism and digital marketing

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The success of Cancer Research UK’s #nomakeupselfie campaign can’t be understated. Watching ¬£2million raised in the first 48 hours alone for such a good cause is enough to make anyone re-assess their cynicism towards society. It even made us dedicate an entire newsletter story to the achievement. But although every digital marketing agency on the planet is understandably interested in the popularity of self portrait photographs taken on smartphones, not all aspects of the trend should be welcomed.
In some ways it already feels as though things are going a bit far. Justin Bieber is even backing a ‘self-portrait app’ with hopes of battling Instagram. Of course there are also some good ideas based on the concept too. French Connection, for example, is taking the thing to a whole new level with its new #canthelpmyselfie campaign.
Stores across the country (including Bluewater, London’s Oxford Street, Manchester and Newcastle) are having photographic booths installed, which allow customers to take selfies. The images are then displayed on screens within the store to create a moving collage of who has been trying on clothes or browsing the rails. Tapping into our desire to be both part of a tribe (i.e. ‘we are, or were, all here’) whilst also satisfying the craving to be seen (on a big screen) there’s no denying it’s an impressive take on the trend and one that’s likely to make people remember their in-store experience.
There could be a problem with all this self-portraiture in general, though. Innumerable selfie-focused campaigns have shown how creative people can be, and how much fun it is to get a nice/playful/cringey shot of yourself, or you and someone you care about, in an interesting location or doing something out of the ordinary. Or just smiling like fools.¬†Nevertheless, few would argue this isn’t feeding the narcissist in us all, and that may not be quite what the world needs right now.
To ramble on about social ills and inequality would be laborious and boring, so let’s just say one thing… In an age wherein the haves and have-nots exist in complete parallel universes, rarely crossing paths (if at all), with the gap widening at an alarming rate, it’s potentially alarming that one of the most tangible and exploitable trends is the taking of a photo in which we can’t see the wider picture, just our own circumstances. Whilst selfies themselves are all well, good, and harmless, we need to be careful how they are used so as not to lose the global perspective we need to keep, especially given this the era of self-promotion and self-celebration.