Mary McGill is a Hardiman Scholar at NUI Galway. Her PhD research explores young women’s relationship to the selfie phenomenon. She lectures in feminist and gender theory at the Centre for Global Women’s Studies.
Here is the full text of Mary’s talk titled “Young Women, Narcissism and the Selfie Phenomenon” at TEDxGalway conference.
Whenever I tell people that I am researching the selfie phenomenon, two things happen.
First of all, they’re not impressed. “Why would anyone research the selfie?” they say ,”Surely it’s just a digital cesspool of narcissism and shallowness, a damning indictment of the image-obsessed culture in which we now live.”
But once I manage to convince them that this isn’t either case, that I am studying the selfie, and that it is worthy of academic research, then something changes. People want to talk. Because a lot of us these days have strong opinions about the selfie, particularly when it comes to those who are seen as the phenomenon’s most enthusiastic users: young women.
This is a screengrab of footage from a baseball game in the U.S. last year. And you’ll note the young women here, a group of sorority sisters, in the act of taking selfies. Many, many selfies, it has to be said.
Well, the girls’ behavior was picked up by the stadium’s cameras, which led the two male match commentators to turn their attention away from the game and begin discussing the young women’s behavior for the best part of two minutes, growing progressively more bemused and judgmental. And it’s interesting to note that at no point during those two minutes did the match commentators realize they could simply look away themselves.