Over 130 million images with the hashtag ‘selfie’ have been uploaded to the social media platform Instagram. In The Allure of the Selfie: Instagram and the New Self-Portrait, Brooke Wendt examines the significant hold that the ‘selfie’, or the digital self-portrait, has over self and society. Media theorist Vilém Flusser observed that society could become programmed to snap pictures for the sole benefit of cameras, as though under a ‘magical spell’, if photographs continued to be undecoded. Wendt examines this magical spell by analyzing users’ self-portraits on Instagram, one of the most popular contemporary platforms for image production.
Marshall McLuhan’s reframing of the Narcissus myth elucidates the allure of the selfie. McLuhan notes that Narcissus was numb to his mirror image and did not recognize his reflection as his own – he thought his image was that of another. As though unaware that we are looking at ourselves, we quickly become numb to our selfies, taking numerous pictures of ourselves without hesitation. It is the promise of pluripotentiality that fascinates us; however, we are also perpetually tempted and trapped by the notion of creating an ideal self with digital tools such as filter and hashtag functions. In the five essays comprising The Allure of the Selfie: Instagram and the New Self-Portrait, Brooke Wendt thus questions the changing nature of identity and the self-portrait in the age of Instagram.