Why Do We Take Selfies? (Michel Foucault) – 8-Bit Philosophy

Why Do We Take Selfies? (Michel Foucault) – 8-Bit Philosophy


It’s hard to walk down the street these
days without witnessing someone so enthralled with themself that they can’t help but take
a picture, or 20, of their own mug. The compulsion to take selfies is a relatively
new development in society, a progression from the days when one had to rely on strangers
to snap the perfect picture. Selfies have become a way to narrate our own
existence: we post them on social media and frantically hit ‘refresh’ to see who’s
liked it – desperately seeking validation. Despite the novelty of it all, the impetus
behind taking selfies is quite old. Taking selfies isn’t just about avoiding
interaction with strangers, it’s a mandate to give meaning to our behavior, to confess
the truth of our inner existence. French philosopher Michel Foucault argues
that we have become a “confessing society.” Unlike some who argue that we’re hoodwinked
by those in power to believe some “official” truth, Foucault argues that the confession
generates these truths within ourselves. The confession originated in the Christian
Church during the Middle Ages, where one was required to tell their sinister desires, acts
and thoughts. The confession was a ritual that changes “the
person who articulates it: it exonerates, redeems and purifies” them. The power lies
with the priest, who listens, yet says nothing. In this act, it is the confessor who admits
to wrong-doing, not an authority who accuses one of a crime. That, dear viewer, happens
to be a very effective way to make sure that people aren’t up to no good. It is so effective that the act of confession
then spread to our schools, hospitals, even to our families. We began to confess about
more and more, not just our crimes but our ailments, our motivations, our dreams. Confession
became so ubiquitous that we internalized it. We’re no longer looking for validation from
a priest, but in the eyes of our peers. We love to talk about ourselves, we no longer
need to be compelled to. We have saddled ourselves with the obligation
to tell the story of who we really are – and what better way then a quick selfie in the
restroom?? Foucault uses the confessional to illustrate one of
the ways in which power is fragmented. While many would argue that power emanates from
the top downwards, Foucault argues it also emanates upwards from ourselves. There exists the prevalent idea that today
we are more free to discuss sex, drugs and rock n’ roll than our prudish past. Not
so, argues Foucault. After all, the confessional demanded we enumerate our sins in the most
vivid descriptions. Later, in Victorian England, doctors and their
patients couldn’t stop talking about those naughty behaviors. It was never a question
of not talking about these things, it was always a question of when, where and how we
could talk about them. The way that we talk about ourselves is both
dictated by power and, at the same time, creates power. Power isn’t a bad guy that needs
to be defeated, it’s a set of relations that determine how we think, talk and act.
What can and cannot be said? How must we say it? Every time we take a selfie, we’re confessing
to society, and participating in those very same relations. These things aren’t simply
determined by a Bureau of Selfies, but in the truth that we produce as we talk about,
and take pictures of, ourselves. When we take selfies, are we simply exercising
our freedom of expression? Or are we confessing to the world around us in a way that limits us? What inner truth do your selfies reveal, dear viewer?

100 thoughts on “Why Do We Take Selfies? (Michel Foucault) – 8-Bit Philosophy

  1. Could it not be some people just want validation through proof given this being an age of deceptions both wanted and not?

  2. I know i'm going to come off sounding crotchety, but it absolutely enrages me to have people over for a social event and people still pull out their phone and scroll through twitter/instagram/etc. "Quit looking for the social event, you can actively participate in one now!" Words can't even describe the rage multiplier if they constantly feel the need to take pictures of themselves or the group. It brings out this feeling of reserve in me, like i don't want to say something wrong so it can be captured and heard for the rest of time.
    It's as if they can't be content anywhere they go, the thirst for the likes a well taken selfie will get them or to view the next hilarious vine. Why is it not good enough to connect with the people in your physical environment? Can you not find more meaningful ways to show your existence matters than taking a picture of yourself?

  3. I'm confessing I like the reward of getting 'likes'. Although, I think Vaguebook statuses and 'i'm so sad' statuses are ways of reaching out to someone, confessing my shiteness

  4. Shitty explanation. Focault confession analogy completely out of place imo. In confession we express ugly truth and while when talking selfies (hate that word) we only maintain a lie about ourselves and require our self-esteem to be enforced by others. How does taking a generic photo reveal any 'inner truth'? It's stated but never explained.

  5. I totally dont get this…
    then again i dont take selfies…

    I do draw very naugty pictures of catgirls doing more naugty things with other catgirls…..

    hmmm… that might be more so a confession then the selfies lol… i do like me some naugty catgirls…

  6. Ok from an outsiders point of view that might…. might be true… but I feel that isn't really why the individual takes selfies. From the sample and bias sample group of my friends and family, I have asked why they take selfies and they often tell me to remember the event. I feel personally its more personal history. Its kind of funny, if historians could have a details record of people in history as massive as selfies adn facebook they would jump for joy. 200 hundred years from now people will use the old facebook accounts to build a much clearer and better history. A history text book of everyone's point of view and take of the the things that are happening to them or not happening to them. It might not look like it at first but it will be amazing.

  7. In the video it said that confession was a Christian practice that started in the Middle Ages. It actually goes all the way back to the Bible, and has been used throughout Church history. Not to nit pick though, I think this channel is awesome.

  8. I used to not take selfies because I just didn't see a reason to. Now I realised that I have almost no picture of myself. If I continue this way, I will have almost no visual register of myself in the future. So I will start taking selfies for the sake of the register. but still with little frequency.

  9. This video is idiotic and wrong, because it treats the subject as if it exists in a vacuum. It doesn't. There are just as many people who take pictures of their food as there are people who take selfies. Probably more, in fact, because China doesn't really like selfies, but they really like food pictures. So all this nonsense crap about priests and self-validation is just bull. It's because people are bored, have cameras on them at all times, and literally have nothing better to do with their time.

  10. I take selfies because if I didn't I'd have no photos of myself for okcupid and my sad attempt at attracting a mate.

  11. People these days aren't admitting they're addicted to alcohol, they're bragging about how much of a party animal they are. Attractive women aren't doubting they're attractiveness, they're baiting for compliments. Sure, confession used to be and still is the norm, but people aren't using it as a source of redemption from God, but a booster for their own egos born from personal feelings of unimportance.

  12. "Selfies", to me are a Way to "Capture One's Self" in an Instant — If there's a Smile, then it is to analyze that smile to see if it's "True" to themselves. A Mirror image is dynamic, and one can "fool" oneself about "who" they are. Selfies reveal how others see you to. Those who don't take Selfies probably don't like their faces. Just saying.

  13. What the fuck kind of desperate-to-sound-meaningful garbage topic is this?
    No, selfies are not a societal confession of who you truly are through use of freedom of expression, they are selfies. Pictures people take of themselves because they care more about sharing their own story than seeking out another's.
    No, selfies don't reveal any sort of truth about the selfie taker, in fact selfies help build up a facade if anything.

    You guys didn't do much research on the concept before trying to crank out a currently relevant video topic, did you? Either that or you are pretty terrible at conveying what you mean.

  14. That's weird. I figured Selfies were a form of artificial presentation of onself, not an honest confession. A person will take pictures of themselves, but they will also sift and discard those pictures to find th most flattering one or the one that presents them in the way they choose to appear. Rather than a confession, it's a kind of social mask or a social business card that people hand out to say… "Hey, this is who I want you to see me as."

  15. I always thought people took selfies because they were merely self important, which would make sense since they're largely unimportant to anyone else.

  16. what about 'coming out' of lgbt people? is the society forcing the individuals to confess, if their are rather hetero-, bi- or homosexual? I would love to know your opinon to that topic.

  17. That is so ironic though. I find that selfies are always fake. Actually, most pictures where the subjects are asked to pose are fake. I prefer candid shots. Those are where the truth lie.

  18. i don't take selfies because i don't like how society works. if i do i would put on the ugliest face i could so as if giving the world a big middle finger so the selfie is made to be satyrical commentary made by me. the fact that i post music that i actually wrote myself recorded myself engineered myself don't get as much as attention to as a selfie bothers me, and the fact that there are some people who post selfies and put a pretentious quote that isn't relevant to a self portrait makes me cringe every time. i hate it, it bothers me, the fact that humanity has became so narcissistic about themselves, about how many likes they can get over the dumbest things, people want approval so much that it disgusts me, maybe the fact that i see all of these is because like them, i need approval by others. i am and was always under appreciated, my work my life is rendered to less than pictures on the internet showing people's narcissism. i hate this world.

  19. I don't think it's a badge of honour to have never taken a selfie and I don't think it's a thing of shame or vanity to take them. It's just pictures.

  20. A lot of people take selfies to become popular via social media or to brag since if the shot doesn't include you, it becomes disassociated from you.

  21. I have heard that God is true relationship itself. what do you think about that? wow this would be good for several episodes

  22. I don't even let OTHER people take pictures of me, let alone do it myself.
    Think of it, BILLIONS of pictures of people's faces.
    What good are they?

  23. I would consider the vast majority of selfie-centric people as egotistic, hungry for validation, or simply being social in a technologically advancing society. not so much as confessional.

    I'd say selfies are more for sex than confession thanks to tinder, grindr, and other dating sites.

  24. I used to hate taking pictures of myself, but I figure since I didn't really have any photos of myself past the age of 9, and if I were going to make a Facebook page and add all my friends and family, then it would require a current picture of myself. Besides, it's only people who know me irl anyway. There are a few online friends added there, but only because we're close.

    I can't say I take selfies everyday like some people, but I do take one photo of myself about every 6 to 8 months, and that's only to change my profile picture. Keep in mind, I've only had my Facebook since 2013. Although, I had an older one, but deleted it. Even then, I only had one current photo of myself when I was 19, and then the rest of my profile pictures were anime characters…

  25. I enjoyed your analysis very much! Thank you for teaching me about this philosophical idea. My question is, though, that one can argue that selfies reflect, not the full truth, but a constructed truth that the person wants the world to know (social media is, after all, a highlight reel), so how does this fit into the ideas presented here?

  26. On the webcomic Buttersafe they pointed out that selfies and photos of food are basically just evolutions of self-portraits and still lives. Though less obviously than that.

  27. Selfies make sense, but the moment someone takes a selfie more than 10 times in the same hour because you didn't look good enough, even though you look the same in every selfie picture you've taken, is the moment I start avoiding anyone that wants to take a selfie with me.

  28. I'm not even sure I understand this. I'm not into taking pictures of myself or even other people. I enjoy pictures of nature with little to no humans in it. So selfies in my mind are weird, out of place, forced, and just down right awkward.

  29. If I desire to share videos like 8-Bit Philosophy, School of Life, Nerdist1 and articles on innovation, design and philosophy instead of selfies, what does that say about me from this viewpoint?

  30. I don't take selfies, because I am not a self-obsessed whore. I know where I've been, and I don't need constant reminders of what my own face looks like at every store I walk into.

  31. to be true i never considered taking selfish as an act of confessing rather it is an act of making a positive self image.

  32. meanwhile in real world a lonely guy like me can get 400likes on an selfie and managed to stay single

  33. Sorry mate… but hit and missed on this one. My wife is Chinese I lived in Asia many years.
    So China, Japan, and Korea are beyond obsessed with selfies…. like crazy beyond the bitchiest western girl.

    Problems are first no Christianity or confessions in the Far East, but far more importantly than that the culture opposes confessions.

    People in these 3 countries value the concept of "face" is the same level as fanatical religion. They are close, they don't share anything with anyone or they loose face… not even family. Girls take an ungodly amount of selfies that they won't share for fear of loosing face. The selfies that are shared show more of a photoshop avatar than the real person. They don't really look for likes,more than dislikes showing jealousy.

    So the people that take most selfies in the world have an opposite philosophy. All philosophers building a theory on western culture can be quickly disqualified, or any one culture.

  34. I'm not certain if taking a selfie is really a confession. Social media doesn't always tell people who we really are; it can oftentimes show what we want people to think of us.

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