Selfie……… are we recreating the meaning of privacy and self respect?


My father used to write his daily diaries. After eight years since he is gone, when I read them, I understand how much relaxed he would have felt when he wrote about his day in the office and at home. But these diaries were his own private possession which he never shared with anyone. Privacy was a matter personal pride in those days. But with the advent of technologies, the meaning of privacy has become broader. Documenting every single moment of life has become a trend now. This has become possible by the ‘selfie’ way.
In my earlier blogs when I wrote about selfies, I observed that this habit among people newly armed with digital gadgets may be destructive. My observation still stands strong. Leave the cases of accidental deaths that had occurred due o selfie- passion. Consider that one series of photographs of a woman (claimed to be selfie), which became viral in the web :we saw her gradual change from a happy woman to a battered woman.  Social networking sites give the best platform for selfie lovers because you can share the selfie, no matter how you look. But selfies have  positive as well as negative sides too.  Your gadget is your best friend when you are a lone traveller to some amazing place where photography is allowed; your selfie  may help you to understand how much you have lost weight after hard workouts and these are extremely ego boosting too.  A selfie in a new job desk or in your new uniform can work wonder when you need to boost your energy towards your work or rekindle the passion to your work. I would not shy away from saying that even I am also a passionate ‘selfie’ woman. But certain selfies are not meant to be shared. They are like my father’s diaries, to be kept as ‘private possession’ only to assess and reassess oneself. One such category of selfies is definitely ‘sex selfies’. I am yet to explore the growing literature as why do women in particular allow themselves or their partners to capture such private moments. In India we can see extremely opposite views regarding sex. The ancient sculptures in temples depicting sexual positions are considered as ‘text book samples’ for every human being. We are the first civilisation to codify sexual postures and habits and the ancient scripture is still considered as the only authentic book on sex related topics which is even referred by doctors and even legal researchers when it comes to explain human psychology and physiology related to sex. But those ancient sculptures were not ‘selfies’  in true sense. Or were they? ………… I remember when I was a school student, we visited Odhisha and got to see such sculptures in one of the ancient temples. I still remember one of our teachers murmuring to herself saying these may be the sculptor’s own imagination with his beloved. But even if those were the sculptors’ own imaginations, their privacy is not infringed because those statues neither resemble anyone, nor bear the names of anyone.
Perhaps this was one of the reasons that Indian laws have categorically exempted these sculptures and ancient scriptures from being called as ‘sexually explicit materials’ or obscene materials.  The latest of such laws, S.354C of the Indian Penal code which speaks about voyeurism as a crime against women, also iterates the same. A woman has liberty to take ‘selfie’ or allow other to take such photograph when in a compromising moment. But that must be her ‘private possession’  as long as she feels it is not safe to share with public. Sense of privacy therefore matters much when we need to consider the offensive nature of the ‘selfie’. Also, one must consider about the perception of others when the selfie is viewed by others. One of my selfie that I uploaded in my Facebook profile once attracted huge attention from my friends as well as ‘strangers’. While some praised me for looking different after shredding  weight, some messages from ‘strangers’ made me feel uneasy as this particular photo of mine was probably  perceived by them as an object of ‘secret pleasure’. As a researcher, I am aware of the risks of participatory qualitative research methodology especially when the researcher herself becomes involved as a participant. As a precautionary measure, I restricted the viewers to my ‘friends’. But it may be necessary to note that even though I may have felt uneasy, I may not be able to bring a criminal case on those comments because they may not qualify as ‘bad speech’. A simple ‘hi beautiful’ from a stranger would not make the police or the judges believe that the poster had breached the laws or harmed my modesty as a woman in this internet age. Only when it falls in the typical categories of  harassing message, or stalking or intimidation etc, that I may be able to seek the legal help. But that does not mean that women should leave such ‘unwanted comments’ to form into those typical categories of ‘bad speech’ and suffer during the ‘gestation period.’ It is always safer to choose the audience and limit the same.
If women of digital era are aware of their own ‘privacy goals’ and self respect, selfies can remain wonderful risk free documents for a long time.
Please Note: Do not violate copyright of this blog. If you would like to use informations provided in this blog for your own assignment/writeup/project/blog/article, please cite it as “Halder D. (2015), Selfie……… are we recreating the meaning of  privacy and  self respect?
, 2ndMay,2015, published in

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