Selfie Dysmorphia: the shadows of our Social Media feeds

2 min read


Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" is a concept that the philosopher came up with to reflect on the nature of belief and knowledge. The allegory states that prisoners are chained together in a cave. Behind the prisoners is a fire, and between the fire and the prisoners are people carrying dolls or other objects. This casts a shadow on the other side of the wall. The prisoners observe these shadows and believe that they are real. They cannot turn around to see where the shadows are actually coming from.

Plato suggests that the prisoner might escape from the cave to discover that there is a whole new world outside that he had never known before. If they actually made it out of the cave and toward the sun, it would involve a "pain of ascent," to be sure; after all, their eyes are not used to sunlight at all. Also, those who escaped would try to return to free the other prisoners. However, the ones still imprisoned would not believe them and would instead declare them crazy.

So what does this mean for the meme displayed here? Humans have recently invented a phenomenon called "Selfie Dysmorphia". It means that you see your own body image through filters and compare it with your real body. Of course, the hyperreality appears more "perfect" through the filter and so we feel uglier and uglier with more and more comparisons. So it is no longer enough that we compare ourselves with other people, we can now simply compare ourselves with ourselves and thus project an unattainable ideal of ourselves onto ourselves. Oh, the shadows on the wall! Of course, our recent economy has long since managed to commodify our bodies as well, while some sort of "inner cop" expands the urge for self-optimization to such an extent that we can actually become the shadows of ourselves right away. So the new and crazy thing is that it is we ourselves who prefer the shadows on the wall. We don't need anyone else to fool us anymore.

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