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More than an obsession
by Manjula Ramakrishnan March 09, 2018
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Zenofer Fathema, CEO, Zen Productions is a television media personality. With over 18 years of association with the UAE broadcast industry, Zenofer has a number of independent films in her repertoire of work.

One such film with a contemporary title is Selfie, espousing an important social message, as is the core of her entire body of work. In a joint study by the Universities of Birmingham and Edinburgh, and Heriot-Watt University, researchers have concluded that ‘the increased frequency of sharing photographs of the self, regardless of the type of target sharing the photographs, is related to a decrease in intimacy.’ Zenofer says: “The subject interested me enough to do basic research and understand this modern trend of taking selfies. It was during one such eureka moment that a powerful storyline flashed in my mind and thus came about the film. “It has now been revealed that selfies can affect mood and damage self-esteem; particularly for those obsessed with selfies who could in turn be vulnerable to the negative side of self-portraiture. But like the two sides of a coin, there are huge positives too to a selfie, hence cannot be demonised.’’ Zenofer speaks to Panorama about the selfie culture, the good and not-so-good sides to it and allows us a sneak peek into her film.

At what point did a selfie assume such importance?
The Oxford dictionary first introduced the word selfie in 2013, defining it to be a self-portrait photograph taken with a smart phone held by one’s own hand or a selfie stick. This is especially handy when you are travelling alone and would want to capture beautiful moments of your trip. Photographs, paintings and selfies all have the same end result. Da Vinci had drawn his own picture, Man in red chalk, which is considered a masterpiece. Selfie is not new. The hype surrounding it is new.

Selfies are often thought of as an ‘excessive interest in oneself’ bordering on narcissism.
I don’t think all selfies are to be thought of in a negative light. The ones taken by well-known people or celebrities are highly talked about and discussed. Family gatherings have selfies which are shared in the relevant groups. Having said that, there have been some unfortunate incidents that have occurred due to one’s own carelessness, such as injuries sustained from selfies that involve heights, and so on. But just because of a few such incidents, we cannot demonise the word or the action.

So what are the good sides of a selfie?
A selfie can enhance emotional well-being. If it means loving oneself more, surely that is not a negative trait, for after all we are our only lifelong company! Besides, selfie is a creative mode of self-expression and posting selfies on social media platforms help connect with friends and family and maintain a healthy relationship.

Can you tell us more about your independent film Selfie?
Selfie is a self-photograph. The movie is about a reunion where the selfie becomes a deciding factor for the protagonist to understand things that we ignore in life. Quite often, people focus on taking a selfie rather than enjoy a moment or a view that’s right there in front of them. Having said that, this movie showcases an entirely different aspect of taking selfie. Unfortunately, I cannot reveal too much at the moment. I would leave it to the viewers to understand that. All that I can say now is that the nucleus came to my mind in a flash; it was so intense that I had to share it with others in the form of a film. The story found me rather than me going in search of a thread.

Does the urge to post a selfie on a social media platform stem out of another contemporary coinage: FoMO (Fear of Missing out on any action)?
FoMO is a sign of insecurity, a fierce craving to want to stay in the league. But there are also others who use the ubiquitous social media sites more to share their experiences and the joy that comes with such sharing. If selfies and the haste to share becomes an addiction, a frenzy, that ought to be addressed. But missing the macro picture by looking just at the tip of one’s nose is no way to address a social issue.


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