I am a big proponent of the selfie.
People between the ages of 17-25 are becoming real adults in a very strange point in the world. It’s easy to think of this as true for every generation: we all have something new. This particular age is a generation of kids who grew up as technology grew up, which makes us separate from those who are older and didn’t have cell phones during their teenage years, but separate from those younger who had smartphones when they turn 14.
We are plugged into everything, but also remember life before that.
Before the smartphone, I got a kick out of the cell phones that had flippy cameras. I was taking selfies before the word was common language. I liked being in control of how people would see me. I’m not obsessed with the image I have online. I let people tag me in pictures and I don’t care, usually. I have asked two people, ever, to take down a bad picture of me.
I figure people know what I really look like and who really cares?
Here is my background with “the selfie.” When I went to camp as a kid, my mom always told me to take pictures of myself and my friends having fun. She really wanted to see pictures of me. She told me that when she was a kid, she just took a bunch of pictures of trees and her mom was really upset. Who cares about the trees – I want to see you. The trees will be trees. (Now) I can look online for that.
So I did my best to make sure I got in pictures. Mostly though I took pictures of my friends playing dumb games. But it reminded me of the important aspect – people.
I don’t mean that I sit there and upload a dozen selfies in a row on Instagram with hashtags galore (although I probably would have in junior high and am thankful Instagram wasn’t around then.) But let’s be honest – self-portraits aren’t anything new. They are a creative and useful way to express yourself. People like to see us.
Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig says it very well, “When I’m on Instagram and I see that somebody took a picture of themselves, I’m like, ’Thank you.’ I don’t need to see a picture of the sky, the trees, plants. There’s only one you.”
“I hate taking pictures,” I have heard countless people say. “I look so awful.” But I have also heard so many people say, “I wish I had taken more pictures. I wish I could remember those days. I had no pictures from that time, from that vacation.” And while we do need to disconnect and get off our phones and enjoy the actual moment… there’s no harm in getting that picture. In gathering a group together and saying “This is the moment we will remember. Our awkward haircuts and poor clothing choices. But we were together and we were happy.”
For selfies, I think there’s a very similar idea. Not so much about relationships. But… “this is what I looked like. And I wish I could have liked myself more back then. So maybe I’ll like myself more now.”
One of my favorite things is watching someone who hates their appearance post a selfie with a big ol’ smile. To get over that self-hate for just a second. We shouldn’t determine our worth in how many likes or comments we get… but in a society that teaches us to hate ourselves, it is nice to rally around people and say, “Look at your fantastic face. It is lovely. I like seeing you show up in my feed.”
I get teased a lot for taking selfies. Sometimes it’s awkward if someone goes through my phone because I probably upload 1% of the selfies I take. But I’m not going to stop supporting them. Ever. We aren’t a vain generation. We are a generation that has been taught to hate ourselves, and we are fighting it.
“Look at my face, world. It is wonderful. There is no face just like me*.”
(*Unless you’re a twin or whatever, but still there is a limited supply.)