To selfie or not to selfie, that is always the question.
So, you might have heard. Selfie was the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year for 2013. However, it’s been around longer than you may think. It all started with MySpace back in the early 2000’s, when you needed a profile picture of you, and only you, so that your “friends” could find you easily. Early 2000 selfies can include but are not limited to awkward early teenage years, bathroom mirrors (don’t forget about the flash reflected in the mirror) and ancient looking cell phones (a Razr or Chocolate if you were cool). However, when Facebook came into the mix and wiped out MySpace, selfies nearly vanished as well. On Facebook, the informal idea was to post photos of yourself, taken by someone else, or to post photos of you and your friends. But with the introduction and popularization of Instagram in late 2010, selfies returned and have evolved to be even bigger than ever anticipated.
In today’s world, we are bombarded by pictures. We float between checking our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat (selfie city right there) and are constantly stimulated by an exciting, yet deceiving online world. With the introduction of Instagram and Snapchat, selfies became an everyday activity, both privately and publicly.
So, my question is: Is the rise of the selfie into everyday life positively or negatively impacting our culture, specifically for women?
Common arguments like to suggest that taking selfies come from our culture becoming more narcissistic. An article from the Associated Press, for example, points out that, “Beverly Hills, Calif., psychiatrist Carole Lieberman sees narcissism with a capital N. ‘The rise of the selfie is a perfect metaphor for our increasingly narcissistic culture. We’re desperately crying out: Look at me!’” But I don’t see it that way.
Taking a cue from Starbucks, the way I see it is that people are using selfies to document the everyday things that happen in life instead of only taking photos at parties, vacations or other “special events”. I mean, when I look back to the pictures of my first year of college, I can honestly say that about 80% are saved snapchats. Of those snapchats, 90% are selfies either of me or my friends. But how special is that? Now, because taking selfies has become so commonplace, it’s socially acceptable to snap a picture of yourself, well, anywhere. We now have recorded evidence of everything: from that run (okay, it was more of a walk, but we can call it a run) that you took yesterday to the scrumptious milkshake you inhaled after said run, we have selfie proof that it happened. But even better than that, another important thing has happened in the selfie revolution, and that is that the emphasis has moved from girls posting pictures of their bodies to posting pictures of their faces. Instead of posting photos of our bodies, sexualizing ourselves for men to ogle us and women to envy us, we are posting our beautiful faces. Who cares if we are duck lipping it (a personal fave) or if we put a filter on it? We are reclaiming the idea that we hold more beauty in our faces than our bodies. Our faces tell a story of where we’ve been and who we are, whether that’s through the dimple in your cheek or the lines on your forehead from when you frown.
So, I say take all the selfies you want! We have the power each and everyday to choose how we view the world. You can view selfies as a self centered thing saying, “look at me” or you can choose to understand that there’s more to a selfie than what meets the eye. Take Cancer Research UK for example, who took the selfie fad as an excuse to promote cancer research and inner beauty by having women post selfies with the hashtag #nomakeupselfie. By promoting selfies and teaching young girls that it’s okay to be confident in themselves and take selfies and be proud of the people they are, then we are helping to raise a generation of women who believe that they are enough. We are teaching them that they are not their bodies and that by controlling the way in which the picture is taken, everyone can feel confident and happy with having their picture taken. When we have a generation of women who gravitate towards cameras instead of shying away from them, that’s when I will know that we’ve done our job in creating a generation of women who are happy, confident and understand their worth, both in front of and behind the camera. Until then, keep taking those selfies.
Of course, I couldn’t write this without including my own selfie. So alas, here you go.
Me at the top of the Empire State building in NYC… couldn’t pass up the opportunity!
How do you view selfies? Are they empowering, a fad, or just downright ridiculous? I’d love to know what you think!