Although it might seem out of character for me, I adore selfies. It’s a neologism entirely worthy of being considered this year’s word of the year by Oxford Dictionaries.
Whether it’s an Instagram-filtered “out with the family” selfie or a spontaneous “help, I’m spending time with my family” selfie, it’s an act of self-gratification. Those who criticize selfies shame this form of gratification. Opponents range from parents to peers, but both, although separated by age and life experience, make a similarly veined argument that selfies are a self-indulgent plea for affirmation.
That is, however, the great thing about selfies. It’s a self-indulgent affirmation of self-worth. It’s one part immediate gratification and one part self-portrait, empowering individuals by allowing them to advertise themselves how they wish to be presented. It is, unironically, for one’s self. In a time where many factors of our personal lives might not be necessarily within our control, it’s good to have such an outlet, even if it is contextually limited and an extension of our own narcissistic nature.
It is true the nagging narcissism associated with selfies by constantly sharing pictures can have a detrimental effect on our interpersonal lives. A simple Google search can bring up a deluge of studies lambasting selfies. David Houghton, lead author of “Tagger’s delight?,” a study by a number of UK universities on the effects of selfies, found that “those who frequently post photographs on Facebook risk damaging real-life relationships because some people don’t seem to relate well to those who constantly share photos of themselves.”
It seems, however, that the issue critics have with selfies is more secondary and centered on problems already inherent between individuals or within someone. They act more as an amplifier, just as most aspects of social networking do.
Selfies also make people more aware of themselves, in both a physical and figurative way. People who are more body-conscious than others can use it as a way of addressing their concerns with themselves in a healthy manner. With such a diverse visual barrage streaming through social media mediums, we become more accustomed to seeing a range of body types. Having that range displayed forces us to recognize that what we see in the mirror, whether it be our stomach, thighs or face, is more common than we think.
When you take a selfie, you take time for yourself. It doesn’t have to be, as often portrayed, a painstaking, ritualistic photoshoot. Selfies can and should aim to be organic representations and a form of digital documentation of daily, real life experiences, unshopped and unedited. The key is not investing time and effort into what is essentially a snapshot of a completely changeable present.
Take a selfie after reading this, before bed, when you wake up or before a job interview. Take one whenever you feel the need to because there are multiple industries with a vested interest in you not taking pride in your appearance, from Hollywood plastic surgeons to basic makeup counters at the mall.
That’s not to say that people who receive alterations to their body or cake themselves in makeup products are somehow inferior; that’s their choice, that’s their life and they should be applauded for taking control. Do not, however, allow your independence, lifestyle and personal choices to be dictated by external, market-driven forces.
There’s too much room for self-loathing wherever we go, virtually or physically. I’m a believer in embracing the facets of life that can be positively attuned to fighting self-inflicted wounds.