There’s no way you’ve missed it…the selfies are everywhere. Maybe there’s a reason behind our desire to document every aspect of our lives. If you’ve read my bio it says that I’m bad at taking selfies and it’s something I’m striving to improve. Honestly, that is not true at all. I have been trying to be more comfortable with myself and that has translated into taking more pictures without that critical eye, but when it comes to taking selfies it’s not something I really spend a lot of time thinking about until recently.
A couple weeks ago I went on a trip to Washington D.C. with my mom. She was in conferences for a couple days and while she was occupied I took it upon myself to tour the city. I planned every aspect, and spent hours touring the city. Since I was alone, I took a lot of pictures including a lot of selfies. My mom called it my selfie tour of D.C, which was absolutely true. After I took picture after picture of monument after monument I started putting myself in the pictures. It was fun and distracting, but it made me start thinking about why we take selfies. Is it for us or for everyone else? Are we saying something or are we looking for something to say?
For me taking selfies are not fun. Part of that is because I’m constantly finding things about me I want to fix, and in a picture of my face I can find a lot of things wrong. The reason I take selfies is to document. I want to show that I went somewhere, saw something, or did something interesting (that no one will believe). I don’t look for opportunities to take selfies. I rarely like them, and more often than not wish I had just left my face out of it, but sometimes it’s silly and fun and interesting.Mostly I would rather take a picture with my friends or of a place or something funny I saw.
When I look at my social media streams and see picture after picture of people’s faces I become frustrated. Not because they are so much more beautiful than me (although that is sometimes the case) but because I feel like they are wasting their potential. There is picture after picture of beautiful women and men who instead of telling me about themselves want to show me what they look like. My problem is that I have spent my whole life convincing myself and others that I am more than what I look like. I am more than my southern accent, pale skin, blonde hair, blue eyes, and hourglass (read wide) figure. I have so many friends who when introducing themselves describe what they look like, and that is so wonderful for them. I’m proud of them for having a healthy body image, and if taking selfies is how they show that I am happy for them. They are confident in who they are and their bodies and it’s beautiful. Selfies only capture a small part of us. The real question is whether it’s a true representation of us.
Sometimes selfies are beautiful. They are able to capture my attention and serve a purpose to share thoughts and feelings. But more often than not I see them as a placeholder for someone with nothing to say. “Here is a picture of my face and a long post about what I’m doing today.” It sounds like I’m judging, but honestly I’m genuinely intrigued. It’s compelling to think about how our instant access, social media driven culture has taken us from taking pictures of things and places we want to share to sharing ourselves. We’ve turned the attention away from each other and focused all the attention on ourselves. Millennials are often seen as narcissistic, but there’s more to the story than that. It’s easy to say that millennials are narcissitic. You put phones with high powered cameras and an internet connection in our hands and we’ll do what makes sense. We share, and everyone has some narcissism in them, and despite what people think millennials are not the only ones taking selfies. It’s become a huge part of our vocabulary and our culture.
To be clear I think selfies play an important part in our culture. Sometimes it’s how we express ourselves and show what is important to us. I still take them occasionally, but sometimes I find it hard to understand our need to take endless amounts of selfies. I like a selfie as much as the next person, but sometimes I’m looking for a little discretion. If you take twenty pictures just trying to find the perfect selfie then maybe you should turn your camera out and focus on the world around you. It’s time to focus on something other than ourselves for a bit.