A few weeks ago, my Dad sent me his very first selfie. He was waiting for his plane to board at the airport and wanted to show me his stylish new Jansport backpack. The crooked photo was 90% of my Dad’s chin and 10% backpack. It was awesome.
My Dad’s airport selfie attempt made me smile from ear to ear. But it also got me thinking about selfies in general. When did the selfie trend start? How did selfies become such a social media staple (enough so that iPhone would allow you to flip your camera lens in order to take one and fashion mogul Sincerely, Jules would make a fabulous t-shirt encouraging them)? Is there a right way to take a selfie? And what’s with all the selfie stigmas?
Poignantly, ‘selfie’ was just added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary. The word – along with ‘hashtag’ – will appear in the 2014 print edition of the collegiate dictionary. It will officially be defined as: “an image of oneself taken by oneself using a digital camera especially for posting on social networks.”
Well, no offense, Webster, but I’m going to rewrite the definition of selfie. And if the dictionary hasn’t gone to print yet, feel free to steal it (disclaimer: with the above selfie of me following the definition, of course).
Simply Cydney’s Definition of a Selfie: “A self-centered and totally fabulous snapshot of oneself taken by oneself and used for posting on social networks and making oneself feel beautiful.”
Have you ever noticed that selfies are often posted on our social media channels with diminishing captions and hashtags? I know that anytime I post a selfie, I feel the need to hashtag something like #selfietime #dontjudge #toooldforselfies #takingoneanyway #lastone
And I know many of my friends post captions like this, too. Perhaps you’re like me and you wonder if your social media followers will judge you for posting another purposeless picture of yourself. I always fear I’ll lose some of my precious Instagram followers (followers are like gold for a blogger) when I post a selfie.
Sometimes I selfie (I hope Merriam-Webster understands this can be a verb, too) to show off a new pair of sunglasses. Sometimes I selfie because I’m bored at a red light or in the waiting room (and, yes, the room is empty) of a doctor’s office. And sometimes I selfie just because I think I look freaking fabulous. My guess is many of you selfie for the same reasons.
Food for thought: is thinking you look beautiful really something you need to diminish? The selfie stigma is somewhat shameful (hello, alliteration). But why? Why isn’t it socially acceptable to hashtag #lookinggood #greathairday #damnnnngirl when you want to post a pretty picture of yourself? Because isn’t a selfie always an amazing picture? After all, who would post a bad selfie of themselves? Hideous pictures are what Throw Back Thursday is for.
And yes, posting a selfie is self-centered. Doesn’t the root of the word made that clear? But is that such a bad thing? If you try to be a good person, and you spend a decent chunk of your life helping others and working for the greater good, is it really so awful to take a few minutes to celebrate YOU?
And isn’t it possible that posting a selfie is more for the poster than for the followers? Most of my friends know what I look like, so they probably couldn’t care less about my picture. But when I post a nice selfie of myself, I feel pretty. And like most women, I don’t always feel that way. My selfies don’t show my love handles or the bags under my eyes when I wake up in the morning. My selfies don’t highlight the forehead wrinkle easing its way into my life or the giant pimple on the side of my nose (I always angle a selfie to the right). Those imperfections are definitely there and they are nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed of. We all have our insecurities and I’m the first to say that imperfections have a time and place to be celebrated, too. But it’s also OK to forget about them for a few minutes.
Being able to take a photo of ourselves gives us an opportunity to capture a brief moment where those insecurities are cropped out or unpictured. Unlike photos tagged by a friend where you’re blinking or posing unflatteringly (while your friend looks like the next Victoria’s Secret model), selfies give you a chance to highlight what you see as the best in yourself. I don’t believe most selfies to be the heralded fear that young people are looking for social media to validate them. I believe selfies are an expression of self-validation: of young people and old people and everyone in between saying “Hey! I think I actually look pretty good here!”
And why can’t we celebrate and share that? What is so wrong or so shameful about knowing your best angle and rocking it? What is so wrong about knowing your hair looks amazing on any given day? And what is so wrong about feeling beautiful? In my opinion, a selfie embodies how we all should live our lives: seeing the beautiful best in ourselves! In the same way, selfies can help us see the beauty in others, too. Instead of judging someone else for taking another picture of themselves, take a minute to throw them a compliment and throw a little love into the world. Even the serial-selfie takers among us can appreciate a sweet compliment.
Today (and everyday), I encourage you to selfie. Slap on some lipstick (or not!), flip that iPhone camera lens, and selfie away (yes, you too, dad). Select what you find to be the prettiest picture you took of yourself, upload it to your social media, and hashtag it properly.
Because you are. And that’s an OK feeling. And once YOU are feeling beautiful, go out into the world and do something beautiful for someone else.
Snap your beauty. See it. And believe it.
Selfie on, beautiful friends. Selfie on.