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Selfie-Reflection Competition Winners

March 25, 2015

The quality of work that came through for the Selfie-Reflection Op-Ed was quite exceptional. There were so many thoughtful responses to the prompt, and we really deliberated on the shortlist. Our guest judge, Ben Shattuck, had just as hard a time selecting a winner. However, Mrs Kite (who is really 16 and not a teacher!) was chosen as the winner for her piece "Are Selfies Really Corrrupting Today's Youth".  Ben couldn't decide between Jenneth (“How Healthie is the Selfie?”)  and Rachel (#célfie )for the runner up - so he declared a tie! Congratulations Mrs Kite, Jenneth and Rachel! 

This time around, there weren't enough peer review entries to award a winner. A peer review is such a gift to other writers - a set of fresh eyes on a draft can make all the difference to the final piece. What's more, you could win a prize for writing a thoughtful one! For more details on writing a 5 star review click here



“Are Selfies Really Corrupting Today's Youth?”  by Mrs. Kite

An Op-Ed is usually half opinion and half fact / data / research / reporting. If it has a clear and original argument, examples drawn from real-life experiences, and an interesting voice, even better!   


I was so impressed with all these entries. These writers aren’t afraid to let their opinions be known!  But Mrs. Kite really knocks it out of the park.


She starts with most parents’ assumption: selfies are bad, that teenagers today are vain beyond measure. She then quickly inverts that assumption: “The problem is not with our harmless self-portraits,” she writes, “but the way that our society reacts to it.” I love this thought! 


To substantiate that claim, she surveys—with sources!—the very long history of the ‘selfie.’ The term might be new (2013, she cites), but the concept is far from it. Consider all the selfies done by painters like Vincent Van Gogh and Frida Kahlo; or the first photographic selfie snapped way back in 1839. This line says it best: “Self-photography is not an outlet of vanity created in the new millennium. It is the timeless art of capturing the essence of what you know best; yourself.” Technology has made it easier than ever before to capture and broadcast that ‘essence.’


The prose in this piece is lovely and tuned to the content. The word ‘paint’ in, “you [are] able to paint your own image for the public eye” resonates in light of the previous paragraph’s focus on portrait painting. When I got to that line, I knew I was reading a writer who has taken her time with her sentences, who is careful about the effect of her prose.


But this piece really shines when Mrs. Kite zeros in on how the ‘selfie’ relates specifically to teens over time. “In the 90’s,” she writes, “kids would often spend hours getting dressed up, only to walk around the mall in order to see and be seen.”  Teens love to try out new identities, new labels—it’s a time to explore who you are, who you might want to be.  Now, you no longer need to spend lots of money on clothes and shoes to stand out; you only need a camera and a Facebook or Instagram account. Finally, Mrs. Kite brings in personal experience. If you’re shy, like her, it’s easier to compliment a person’s photo on social media than it is to tell them in person. 


My one suggestion would be to include examples of how a person uses seflies to redefine his or her identity. Like Rembrandt trying on different ‘hats,’ you might find a selfie poster doing the same.    


This is a well researched, thoughtful, carefully written piece. It’s an evenhanded look that takes the opposite stance from general public opinion. Way to go, Mrs. Kite!




The runner-up was really hard to pick. Like, so hard that it turned out to be a tie! 

“How Healthie is the Selfie?” by Jenneth, and #célfie by Rachel 


“How Healthie is the Selfie?” by Jenneth

Let’s start with Jenneth’s piece. The author grabs our attention with the very first line: “*Scroll...scroll...scroll* The Instagram feed is long again after a day of my social introversion.” It sets the tone for this wonderfully barbed voice.  We know we’re in for a fun ride. 


Jenneth takes the more accepted side of the argument (that seflies are narcissistic and possibly unhealthy for one’s confidence) but bolsters that claim with professional evidence: Jenneth is a photographer and school journalist. Okay, she might have a leg up by being in the uniquely qualified position to write an Op-Ed about selfie culture, but the way she treats the selfie—as a category of photography—is filled with her own thought-provoking and carefully explained reasoning. 


It’s that section that really carries her piece. After making the argument that many selfies are not interesting, Jenneth wisely gives examples of good selfies: Those that tell a story, or express some specific emotion; those that transcend attempts to produce compliments (or jealousy). 


There’s a lot of humor in Jenneth’s piece, which lightens the slightly pessimistic load it has to bear. Lines like, “Yawn. The event would be even worse than looking through your aunt's precious cat photos for an hour,” had me laughing out loud.  


The prose is sharp, utilizing clever similes and rhetorical questioning. The piece ends in one of the best few lines of all the entries: “Consider the meaning behind your next internet post. Is it humble? Is it positive? Is it interesting? These simple questions may begin a better impact on the social world as we know it.”


This is an all-around fun and intelligent read.  Great work!  



#célfie. by Rachel. 


I just love the originality of the format—interviews! She really pushes the boundaries of what an Op-Ed can be. Rather than rely on a slew of articles or vague public opinions, she takes research into her own hands. Do people in her community really think seflies are so narcissistic and harmful? 


She gets some fantastic responses, from the deadpan ‘Male, forty-three:’ “A selfie is taking pictures of oneself,” to the funny ‘Male, fifteen,’ who answers the question, “How would you describe the selfie?” with, “Me, me, me, me, me, me.”

The piece becomes populated with voices in a way that seems to mirror social media—an Instagram feed in itself, everybody chiming in with his or her opinion.  That seems to be the truth of the selfie question: there’s no one answer to whether selfies are good or bad. A selfie can mean something different to each person, and a selfie might mean something different to each person, too. (Rachel is careful to include both ‘pro’ and ‘anti’ selfie answers.)  

Her writing is clear and concise. She draws in the reader with a compelling, concrete scene (“ ‘I need to take a selfie.’ The words reach my ears from across the oak table. I try my best to withhold the groan threatening to come out.”) and entertains the reader throughout with a funny voice. We even get a fair share the witty hashtags sprinkled here and there.

Way to go, Rachel! What a creative and fresh approach! 


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