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Phoebe L

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Are Selfies Really Corrupting Today's Youth?

March 16, 2015

According to our parents, we are the children of the “me, me, me!” mindset. We are shallow, vain, attention seeking and painfully naïve, and we owe it all to the epitome of what is wrong with our generation: the selfie. But is the selfie really to blame for the perceived issues of our peer group? The problem is not with our harmless self-portraits, but the way that our society reacts to it. Selfies are an important part of the modern teenage development, and should be viewed as such.

Despite the fact that the word “selfie” was officially announced a word in only 2013, they’ve been around for much longer. The finest of artists have been capturing their likeness with art throughout history. Frida Kahlo, Vincent Van Gogh, and Andy Warhol all created dozens of self-portraits that captured their emotions and personalities in ways that another person could not (Art Republic). Today, these people are considered artistic geniuses and have their paintings in museums all around the world. The first photographic selfie was taken in 1839 by a young man named Robert Cornelius. Cornelius had set up a camera in the back of his family’s chandelier store in Philadelphia. It took over a minute to take the picture, and much longer to produce the physical copy (Public Domain Review). 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.  

Selfies are for people of all ages, but they are especially important in the coming of age process for adolescents. The years spent in high school and college are a time of both self-discovery and self-manifestation. Teens are constantly trying on new labels and identities, and what better way to do this than through the art medium of photography? Not everyone can afford to experiment with tons of different personalities; most of us don’t have the money to buy a new wardrobe from Urban Outfitters or invest in lessons to become the new drummer for a kickass metal-core band. But anyone with a camera can combine their body, which they already are in possession of, with a plethora of filters and angles and color saturation percentages, and present themselves exactly as they want to be seen. In this way, you control the way your friends and peers see you, instead of leaving it up to the often ruthless realm of teenage labels and hierarchies. If you want to look like a flower child one week and a future CEO the next, you can do it, all through the power of selfies.

So not only are you able to paint your own image for the public eye, but you are also ~exploring yourself~ to see what you do or do not want to be. And the best part is, if you’re embarrassed about a stage you went through, you can just delete it and start anew. Of course, pictures from the internet are never really gone, so be careful. But for the most part, it will be very hard for the uber sophisticated person you’re trying to impress to stumble upon your Myspace-esque selfies from 7th grade.

And that’s the thing about selfies; when you’re in control of your persona, you feel powerful. Selfies have been shown to improve your self-confidence (Time "Why Selfies Matter"). Social media has made it a norm to hide behind a screen. That’s why putting your face out there for the whole world to see is so nerve-wracking! But when those likes and compliments start pouring in, you start to feel your self-esteem rising. Selfies are also a way for those who are less socially inclined to join in, make friends, and say things they’re too shy to say in person. Speaking from personal experience, it’s much easier to gush about how much you love someone’s hair online than it is to awkwardly mention it in the lunch line. And in a time where society is constantly pinning celebrities against each other, it’s refreshing to see people, especially girls, building each other up instead of tearing each other down.

There are always two sides to an argument, however, and this is no exception. In a research survey published in Personality and Individual Differences, men who shared selfies online were more likely to show signs of narcissism, psychopathy, and anti-social personality traits. But, the research also says that most of the men surveyed had normal levels of these traits, and that sometimes these traits can make men seem more attractive (Time "Men Who Share").  In short, narcissists may take selfies, but not everyone who takes a selfie is a narcissist.  

A lot of people claim that selfies are a symptom of vanity and anyone who takes them is putting waaay too much effort into getting attention. The problem with this statement is that it’s pretending that the selfie generation is the first generation to ever showcase themselves to others. In the 90’s, kids would often spend hours getting dressed up, only to walk around the mall in order to see and be seen. Is that not the same thing? Humans have always altered their appearances to define themselves; it’s just done in a different way now.

It is our generation’s responsibility to use selfies as a gift of culture, rather than a weapon of society’s destruction. Maybe one day it will become acceptable to publicly celebrate ourselves, instead of hiding behind self-depreciation and shaming others for being confident. But until then, we need to make positive self-image a trend, instead of a disease. Let’s make this decade the reign of the selfie.



"Men Who Share Selfies Online Show More Signs of Psychopathy, Study Says." Time. Time. Web. 9 Mar. 2015. <http://time.com/3662838/men-selfies-psychopath-narcissism/>.

"Robert Cornelius’ Self-Portrait: The First Ever “Selfie” (1839)." The Public Domain Review. Web. 16 Mar. 2015. <http://publicdomainreview.org/collections/robert-cornelius-self-portrait-the-first-ever-selfie-1839/>.

"Selfies and the History of Self Portraiture in Articles from the Artzine on Artrepublic.com." Artrepublic Article. Web. 16 Mar. 2015. <http://www.artrepublic.com/articles/475-selfies-and-the-history-of-self-portraiture.html>.

Sifferlin, Alexandra, and Alexandra Sifferlin. "Why Selfies Matter | TIME.com." Time. Time. Web. 16 Mar. 2015. <http://healthland.time.com/2013/09/06/why-selfies-matter/>.



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  • March 16, 2015 - 3:44pm (Now Viewing)

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  • Jenneth LeeD

    Suuper professional writing! (My English teacher would be honored to have you in her class, haha.) Your facts were well-researched and developed well. I also agree with Rachel: your comparison to the '90s was a good, final punch in your argument. Congrats on the win!

    over 4 years ago
  • water&pen

    Mrs. Kite, I enjoyed your piece! I thought your analogy of kids in the 90s dressing up to go to the mall and be seen...going to today's culture of selfies was interesting. You have points that I've never thought about--it's cool!

    over 4 years ago
  • Ella

    Really great piece! Your arguments all made a lot of sense and seemed well researched. I like your writing style.

    over 4 years ago