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Jenneth LeeD

United States

Dyslexic who wants to make a mark in the YA book market. Christian. Conservative. Licensed geek and nerd. too old to continue accessing this site. If you want to keep up with me:

How Healthie is the Selfie?

March 21, 2015

*Scroll...scroll...scroll* The Instagram feed is long again after a day of my social introversion. Not surprisingly, the feed is composed of the same generic content: selfies, food, throwbacks, selfies, Starbucks, transformation pictures, selfies, sunsets, hospital pictures, pets, weekday crushes—and did I mention selfies? This international, social networking phenomenon has deluged the internet as quickly as a flash flood. The question is: how healthy is the selfie? While the trend has been viewed as a modern self-portrait, selfies have also been known to be signs of vanity or insecurity, and viewers are quickly bored by the onslaught of meaningless mugs.

You may say, "I'm not vain." Yet how many times does your face appear on Instagram? Do you ever miss a #selfiesunday, a #transformationtuesday, or a #flashbackfriday? Did you readily participate in the #20beautifulwomenchallenge? What's your Snapchat score? How often do you change your profile picture? And have you purchased that selfie stick you've been drooling over since Christmas? This decade's culture has quickly narrowed its focus and begun to direct children, teenagers, and adults alike on themselves. First-person writing styles have swamped the YA book market with their personal possessives of "I, I, I" and "Me, me, me." Television commercials are stressing what's best for you. The mass popularity of selfies is just yet another self-obsession on the individual.

Imagine taking the selfie to the early 2000s, or late ‘90s, as friends share tangible photo albums from the year around a card table. Try passing your photo album around and pointing out every selfie to your friends. "Oh, that was the day I wore my cute, striped shirt. And that was when I realized I looked so much better when I put my hand on my hip…." Yawn. The event would be even worse than looking through your aunt's precious cat photos for an hour.

What is the main reason for obsessive postings of your pretty face? Maybe you think your hair is gorgeous today, so you want all your friends to see. Maybe you got new clothes, and you want your boyfriend to see. Think about it—would you actually confront a group of companions and say, "I did my hair today. Don't you all just love it? Please tell me I'm pretty." No, of course not. Your friends would peg you as self-centered and quickly alienate you.

Remember Gilderoy Lockhart in J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets? He practically invented the selfie by covering his office walls with his own dazzling smile. We all remember how much we loved him, yes? We all remember how much we wanted to aspire after him, yes? Um, how about no.

So a digital barrage of your own face can be vain, but it can also be a sign of insecurity. Everyone has that one friend who periodically posts the "I'm ugly selfie." This type of selfie can come in a variety of poses and captions ranging from smiling to lonely, from "#ugly" to "lol bad hair day." These types of people need to feel loved and accepted, and they think the only way to get good results is to fish for online compliments. Their self esteem needs to be constantly uplifted or else they seep down to the pits of depression, convincing themselves they're ugly, that no one likes them, and everyone else's selfies are prettier than theirs.

Thirty likes on Instagram is not going to keep these people happy; the comments they receive won't convince them they're any prettier; and ultimately, the whining, mopey friend who won't pull herself up out of her watery puddle will lose friends due to her pessimistic attitude.

Besides, if the friend is disgusted by her own face, why continue to post it? I believe fishing for compliments is another means by which such people beg for attention. The selfie is the tool to project these feelings across the world, but more selfies will often just bring more depression.

Finally, there's a simple, blunt element friends of selfie-takers will admit to—selfies are boring.

As a photographer and school journalist, I'm constantly looking for good photo ops, and through the years, I've realized candids are the best photos to take for the yearbook and newspaper. A candid shot holds a specific kind of action that is lost when I request people to pose, hug, and smile for the camera. While simple smiling pictures can be cute, I lose critical information: What were they doing before I took the shot? Where are they? What was their emotion before they realized my presence and smiled? The selfie holds similar characteristics. The background tends to be unnoticeable or unimportant in a selfie because such posts usually center on the individual or the individual's accessories. Selfies tend to tell viewers very little about the event taking place.

For me, boring selfies never get likes. I'm a picky Instagramer, so unless your photo wows me, I won't hit the like button. Pictures are supposed to tell a story, and a photo of yourself in front of a mirror is no thriller. I've had to unfollow or hide friends because they'll post a selfie every day. I can't help but think, "Oh, haven't changed since the last time I saw you...yesterday...." Eventually, I can't handle any more dailies and quickly unfollow.

So are there ever interesting selfies? Absolutely. A selfie with the Cinderella Castle towering over your shoulder isn't a bad post, or meeting David Tennant in London, or skydiving, or of you doing the 5K Color Run. Such selfies tell a story, which is what interesting photo journalism is all about.

Although the selfie is a world-wide internet trend, it's also quickly linked with vanity, insecurity, and feed spam. One of the ways to limit such negative, unhealthy connotations is to limit the activity itself and begin focusing on others rather than ourselves. 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.


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  • March 21, 2015 - 11:43am (Now Viewing)

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  • Phoebe L

    I personally like selfies, but you made some really good points against them in your piece. I agree, it's aggravating to watch people fish for attention with hashtags like #ugly. It was interesting to hear the opinion of a professional photographer.
    Your piece is also really funny, and I loved your Harry Potter reference. Thanks for sharing!

    over 4 years ago
  • water&pen

    Jenneth! I absolutely adore this piece! Your humor kept me interested until the end. It was not only enjoyable but though provoking as well. Yay!

    over 4 years ago
  • Grace Mary Potts

    Just phenomenal. Superbly written! I've always been somewhat on the fence with selfies, but you've definitely made a compelling argument. I think... you might just have moved me to agree.

    over 4 years ago