If you tell me you’ve never taken a selfie, I probably won’t believe you. In this day and age, the selfie has become a prominent aspect of our culture. Trends have expiration dates, but the selfie promises to be a cultural mainstay. As of 2013, the term has even become canonized by the Oxford English Dictionary as, “a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and shared via social media.” The term’s induction into what many deem the ultimate catalogue of words indicates that the selfie is much more than a self-indulgent pastime. And despite its negative stigma, it does bring a lot of good.
Historically, self portraits have been commemorations of one’s status and importance. Selfies hold this same value. The only difference now is that we do not recruit professional artists to paint them (though I guess the process in both cases is still painstakingly long). People take selfies while doing just about anything and everything and post them on social media sites for all to see. Not too long ago, people with that amount of exposure would have been considered celebrities. Now, in a paradoxical sort of way, celebrities seem to rely on social media to stay relevant. Most strikingly, the rise of social media has provided a portal through which ordinary people can achieve extraordinary popularity with minimal effort.
Although I rarely take or post selfies, I don’t fault people who do. Selfies are relatively harmless and help boost our self-esteem. It’s pretty evident that the people who are looking for an avenue to fulfill the universal and natural need for validation have found their niche in social media platforms. Every ‘like’ and supportive comment boosts one’s confidence and induces a cyclical desire to take and post more selfies.
Some people construe the practice of taking and posting selfies as narcissistic behavior. On the surface, this seems to be the case. But the selfie’s importance lies in the fact that it essentially promotes self-love. Our inherent desire for belonging is a major reason the selfie has become such a focal point in people’s lives. It constitutes an inclusive movement both in terms of belonging and in the co-authorship of an experience. People take selfies on excursions and commemorative events in the sentiment of ‘I did this,’ ‘I witnessed this’ or ‘I was there.’
Others consider the selfie as a more efficient method for taking photos. Simply, it might be quicker or less of a hassle for someone to take their own picture. We are inclined to believe that selfies are more accurate representations of ourselves and that they give us the agency to portray our self-image to other people. Selfies are very calculated efforts. We impose filters, different angles and varying facial expressions to relay an idealized version of ourselves.
It’s easy to dismiss the selfie as a Millennial hobby or as another thing which alienates younger generations from the older ones. But to do this would be to undermine its actual, positive attributes. Recently, MasterCard announced plans to employ the selfie as a means of combating credit card theft. This just goes to show how, much like the Internet, the selfie has become a cultural staple — whether you like it or not. I just hope that the duckface thing dies.
You can reach Jazmin García at firstname.lastname@example.org