Why I love selfies

I should be clear here, I love other people’s selfies, my own not so much. But we will get to that.

There is a Jezebel article doing the rounds at the moment about how selfies aren’t empowering, they represent the ultimate in marketing to convince youth that their value lies in their attractiveness. I think this is a very narrow view of who uses selfies and also a bit of generalising about the youth market. My kids aren’t teenagers yet but they love taking selfies. I love them taking selfies too because I have all these awesome photos of my kids that I wouldn’t otherwise have.

I was introduced to the whole selfie thing by women taking and posting Outfit of the Day photos. Not only was it great for my wardrobe – where did you buy that gorgeous outfit? but also for my perceptions of beauty and my own understanding of how I had been schooled into thinking within very narrow confines of what was beautiful, which given the amount of photoshopping that goes on isn’t realistic anyway.

I love selfies because they capture a moment in your life when you felt like taking a photo. You are out having a great time with your friends, you are home alone on the couch eating potato chips, your cat is treating you like its personal chair *waves to Mim* because it is a moment to share with your friends. Sure it might be a time you are feeling that you look particularly good, or know that you don’t (or think you don’t) or just want to share what your cat thinks is reasonable behaviour. But it allows me a tiny glimpse into your life and I feel that I know you that little bit better. Also it allows me to admire your hair colour or lipstick or whatever. Quite simply it is great people watching that I can do from my own computer. But not in a creepy way. Really.

WOC commenters on Twitter have pointed out that selfies are some of the only times that they see real hair and real skin tone. That is quite a sad and sobering statement. They only see depictions of people like themselves when they take the photos themselves. That is deeply fucked. I suspect that never seeing images of people like themselves would have more impact on youth than the odd selfie. Although as a privileged white woman I see plenty of white people on TV, rarely are they fat unless it is headless as a dire warning on the nightly news. But this is not in any way equivalent to the almost complete erasure of any POC. ETA: this link to Trudy’s post on tumblr. Follow her on twitter @thetrudz.

I love selfies because sometimes it is my friends’ way of saying ‘I feel okay about myself today’ or “I’m not letting the bastards get me down’. When you are separated by geographical distance and can’t pop over to offer tea and hugs it is important to know that they are okay. Selfies also allow me to keep up with what is happening in their lives: new haircut, fab new dress, new tattoo.

I have been told to take selfies because they help with self esteem. Take a photo a day until you aren’t worried about being in photos anymore. I know it has worked for people, but I haven’t taken the plunge yet. Soon. Maybe.

I’m going to leave you with this lovely post from Chrys at Gladly the Cross Eyed Bear. She is so right.

Categories: gender & feminism, Life, media


9 replies

  1. Selfies have been absolutely vital for me in building my self esteem – not just my own shots, but most importantly everyone else’s. Seeing people visually represented who aren’t normally included by the media is so powerful.
    I can testify that the power of taking your own selfies is in seeing yourself from all different angles and you actually do build your self esteem over time. Nobody needs to see them when you start out, you can take them, look at them and delete them if you want. After a while, you’ll notice that you won’t feel the need to delete them. Soon after you might like a few. Maybe you’ll use one as a profile pic. Before long, you’ll take the plunge in sharing one. It’s an incremental thing, ya know?

  2. My selfies are all photoshopped, because I don’t photograph well. I like the way I look in the mirror fine, but it doesn’t translate into photographs! I take heaps of them, mostly as source material for the pictures I construct of Mr Kittehs and me (he can’t be photographed, alas).

  3. I don’t agree with the Jezebel article, but I think it’s worth acknowledging she is making a distinction between the self-portrait and the ‘selfie’, which she understands to be a very specific type of self-portrait, which features only or primarily the face with big eyes and a very deliberate pout or ‘duckface’, that seems to be predominate amongst teenagers and young adult women. That particular motif (which seems massively popular if my various nieces and their friends reflect their age-groups) has been criticised now for a while as being particularly narcissistic and she seems to be jumping on that conversation, but from a feminist edge. I think that particular social phenomenon is more complicated than this critique suggests, and particularly that the accusation of narcissism is unfair and misunderstands it – that is not to say that it isn’t informed by contemporary beauty ideals (which it is) that might be worth interrogating!

  4. I took a cat-free selfie this weekend!

  5. Mindy, I love selfies for the same reason. They’re pictures of my friends – yes, even friends I haven’t met offline – and who doesn’t love pictures of their friends?
    I have a different take on the idea in the Jezebel piece that people post selfies on the internet hoping for others to say nice things. Posting a selfie allows people to say nice things. On a regular work day – where you get up, commute, work, commute, go to bed – how many compliments would you give people? Probably none. Maybe you’d tell a work colleague that you like their new haircut. When you give a compliment to someone, they are so pleased and you get a buzz of joy from that. Kath, your excellent post on giving compliments to people made me increase my compliment levels. So, for me, selfies allow me to give out more compliments.

  6. mimbles, a cat-free selfie?


  7. I understand that there’s perhaps a critique to be made of duckface, but I don’t understand why go confuse everything by calling the problem ‘selfies’? Because I’ve never heard anyone else use ‘selfie’ to mean duckface, and you see plenty of examples of duckface in pictures that aren’t selfies. (As well as, of course, selfies without duckface.)
    I also more and more get really, really suspicious when there’s a critique of teen/young women. Honestly, they don’t have much real power and if there seems to be a problem in their vicinity, it’s more likely a larger social (or commercial) issue. They might be reflecting that problem in a way that makes the rest of us uncomfortable, but surely as feminists, we’re used to having to scratch the surface a bit, rather than just join in blaiming women?

  8. Thinking about the article there seems to be a bit of ‘who do they think they are, thinking they are beautiful?’

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