It seems that everyone has an opinion about selfies. The topic seems to have a polarizing effect, with opposing sides quick to defend their view. For every person I know who has an Instagram account entirely filled with selfies, there is another person who insists they have never taken one. There are many articles about the psychology behind selfies, and the self-esteem issues they often lead to with teenagers. I am neither a psychologist, nor am I a teenager. Selfies, and the camera technology that makes them so easy, came into being after I started university. As such, issues of parental control over pictures posted have never been of any relevance to me, and will therefore not be my topic of focus. When I told me father in a text I was writing about selfies, he asked what many fathers would: “What are selfies?” I sent him a close up picture of myself staring intently at the camera with no makeup on. “Alarming, aren’t they?” I offered as an explanation. (No, I’m not posting the picture.) I’m not going to write about selfies as they relate to self-conscious fifteen year old girls or middle aged divorcees, because many people have written about that already. I’m writing about what I know. This is my perception of selfies and the culture that surrounds them as it relates to me.
I sent this to my parents right before I left for Nicaragua.
As photographic evidence would suggest, I do not take a radical stance on selfies. I stand somewhere within the grey area. I have taken some and posted few. The reason why I have posted so few is not because I fear associating myself with those who take stereotypical selfies. Quite simply, most of the selfies I take end up looking quite a lot like mugshots, hence the alarming nature of the photo I sent my father. (I’m still not posting it.) Many have said that those who frequently post selfies are in need of validation. That may be the case, but what of the people who don’t post selfies? To me, whether or not one takes and posts such pictures is a matter of confidence. Just because one does not post selfies does not mean that one is not in need of validation in some part of their life. I need as much validation as the next person — hell, maybe I need more and that’s what I blog for. Those who post pictures of themselves may be in need of validation, but at least they have the confidence to put something out there to be validated. Harassment and objectification issues aside, I like to be called beautiful too, but I don’t feel comfortable putting a picture out there to receive that kind of judgement.
Perhaps some who post selfies are self-conscious and seek the reassurance that they are attractive enough, or their lives are interesting enough to be worthy of Instagram likes. Perhaps those who do not post them seek the same reassurance, and are kept from posting them because they fear they won’t receive the validation they seek.
A selfie with my friend Creepy Muppet Cat in Montreal.
As I was finishing the post for The First Time My Parents Let Me Swear, my mom said, “I like how you aren’t afraid to post bad pictures of yourself.” Until she mentioned it, I had hardly thought about the picture I was posting. I wrote about giving the middle finger, I posted a picture of myself giving the middle finger. It was a simple as that. But it is easier to post a picture, good or bad, in a setting where the focus is on what I have written rather than on how I look in the picture I posted.
I call this “Mirrored Ski Goggles at 3 am in the UCC”. Relay for Life and essay writing leads to strange outfits.
As for my thoughts on other people’s selfies, I rarely think about whether or not the photographer seeks assurance that their waist is small enough or their breasts are big enough. My reaction to their photos — quite selfishly — is a personal reaction. I feel uncomfortable seeing photos with a bedroom intimacy. Though the photos are posted for the world to see, I feel like I’m still seeing something I’m not supposed to. That’s what happens in a world where technology makes everything and everyone immediately accessible; intimate moments are put out for public scrutiny. But that’s what the photographer intends, isn’t it?
Late at night in the streets of Toronto, when it looked like I was taking a picture of something else.
From an amazing article of this topic, check out Rachel Rabbit White’s A Story in the Shape of a Selfie of the Writer and Her Friend, Marie Calloway. She is an amazing writer, and one of the reasons I decided to write about this.
As a final note, “Selfie of Myself” became the title of this post because my favourite Walt Whitman poem is “Song of Myself.” The self is now represented in photos and not words.
Song of the Day: Red Hill Mining Town by U2
It sounds best played from a cassette through the speakers of our 1999 Nissan Pathfinder.