Me, My Selfie, and I (aka: Artistic Narcissism)

Yesterday, my teenage son explained that kids at his high school measure a person’s popularity by how many followers they have on Instagram. I do not have an account on Instagram, but from what my kids tell me, it is basically a website where teenagers (mostly girls) post selfies of themselves in various poses and outfits, then beg for attention from their friends (“How do I look with this hairstyle? Don’t I look so cute in this outfit?).

Now, as selfie was deemed 2013 Word of the Year by Oxford Dictionary, I’m pretty sure that most people know exactly what a selfie is, even if you live in a cave, like me. However, though most of us can agree what a selfie actually is, there appears to be a lot of dispute about why our culture is currently so obsessed with taking selfies, or about whether doing so is a positive or negative thing.

My first thought about selfies? What a stupid waste of time! My second thought about selfies: How narcissistic! My third thought about selfies: I wonder if I should take a quick selfie to post on my blog post about selfies?


upside down selfie

Oooh, I wonder what I look like upside-down?

You see, I was all set to focus this article on Selfie-bashing. It is so easy to do. For starters, selfies appear to be a way for girls and women to seek attention, praise, and flattery for their appearance and sexuality, as opposed to their intelligence, accomplishments, and inner worth. (Don’t believe me? All it takes is a quick Google Image Search for Selfies to see a ton of disturbing examples of half-dressed young women trying to look sexy for the camera). Secondly, the idea that a young person’s self-esteem may be boosted or crushed by how many people give them positive feedback on their self-portraits is rather disturbing. (Please, guys…tell me that I don’t look too hideous with this haircut! I think it looks weird. Doesn’t it look weird? SOMEBODY TELL ME!!) Finally, there is something about seeing oneself from the perspective that others see us that can serve to heighten insecurities about one’s appearance. For example, I didn’t care at all about whether my curly hair looks unattractive, or whether my forehead was too shiny, or my chin too pointy, or my eyes uneven until just now, when I was studying my selfies. Oh no — is the rest of the world thinking these things when they see me, too? Aauuuggghhh!!!

But some people view selfies in a more positive light. Perhaps, like blogging, selfies are the average person’s way of “living out loud,” of making themselves feel visible in a large world. Selfies can be an expressive and empowering form of art, or a display of self-confidence — “I feel good about my appearance today and just wanted to share that with the world.” Additionally, Selfies, like blogs, can be a way to tell the world your story. Some people use them to chronicle their struggles fighting an illness, or to show the places they’ve been, or to pose with the people who are important in their lives.

Whether we choose to view The Selfie as the new evil of out times, or as a postive form of self-expression, or even as a neutral way to just be silly and have fun with our mobile phones, we cannot deny that they are a prevalent part of our culture. As a parent, the best that I can do is encourage my kids to respond to the trend in the most positive way they can. As far as being popular among their peers, well, I am lucky to have kids to whom popularity is of little importance. But even if it were, then I would give my children this advice: It is far better to be admired for the person that you genuinely are than to be admired for the person whom you present through the lens of your own camera.

8 responses to “Me, My Selfie, and I (aka: Artistic Narcissism)

  1. Nice. Selfies and Twitter%-| I decided not to tweet because all I could fit in 140 chars was an haiku or mangled semaphores. Selfies I don’t do because, although I am a fine specimine at 5’9-3/4″ and 155 lbs I am not vain (ok, 5’9″).I lost 3/4″ when a last measured myself – that’s what pushing 70 will do for you. I’m not in the dating game and don’t need to advertise. My existing pic is me 10 years aago and that’s how I want to be remembered, not that I’m going anywhere. You look pretty good though and it was nice to see an attractive selfie of you:-)

    • Thanks! (Although I was going for humorous selfie and honest selfie, not attractive, haha). I don’t think that selfies are always about being “in the dating game,” though. I have read so many interesting reasons why people post selfies, that it has really negated my previous stereotypes. I always thought they were about, “Look at me, aren’t I hot?” or “Look at me and reassure me that I’m normal.” But now I know that they can mean a lot more than that.

      Lol at your reasons not to tweet. 😀 I like Twitter. It is a fairly quiet way to live out loud…like talking to myself in a room crowded with people. But it’s a fun challenge learning to express oneself in so few characters, and fun to read what other people have to say. 🙂

  2. I find it interesting and oddly refreshing that you expected to bash the selfie and yet did not, you chose a positive out look on the matter. I wonder when the fad will wane, I contemplate if it is here forever then note everything is transient. In the meantime why get all bent out of shape over selflies when there is so much more “wrong” with the world? Still, I said no to my child’s request for an Instagram account and laugh that as I type this WordPress underlines selfie as spelled incorrectly.

    • Haha…I guess that WordPress needs to update its spellchecker using the Oxford Dictionary. 😉 I really want to hate the selfie, but then I guess that is what happens with every new trend that changes our culture. We moan and groan about how it will be the downfall of society, or the end of civilization. Who knows? Maybe it will. Or maybe it is harmless. I like to consider both sides.

      Thanks for commenting! 🙂

  3. Fun take on a relatively recent phenomenon :). It seems harmless to me, like collecting Pokemon cards, growing sprouts, making yogurt or using hoola hoops. Skateboarding started out the same way but became more permanent, as did snowboarding and mountain biking, and selfies may too. And as we become more affluent, our hobbies need not be practical, the way that canning and baking bread used to be. I remember being surprised a couple years ago by the kids posting semi-nude & underwear-clad photos of themselves, and then I just learned it was part of the zeitgeist. It’s cool how youth culture drives a lot of these phenomena and also how quickly new words are spreading these days. My linguistics class is already outdated, stuck back in the days of “bling” and “flexitarian.” Other words of the year now seem commonplace – “app,” “hashtag,” “occupy,” “tweet,” “google,” “twerk,” and “subprime.” I like “showrooming” and “binge-watch.” But the word I really like is “kerfuffle” 🙂 :). And from an evolutionary perspective I think it’s interesting that people are always finding new ways to advertise themselves.

    • Kerfluffle — I like that one. 🙂 Twerking is not new, by the way. It is one of those fads that has been around in the black community for a very long time, but has recently gone mainstream (although personally, I wish it would go away altogether).

      I am still on the fence about selfies, as you can probably tell. Seeing these scores of young girls desperately trying to get people to pay attention to them for their bodies, rather than their personalities and intelligence makes my inner feminist very uneasy. And there is no way that I will ever think that it is okay for minors to post semi-nude or underwear-clad pics of themselves. 😦 That is not a gray area.

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