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.

10 Somewhat Interesting Things About Me (A Random List)

1. When I was a girl, my favorite sandwich was peanut butter, dill pickle, and banana.

Flexitarian: I am not a vegetarian; I just eat like one.

2. When I’m putting gasoline in my minivan, I like to smoosh my face against the windows and make funny faces at my kids.

3. I can’t float on my back in a swimming pool. Every time I try, I sink like a stone. Also, I was second slowest on my middle school swim team.

4. I love to run fast. I take pride in outrunning nearly every woman, and even a great number of men. Sometimes I wish I had become a track and field athlete. Or a professional soccer player. Something fast.

5. I am an almost-vegetarian. There is actually a word for this: a flexitarian. Basically, I only eat meat around 2-3 times per week. After cooking meaty meals for my family, I often prepare a meatless dish for myself.

6. I love to be in nature. If I were a cell phone, then the way to recharge my battery would be a few days in the forest, or at the seashore, or beneath the stars in the desert.

7. If I were to meet a fairy who would grant me just one wish, I would wish for long, shiny, straight black hair. Or maybe money. Being rich may be just as fun as having long, shiny hair to swing around. Really, I can’t imagine being rich, because I don’t much like spending money and wouldn’t exactly know what to do if I suddenly had a lot of it. Well, other than travel a lot and buy a long, shiny black wig. Also, maybe I would build a koi pond.

I wish I had hair exactly like this! (Okay, so shallow, I know)

8. I remember the names of almost every child from my preschool class from 33 years ago. I remember lyrics to hundreds of songs — even songs I only sang a few times as a child. My earliest memories are from when I was not even two years old. Sometimes it is useful to have such a detailed memory. But there are also many things that I wish I could simply forget.

9 Cada dia, me esfuerzo en mejorar mi castellano. Yo miro las noticias, juegos de futbol, programas para niños, y programas ordinarias, incluso telenovelas. Yo escucho la radio en español, cantar canciones, y leer novelas tambien. Desgraciadamente, creo que todavia estoy lejos de hablar con soltura, probablemente porque me faltan las oportunidades de hablar con otras personas.

10. I like to create beautiful things for people. I write stories and poetry. I bake treats, sew quilts, and make beaded jewelry and hand-stamped cards. I like to give away my creations to other people, because I like to think that maybe my gifts may brighten someone’s day,  and that maybe, just maybe, they will be touched enough to pay it forward to others.

The not-so-perfect quilt I am making for one of my sisters for Christmas.