In defense of #selfies

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Someone felt good enough about her appearance that she took a picture. Let us all ridicule her for that.

Someone felt good enough about her appearance that she took a picture. Let us all ridicule her for that. HA HA.

It is fashionable these days to tease people who take selfies, or to look down one’s nose at those who do take selfies, or to dismiss them as juvenile, feminine, vain, or generally bad for reasons unspecified.

You’ve seen it before. Maybe you’ve done it yourself. You see someone pull out a phone to take a selfie, and you make a joke about it, or someone complains about how “everyone is always taking selfies.”

There’s a sort of a snobbish “I’m better than that” attitude that comes along with all these condemnations. The commentator looks around after the comment was made, grinning in a most self-satisfied way, as if he has said something most original and daring. There’s a smug, superior, aren’t-I-clever-for-going-against-the-grain vibe that I get from people who say things like that, and I just can’t handle the hypocrisy anymore.

First off, when you condemn selfies and those who take them, you are not saying anything clever or original. It’s not funny. It’s not illuminating. You haven’t picked out some interesting and unremarked-upon feature of human experience that no-one else has noticed. (Not that I’m claiming that any of the following ideas are original to myself either—plenty of other people have had reasoned pro-selfie positions. Consider this more of a rant than a claim to an original philosophy.)

Further, you are not some brave individualistic rebel among a flock of narcissistic sheeple. If anything, this makes you more like a corporate shill, helping to ensure that a new generation of young people is intimidated into believing that they have good reason to be insecure (and thus prepared to spend money to make that feeling go away). There are, after all, entire industries whose business model depends on encouraging our insecurities and preying on them. So if you’re feeling smug about being the lone wolf who’s bucking a terrifying trend of vanity, you should consider that every single person you’re criticising has been told “you’re not good enough and you should feel bad about it” in a million subtle (and also a million not-so-subtle-and-corporately-funded) ways for their entire life.

When you say things like, “No one wants to see your selfies,” you are not actually commenting on the value of the photographs that you’re disparaging, even if you think that’s what you’re doing. You’re coming closer to making a commentary on your own value as a friend, though. With a statement like that, you’re saying, “I don’t care about you, how you look, or what you’re doing. I don’t care that you felt good about yourself today.” And when you say things like that, you’re telling everyone in earshot that they shouldn’t expect positive feedback or encouragement from you.

It’s the same sort of attitude that you get from people who say things like, “Don’t tweet about what you had for breakfast,” or “You don’t need to make a Facebook post every time you go for a run.” You know what? If you care that little, no one’s forcing you to use social media. You can leave the party if you’re not enjoying it.

And this is why the whole thing is hypocrisy: When you say, “How egotistical—my friend posted a selfie,” what you are really saying is “I don’t care about my friend—if she is feeling good about her appearance, or what she’s doing, or if she just wants some positive attention from her friends, then that is unimportant or offensive to me somehow.” And that attitude—trying to make someone feel bad, just so you can have the satisfaction of looking down your nose at her—is so much more self-absorbed than posting a selfie.

As for me, I do care about my friends, and when I see a friend’s selfie go by on my Twitter feed, I want my first thought to be “Aww, isn’t that cute,” and not “How can I make that person feel bad?” That’s the kind of person I want to be.

BibTeX

@online{bgcarlisle2014-4276,
    title = {In defense of #selfies},
    journaltitle = {The Grey Literature},
    author = {Benjamin Gregory Carlisle},
    address = {Montreal, Canada},
    date = 2014-10-15,
    url = {https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2014/10/15/in-defense-of-selfies/}
}

MLA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. "In defense of #selfies" Web blog post. The Grey Literature. 15 Oct 2014. Web. 22 Mar 2019. <https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2014/10/15/in-defense-of-selfies/>

APA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. (2014, Oct 15). In defense of #selfies [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2014/10/15/in-defense-of-selfies/

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