#SelfieEmpowerment: The Case For The Selfie
I’m kind of possessive over my iPhone – namely, the “Photos” app. No way is anyone allowed to scroll through without my finger at the helm, no chance anyone’s going to catch a glimpse of my photo library without my consent, because I’ll be shielding it from view like I’m hiding a top secret government code (or hoarding Quest bars, either or). Because my phone is a vortex into a land of emotional duress, a land of unseen joy, a land of pleasures and painful moments documented and catalogued into Years and Collections and Moments. Yes. A land full of selfies.
Social media allows even the most inconspicuous of us a certain level of visibility, whether you’re Joe Shmoe working at the local convenience store or Jessica Simpson on a yacht in St. Bart’s jet skiing like a boss. With visibility does come responsibility. But I’d like to argue that it’s not a responsibility to show our most ethical, morally sound, G-rated selves. Rather, with social media comes a responsibility to show our most fiercely authentic, actualized selves – the darkness AND the rainbows.
So let’s talk selfies. Selfies showcase one of two things: They’re either an authentic expression and representation of someone’s full self, or a plea for validation and a representation of someone desperately trying to belong.
Just like body image campaigns tell us to love our bodies, period, I’ve seen commercials and essays and advertisements telling us we need to unplug and live in the moment, period. Some of them are actually quite moving; they’re great – but just like there’s a lot more to loving your body than just saying you do, there’s a lot more to living in the moment than just unplugging.
For some of us, technology, and therefore selfies, help us live in the moment. Instagram Culture, at its best, gets us noticing beauty in a whole new way – allowing ourselves to be so moved that we want to catch it for later. Where we get in trouble with technology is when we’re tied to what’s going on outside of our immediate surroundings: checking Facebook, scrolling through SnapChat, liking and retweeting instead of raising our heads up to face that world that’s right at the tip of our noses.
Selfies can help us live in the moment, helping us document a moment of sheer bliss or even utter confusion at the world around us. Maybe even the days we feel “fat” or “dumb” or so confused by life we can barely make sense of which way is up. Selfies can help us look for the beauty in ourselves, and can even help us analyze our darker moments or the days we’re not feeling so great. Selfies can give us permission to be so moved by who we are in that moment that we want to catch it for later so we remember what that feels like.
The flip-side of selfies comes when we’re so tied to what is going on outside of us and we post trying to prove a point, get more likes, or get social proof that we are doing something right…instead of doing it right for us, and feeling confident in that knowledge.
I am an unapologetic selfie-taker. They’re a tool I use to help me stay authentic. I use them not to fabricate a character out of myself or to show only my “pretty” days. I use them to keep me honest, and keep me remembering what it feels like to be in awe of who I am, rainbows and darkness, all-inclusive. Maybe some people won’t believe that. Maybe some people will choose to judge me for it. But that’s okay – because those selfies aren’t really for them at all. They don’t have to believe. *I* believe it.
I’ve heard people say that selfies themselvsies (see what I did there) are the problem. But they’re not – they’re just a vehicle for whatever the selfie-taker is experiencing inside of them. When artists started to paint self portraits, did their contemporaries say their society was turning into a culture or narcissists? When men and women started experimenting with flash photography and brownie boxes, did their peers deem them shallow and vain? (I mean, maybe, but it obviously wasn’t the end of human connection.) It’s not about the image itself – it’s about the intention.
If we shifted the way we approached selfies, both as participants and as voyeurs, I honestly think we could make a big shift happen in this tech-heavy world. If we viewed selfies as a vehicle for empowerment – of others and of ourselves – can you imagine the example we’d be setting for younger generations who would grow up knowing no differently?
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Next time you take a selfie, ask yourself: Does posting this empower you, fascinate you, make you feel something inside – or does it carry the weight of likes and follows you hope you’ll get on the exterior?
There is nothing wrong with craving love and attention. Don’t we all just want to feel seen?? The judgement around selfies is at the level of unnecessary catty-girl-shit: our lens focuses in on what’s “acceptable” and what’s not “acceptable” instead of what might really be going on under the surface. I don’t think it’s helpful to do away with the selfie…I just think we need to find other ways IRL to address that very human need for connection and belonging. And when we’re brave enough to share our fullest selves, we’ve got to let that shine, for us and us alone.
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The reality of our world is that not many people are going to set this example – it’s a small minority who have the courage to share their full selves and full authentic expression. It’s our job, rather, to BE the example. Not just for others – but for ourselves. Because in those darker moments of our days, it’s helpful to have a solid practice of full authentic expression already there in our toolkit.
A selfie, whether you share it on social or hoard it on your phone like I do, can be a visual reminder that you’ve been through the good and the bad before, you’ll be through it again, and you have the ability to turn things around for yourself where you see fit. It’s not our responsibility to be perfect, but it is our responsibility to be raw, vibrant, and 100% unfiltered-ly real.
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WANT Action Plan:
Get on board. Post your selfies with the hashtag #selfieempowerment and #WANTyourself – and let’s see if we can help make social media a more authentic, more vibrant place for everyone else following along. Join me?