In Defense Of Selfies

Kids These Days

I saw a surly tween girl the other day, standing in the clothing section at Target, making a duckface into her phone and snapping a selfie. OH. MY. GOD. I wanted to make fun of her SO BAD. She took several, adjusting her bangs and her lips each time. Tilting her head the OTHER way. Raising her eyebrows. I watched her take…maybe 10 selfies before she dropped the phone down, tapped a few times, and then LAUGHED HER ASS OFF.

It was BEAUTIFUL. I don’t know if she was laughing at her own face as she posted to Instagram, or her friend’s snapchat reaction, or a funny text from her brother (that’s what usually makes ME laugh that hard) but whatever happened on her phone moments after the selfie? Made her smile the most beautiful smile on the planet.

And I suddenly remembered all of the articles and tweets and Facebook posts I’ve seen lately bashing the act of taking selfies: It’s narcissistic! It’s stupid! It’s trivial! It’s making us all self-centered and hyper-aware of our own appearances! KIDS THESE DAYS!

What we need to understand is that a lot of these selfies? Are for someone. Maybe that tween at Target was sending a picture to her boyfriend and saying, “UG. Shopping with Mom. Shoot me now.” And that picture made her boyfriend smile. Maybe the Harry Styles looking guy in his college cafeteria is sending a snapchat to his Mom that says, “Just ate my weight in soft serve.” Maybe the girls posing together at H&M are posting a picture onto Instagram that says, “BFFs!”

I mean – yes – there are plenty of tweens and teens and young adults on Instagram and Snapchat and posting selfies for no one but themselves and it’s narcissistic and they’re going to grow up to be unaware of their role in the world as it relates to their community.

But you know what? That tendency was there BEFORE they had a smartphone. The smartphone didn’t birth that personality trait into them.

Most of these kids are just entertaining themselves or their friends or their family and SOMEONE is getting a kick out of it. It’s not to entertain YOU – the grumpy adult sick of the duckface – it’s for their friends. Maybe a boyfriend. Maybe even a sibling or a parent. Chances are it’s going to bring a smile to someone’s face, even if it makes us scowl.

Documenting Moments

But on an even grander scale…it’s to document a moment in time. A moment that SHOULD be documented. Either to smile at later, or to fill in memories when you’re gone forever.

I used to store all of my photos on Flickr back before I had a smartphone that took high quality photos. I tagged EVERYTHING so I could find them easily. I had a tag that I started because of my Dad called: ArmsLength.

See? My Dad traveled the world a lot for work. He took his digital camera with him and always snapped pictures of himself at cool places. This tendency prevailed when we all got together as well, we always tried to take “Arms Length” photos as a group when we could.

So now we have these hysterical group shots documented from Dad’s cameras. Yes, was it silly to group together for a selfie in a hotel lobby before a photo? OF COURSE IT WAS. Why do you think we’re laughing? It’s ridiculous! But now we have this photo of that day and it’s one of my favorite photo in the world.

But we also have loads of pictures now of Dad at cool places. Did anyone see him taking these photos and giggle? Maybe.

But I took those photos and made a book out of them for my brother. I have some of them hanging on my refrigerator. I love these “Arms Length” photos SO MUCH. I love that my Dad – the least cool person on the planet – is the one that introduced me to the selfie.

So, unless someone taking a selfie is personally affecting YOU, stop worrying about it. There are two things that will make you change your mind about selfies.

1) Having a child go off to college where selfies becomes beautiful moments of communication where you look at your phone and sob BECAUSE YOU MISS THAT FACE SO MUCH.

2) Losing someone whose selfies become precious documents of lost moments.

In the future I’ll continue to momentarily scoff at people taking selfies, but it will be a temporary scoffing. Because I cherish selfies from my son and my Dad anyone who posts them on Facebook to bring a smile to my day.

6 thoughts on “In Defense Of Selfies”

  1. I agree! Selfies also say, “I am here!” And all humans have a need to say I am here, this is my life. And I love that more lives can be documented in new ways now that there is the Internet and selfies.

  2. I agree too! Excellent points and excellent pictures of your dad. Those are priceless pictures that you wouldn’t have if he hadn’t taken them himself. And that one of all of you is great!

  3. Love this post, Kim. And those photos of your dad. (I used to take a photo of my foot whenever I went anywhere cool. Not brave enough for the face shots, I guess.)

  4. Exactly why i took the picture of me and my grandmother the other day. She’s 94. I don’t think she will be here much longer. So we took a selfie,

  5. Your dad in his red jacket? I love that photo. I would put that one on my fridge, and I didn’t even know the man! I’m glad you have your photos of him.

  6. Oh my gosh, Zoot, you are SO RIGHT about this. I’ve often said that one should never take pictures of landmarks on a vacation without having a person in the picture, because 10 years later no one will care about the landmark but someone will DEFINITELY care about seeing the person. Those photos of your dad are wonderful. Beautiful. And you’re absolutely right about the moment in time and the sharing. I get pictures of my nieces in Snapchat all the time and it’s a wonderful way to feel close to them every day even though they are 3000 miles away.

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