Monday, December 16, 2013

Generation Selfie

Have you been here?  A picture is taken and then someone says, ‘wait!  Let me see that…hmmm, I don’t look good, can we take it again?’.  Working with teenagers, it was an everyday occurrence.  And I hated it, but never said anything. I’d delete the imperfect one, take another, while silently mumbling in my head about the egos of kids today.

I wish I would have said something.

Generation Selfie-  Let’s talk about it.

The other day, I was cruising with a young adult in the car, and I noticed she was taking pictures of herself. At first I ignored it.  That is how much I hate the selfie, I can’t even handle a discussion on it.  But then I had to ask, ‘um, are you seriously taking selfies in the car right now?’  Turns out, she was just snap chatting (I still don’t get the appeal).  BUT, it led to  conversation.

Acceptable Selfie- more than one person
You see, I don’t understand the selfie.  And let me explain what I mean by selfie. I’m not talking about group pictures. I’m not talking about silly pictures. I’m not talking about pictures to show off a new piercing etc… I’m talking about the epidemic of young people (and some older people) taking multiple pictures of themselves and posting them on social media.  It has always sat really uneasy with me, but I wasn’t quite sure why.

So, I asked this young person, ‘Don’t you think it’s weird, to like, take multiple pictures of yourself and post them on social media?’
“Not weird at all” she said, “It’s basically what Instagram is for”. 
“But why!??!” I asked.
And then she said it, “Well, if I look good, I want people to know I look good, so I post a picture of it.  If I look skinny, I post a pictures of it. Selfies are awesome”.

I was almost offended by her honesty, but then she challenged me.  “Hey, when you used to go out to bars, didn't you get yourself ‘did’? You wanted to look good and you wanted people to know you looked good”

And she was right.  I went on to ask her if she thought it was egotistical, if she thought it was shallow.  She reflected that maybe it was a bit, but she didn't’t think there was anything wrong with it.  So I let that sit and I let it sink in.  And I figured out why her statements sat uncomfortably with me.

Taking a selfie and posting it on social networking is NOT like going out to a bar. It’s not like dressing up and looking good.  It’s not like going out and meeting people, talking to them, smiling/laughing with them and letting them see your soul.  Taking a selfie isn't showing people who you are, it is showing people who you are is what you look like.  And here's the thing... what you look like is a PART of who you are, but perhaps the LEAST important. Generation selfie makes it MOST important.

Generation Selfie, for the most part, leaves little room for imperfections.  We post pictures showing us at our best angles, with the best lighting, the pictures that make us look ‘thin’ the pictures that hide the imperfections…the flaws. I once had a picture as my profile that wasn't the most flattering. BUT, I loved it- because it showed true joy. I had a laugh on my face, that was being shared by my oldest son.  I loved that picture.  Do you know, when I took it down, SO MANY PEOPLE commented/said, ‘I am so glad you took that picture down of yourself, I HATED it!’ (if you said that, it’s okay, I get it!)?  I can’t tell you how many times I have taken pictures with women and they have said, turn your face, pull your chin up, it makes you look better.   But the thing is, maybe we don’t always need to ‘look better’.  Maybe we can look good, just as we are.  Maybe our flaws, our imperfections, the ‘bad pictures’ taken of us show people a realness this world is desperately seeking.  Maybe, we can be okay with who we are on the outside, (assuming we've taken the time to be healthy).  Maybe, God loves us and made us, with some ‘flaws’ with some ‘imperfections’ and maybe those are the very things that make us vulnerable enough to be real with people.
My awesome and apparently unacceptable profile pictures

At the end of the conversation I said, ‘You know, I don’t like this and I don’t think it’s good. I don’t think it’s good. We are so concerned with how our exterior looks to the point where we feel we have to be perfect in every picture’.  This young adult said, ‘you might not like it, but it is not changing, it is the way things are’.  And I felt sad. 

And then I said, ‘well, there’s always the second coming…’



  1. I heart you a million times over! If you haven't read this article, I think you might like it oh so much. http://verilymag.com/the-care-and-keeping-of-online-personas/

    You know I pretty agree with almost everything you write (other than the love of the Jim Carrey Grinch, but I'll let that go). Only showing your best face, while it is encouraged in one sense, is such a lie in the other. I think in a culture where coping skills are wanting at best, so many people end up depressed because they don't live up to an ideal they have created in their heads. If we are inauthentic, we only contribute to that disease. Sure, I want you to see me at my fanciest, but guess what - 90% of the time that isn't how I look.

    I don't think the selfie itself is necessarily the most horrible thing - people have been making self portraits for centuries. I think the intent behind it is the red flag, which you so adeptly brought to the surface. Social media takes out the element of reality - it can become a fabricated reality, so much so that there is a danger that when a real life encounter happens, it pales by comparison to the image you've built up online. Besides the element of completely objectifying yourself, but you already went down that path.

    Ok, I'm done leaving a manifesto here. I shall move on to Monday Morning Meditations at Mary's Mantle now. How do you like them "M"s? This is my mind on sleep deprivation. Carry on.

  2. Ok, first I want to say: I get where you are coming from. I also am not a huge fan of selfless, though I have probably taken one or two in my life. (Though the ones I am thinking of were to show off a haircut after I donated and then Halloween makeups, but who knows? Maybe there were more.)

    However, and isn't there always a however, remember when we were talking about things to do when you feel unattractive? The selfie is AN equivalent of doing something to make yourself feel more attractive. I don't want this to be a post that turns the words you said into something that works against this post, I'm just trying to give ground to equate things on. While it is not fully on the same ground as going to a bar and meeting someone, I know people who ANYTIME they go out for the night they do group shots and selfies as part of the pre-event. This gets them excited and in a way opens them up internally to be able to approach more people.

    I just remembered another selfie I took. Recently I went on a first date with a guy. I was super nervous. I got ready and my girlfriends were texting me, getting me pumped up and calmed down (if that makes sense) and I took a selfie to send to them as a 'final looks' kind of thing. Their responses were what gave me the good to go moment. Now you're thinking "BUT you didn't post that all over social media, you just sent it to them." That's true, but I still have it on my phone because I have debated posting it several times. I think I look good in it. Maybe I will post it. Maybe I won't. My crystal ball is still fuzzy on that one, haha.

    My niece is an avid selfie poster at 13. I think it is excessive, and I've talked to her about this. But, at the end of the day, and this very long post, I guess I would prefer people getting kicks from posting selfies than sexting. As long as the pictures that get taken still include clothes, I'm going to count that as a win.

    Oh, last note: I still dislike the selfie. If you succeed in making it go away, I won't be upset, haha!

    1. Directly after posting this I went to Facebook to find that my mother has changed her profile picture to a selfie.

  3. Mary, I love this! You said exactly everything I've ever thought about selfies! I'm definitely one of those people who doesn't like how she looks in pictures 95% of the time. But at the same time, I've always been uncomfortable with mindfully doing things to enhance the image, like putting my hand on my hip, or leaning forward, etc. What it really comes down to for me is I have to work on being happy about who I am and grateful for all I have. Manipulating pictures, whether its through selfies or mindfully posing, is not being ok with who I am.