Two years ago, I was a professed selfie-hater, cringing whenever I saw friends holding a smartphone, arms outstretched, faces distorted, attempting individuality in this age of digital frenzy. Taking selfies was, for me, an inane act of self-promotion that betrayed a need for attention, especially if it is posted immediately to Instagram. I grew especially enraged when my friends received hundreds of likes for their mindless pouting, and self-conscious grimacing.
All my life, I have yearned for validation and attention, be it in real life or on social media. I did the latter most excellently, by posting thoughtful articles and self-help quotes that I felt everyone could relate to. I thought, Here I am, being seen and appreciated for my BRAINZ.
Here’s what I did not believe: that I was a person worthy of being seen. My selfie-hate wasn’t a hatred of ALL THINGS MODERN, it was a reflection of what I thought of myself—of my physical appearance. I said to myself, “Selfies are for pretty and famous people, I’m neither of those.”
A year ago, I started experimenting and exploring the selfie realm. My first batch of selfies showed just one half of my face. Now I realize that in choosing this shot I meant to appear mysterious (which = lol). Unconsciously, I was creeping into selfie territory, but my desire to remain less digitally seen was still present, and was pretty apparent in my selfies at the time.
Next came the mirror selfies. This is when I started thinking, Wow! I’m gradually loving this selfie thing! Whenever I saw a nice mirror, or a spot that had enough symmetry to create DRAMA, I wouldn’t hesitate to stop and take a selfie in front of it.
Then I moved on to self-timers, or as I call them, selfie-portraits. This technique became a tasteful form of self-representation for me. I’d find a nice spot in public to take my portrait and then set my self-timer.
At first, it was a little embarrassing and awkward, but somehow I just wanted the picture enough that stopped caring whether anyone was looking at my taking selfie-portraits in public. And people do look at me. Sometimes, I’m sure they cringe and laugh or puke inwardly, because here is a teenage girl posing like a goddamn fashion blogger without a photographer. Surprise! *shrug*.
I’m becoming what some women would call unapologetic—not totally oblivious to the world outside my own, but not afraid to inhabit it on my own terms, either. And maybe that’s why people hate us taking selfies, why I hated selfies, and why selfies are dubbed narcissistic. This is why grown-ups scowl at teenagers who have fun and laugh in public. Now I understand—now that I’m wielding the power in my own hands. I understand.
Contrary to the thinking I subscribed to before, selfies have become a healthy act for me. WHEW, who knew?! As a young, brown-skinned woman, the act of taking selfies has opened a channel for my self-representation. It’s me, the way I am.
Whenever I’m feeling not much of myself, lost in the qualms and stresses of life, I pull out my phone and snap a selfie. If I’m feeling playful, I send it to my friends and it kind of bonds us. (There’s even an adage going around that the more frightful and beastly you look in the selfie you send to friends, the tighter your friendship is.) Although at times, I still feel insecure and do the ol’ half-faced trick, I know that taking a selfie is a way to assure myself of my own physical presence. And that makes me feel better, somehow.
It’s about time we control the filters by which we are viewed, to represent and reproduce ourselves on our own terms, to be seen the way we want to be seen. ♦