The Many Angles of the Selfie

In 2013, the word “selfie” was so commonly used that it was officially added to the Oxford English Dictionary. Around the same time, it was announced “word of the year.” A selfie is defined as, “a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and shared via social media.” Although selfies seem like a current phenomenon, variations of selfies have been around for decades in the form of artistic self-portraits, as well as old-fashioned timer photographs. 

Yet what truly is the significance of a selfie? So many people argue that selfies are vain, self-absorbed, and promote a culture of narcissism and obsession with one’s appearance. Are these people right? Or is there more to snapping a personal picture?

To assert that a selfie is a positive or negative thing is a highly complex and complicated statement to make. Selfies — although at face value seem very simple — have both good and bad cultural, personal, psychological, and societal effects. While selfies are commonly branded as an epidemic of egocentrism among young people, it is important to also acknowledge the many benefits they provide.

Image Credit: Amy Humphries

Selfies provide comfort to many people, including those who feel alone, are seeking a community, and want to document their lives and personal progress. Additionally, selfies can be used to spread positive messages, to show realness and honesty, to enable the powerless to regain control of their world, to encourage the downtrodden, to allow for self-expression, and to improve people’s self-esteem. 

Not every selfie taken is intended to gloat about one’s appearance or flaunt a certain societal standard of beauty. There are many people in the world who take selfies for the exact opposite reason – to show that being natural, normal, different and whoever you want to be – is completely okay. Selfies have the ability to spread standards of beauty outside those portrayed by magazines, Hollywood, models, and fashion catwalks. Selfies give regular, real people a chance to document their faces, their lives, and their world. These seemingly silly photographs can make humans feel valued, important, and loved. Selfies are not perfect, but they certainly have a bad reputation that ignores so many of their undeniably valuable aspects.

It is crucial to realize that selfies, when taken for the right reasons, can do a great deal of good. People who may not fit into what is conventionally defined as “attractive” are celebrated; they are able to create their own narratives free of judgment or unrealistic standards. Selfies also give people a sense of control since they are the ones taking their own pictures, and nobody else can take that authority away from them. 

Selfies certainly are one of the most controversial topics of our time. However, we shouldn’t simply put them down as some foolish cultural trends. We are given only one body, one face, and one person to live with as ourselves  – what is wrong with celebrating all of it once in a while? 


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