The selfie, might just be one of the most contentious things our phones ever created. I’m positive wars have been fought over them, ships launched because of the faces in them and friendships forged and broken by them.
For such tiny little things, they have such incredible power. The right selfie, in the right lighting, with the right backdrop, can send you soaring onto a cloud of confidence and self love as you walk that little bit taller for one day, as the likes come pouring in, affirming all the things you thought when you hit send. Similarly, a bad selfie, at a terrible angle, can send you spiraling into a pit of despair as you immediately cancel all your plans and vow to spend the next month in the gym, before miserably eating three slices of cake to console yourself that out of the 156 selfies you just took, not one was postable.
But the thing that’s most interesting about our desire to snap our face and post it for the world to see, is not the act of doing it, but the reaction it provokes from others. I’ve watched people passionately argue against selfies, despise the people in them and scorn those that post them. There’s a huge amount of judgment for the selfie aficionados, and it’s generally attributed to insecurities, lack of confidence and needy behavior.
But honestly, I don’t think it’s any of those things. As I walked home tonight, I passed two groups of people taking selfies, and each time I smiled, never once wondering if they were insecure or needy. I was witnessing a moment in time, a moment in their lives that they would laugh about, reminisce over, discuss and share with the thousands of people on their social channels. Suddenly, those 5 seconds it took to pose, get into position and click snap, had turned into a savored moment, a tiny memory, that would go out into the world and be shared with their loved ones. To me, that was pretty fucking glorious. Our lives are made up of thousands upon thousands of fleeting moments that pass us by in a heartbeat, and slip from our memory even quicker. If somehow, we manage to capture just some of those moments, to keep safe and bring out on the rainy days when we’ve forgotten all about them, that’s something to be celebrated surely.
Mostly, the thing we have to remember about them is that sometimes, people just like to post pictures of their face and actually, what we think about it doesn’t matter and isn’t important. That’s what we all forget. We live in a world that consistently tells us to hate the way we look. To buy more things to change the way we look. To aspire to an image of beauty we never chose. So whether you’re male or female, trying to feel good about the way you look is deeply exhausting. Yet there are times when we snap the perfect picture and when we hit send, in that one tiny second, regardless of who will like it and how many comments it will receive, in that second someone felt great about themselves. No one actually gives a shit if you like the picture or not. That’s not what matters. What matters is the person in it really liked it and felt beautiful.
If someone was to stand in front of you and tell you they felt beautiful, we would never disagree with them or argue against it. That would be absurd. That’s all a selfie is. Someone standing up and saying, ‘hey, I feel beautiful today,’ and why on earth would we ever discourage that.
It’s actually kind of wonderful when you think about it, and if you’ve ever watched someone take a selfie, you get to witness a raw glimpse of pure vulnerability and humanity in someone else. We don’t see that enough, we certainly don’t encourage it enough and nor do we celebrate it as we should. There’s something insanely precious about watching someone take a selfie. They pull faces they don’t want anyone else to see, they expose themselves completely and they trust that someone else will like it. It’s actually incredibly beautiful, and maybe, just maybe, it’s time we put away our judgment for a little while.