Oxford Dictionary named “selfie” the Word of the Year and I love it. Selfie, or a picture you’ve taken of yourself, was used 17,000% more than it was used last year. Among other words added this year are twerk, jorts, FOMO, and bitcoin. However, selfie rises above as most indicative of the world we live in today. Because a majority of us have a camera phone in our pockets, it is that much easier to take a selfie and share it with everyone else. At some point in the last five years, we have all stretched our arms out in front of us and taken a picture of ourselves. The First Family has done it, celebrities do it, even Astronaut Hadfield has done it. Despite its popularity, “selfie” is tainted with negative connotations of narcissism and conceit.
My love for selfies is not universal even though the idea of selfies is not new; people have been drawing, painting, and taking pictures of themselves for centuries. And so why is it that Rembrandt and Van Gogh‘s selfies are venerated whereas mine are critiqued as a product of my vanity? Selfies are not all that different from artists of the 1800s spending days painting a picture of themselves — it’s just faster, easier, and more prevalent in 2013.
Whenever I post a picture of myself, I hashtag it #selfie mockingly, hoping to convey that I’m self-aware enough to know that selfies are kind of embarrassing. But they don’t have to be!
Selfies are great because they are outlets for self-expression, creativity, and agency. By taking our own pictures and uploading them for the world to see, we have a voice when it comes to how we look and how we want to be perceived. We can control the angle, lighting, and our facial expressions. We can take ten different pictures in ten different poses and we have the choice to delete and upload as we wish. While I don’t find duck face that flattering, I’m not going to police someone’s desire to pose that way. Everything about selfie culture is on our own terms.
Selfies are also good for you. When friends like my selfie on Instagram, their validation makes me happy and more confident. Selfie culture fuels self-love. There is nothing shameful about liking the way you look and immortalizing it on the internet. In a world of unattainable expectations, selfies allow us to accept ourselves just as we are, however and whenever we want. They let us control our own image. And that’s empowering.