If anything defines and unites Generation Y, it’s the selfie.
The bottom line is, if you were born between 1985 and 2000, there’s an overwhelming possibility that you’ve taken a picture of yourself and uploaded it to the Internet. Maybe you’ve showed off your pearly whites, felt the need to prove that you went the gym or treated yourself to an angst-ridden Photobooth session in your dark bedroom. If you haven’t, your friends have. Your siblings probably have. Maybe your Mom even gave it a shot, in the spirit of staying with the times. If you’ve refrained from posting your own face or body on any given social media outlet, you are in the smallest of minorities. It’s a phenomenon that has taken over, and unless you abstain from The Big Four (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest) altogether, it’s virtually unavoidable.
We live in a time where it is more common, and much more acceptable, to hate yourself than it is to love yourself. This is reinforced not only by the media, with its impossible airbrushed standards, but also by our peers. We’re working with a strange juxtaposition here, because while most of us upload selfies, the general consensus is that selfies also SUCK. We might post them, but we roll our eyes when we see others on our timelines and newsfeeds. They are frequently dismissed as superficial, pointless, annoying and desperate. This applies to both men and women, but speaking strictly from a female perspective, I can tell you that admitting you actively like yourself–that you like your face, that you like your body, that you’re proud of it, that you wouldn’t change it–is social Armageddon. Our insecurities become the common denominator. Talking with your girlfriends about how much you hate your thighs or your stomach or your nose (or whatever) is hardly even optional. It’s part of being a girl, part of the this-is-supposed-to-be-my-peak-I-need-to-be-hotter fantasy.
Insecurity is probably a major draw for the #selfienation; in other words, people find it difficult to like themselves, so they need others to do it for them. We have been raised to downplay the way we look. We can comfortably promote our intelligence, shamelessly exhibit our artistic ability, or display our athleticism, but the second someone comments on our appearance…game over.
“You look great today!”
“No, no, no, look at my hair!”
“You have beautiful eyes!”
“Ugh, they’re SO gross, I wish they were blue…but thanks.”
This is a problem that is so common that I’m not even completely sure who or what to blame for it anymore. I’m guilty of resisting compliments sometimes, and even though I know I shouldn’t, it’s just been ingrained into my psyche. Selfies are nice in that way. You can upload a picture of yourself, and people will say nice things about the way you look, which, culturally speaking, you aren’t supposed to do yourself. It’s a confidence booster without being considered stuck up. And if you’ve grown up wishing that you had a different/better body, or a different/better face, or different/better hair, whatever your hang-up is… it might be totally necessary to hear that you’re a babe every once in a while.
My issue is that there is a stigmatization with selfies that dictates that insecurity is the sole reason they are uploaded–one motive, and it’s bad. Regardless of who you are, anybody can look at what you put up on your Instagram and think “it’s all because you’re insecure. You’re hungry for the attention. You need to be affirmed.” My question is, what if you’re NOT? What if you DON’T?
I am vehemently pro-selfie, and have no problem leading its cheer squad. Most of my Facebook default photos are selfies. I upload them to Instagram sometimes. I don’t do it because I hate myself, though I do have days where I admit I could do a better job of thinking positively. I don’t do it because I need people to tell me I’m pretty–I have a boyfriend who thinks I’m pretty, and his opinion doesn’t stem from, nor does it change because of, the way I photograph myself. I could live my life just as happily if I never posted another one again. I’m not into selfies because I need to fill a psychosexual void. I’m into selfies because I am not afraid to allow myself that little pulse of pride. A selfie is an acceptable way to say “I feel confident today. Here you go, world, eat your heart out. I’m awesome.” That’s a freedom that everyone deserves to embrace.
With that, I encourage you to purge the idea that selfies only serve to satisfy a negative purpose. Realize that tooting your own horn doesn’t make you an egotistical maniac. Make a conscious effort to rid yourself of negativity about your appearance. It’s not about equating your worth to the feedback you get online; it’s about allowing yourself to be excited about how awesome you are, and not apologizing for it.
Selfie on, Gen Y. Selfie on.