Thursday, January 8, 2015

On Embracing the 'Selfie' & other questions of curation

Let's be honest, I hate the word selfie, but I love a good self-portrait. My obsession with documenting myself in various locales and outfits happened when I got my first digital camera at age sixteen. Which was way before I had a proper format for sharing these (besides LiveJournal). My personal interest in self-portraits was about creating an artful photograph. Sometimes I would be in a phone booth, laying in the snow filled woods, wearing space pajamas on the floor of my parent's kitchen. It was about executing an idea. But other times, it was simply about empowering myself. If I was wearing an extraordinary outfit, got a new haircut, or feeling badly -- I would snap a photo.

Back then it was a lot more work. My camera took four AA batteries, had no swivel screen, didn't fit on a tripod, selfie sticks and remotes did not exist. It was a process, but a process that taught me a lot about patience, crafting a good photo, and documenting myself at various moments. Which was also a part of what I loved about the Internet -- it allowed me to document myself and my life and what I chose to share. Which is something I have been doing since age twelve. The Internet is a graveyard of embarrassing moments that I shared in my youth and I'm proud of that.

Now teenagers and everyone in between has instant access to cellphones, fabulous cameras (that sync to your phones), filters, beauty editing software, and a million platforms to be a narcissist on. We are all guilty of sharing a photo of ourselves brunchin', sippin' coffee, or seeing a band. We have morphed into a culture that lives for the "likes" of an arranged moment. But is this really such a horrible thing?

Sure, I want to live more in the moment. Yes, I want to keep my phone tucked away when someone is talking to me and I would love to not worry about picture perfect moments to share. But what's wrong with a good outfit or a pretty display in your apartment? Absolutely nothing and that's my point.

Whenever a friend of mine posts a "selfie", I don't think, "wow, your face again." I think, "You're a babe and I'm glad you realize it too!" When going through my Instagram, I have always noticed that a photo of my face gets almost double the likes of any other kind of photo and yes, that makes me feel good about myself. I am not a model nor do I think I'm gorgeous, but I appreciate the way my face, body, and clothes look. To me, there's great power in embracing yourself when you feel good or even documenting yourself when you feel badly. It's a process of appreciating every aspect of your being and sharing pieces of yourself with the modern world.

It's okay to like yourself and it's even better to be creative, take photos, and share. You're creating a story and if that story happens to be all composed of your face, then what does it matter? That's awesome! If your online persona is beautiful photos of yourself, your space, and your husband that's okay too. I think most rational people are able to separate the photos from reality. Most understand that what one shares is not the whole picture. That there are bad days, messy bedrooms, and bad skin. It's not all pretty and that's okay. The beauty in crafting an online persona is the craft. It's about whatever you personally want to share and how you want to share it.

As much as we are a culture of over sharing, we are also a culture of over shaming and what's the point? Let's embrace each other in all our curated beauty.