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.

20 comments on "On Embracing the 'Selfie' & other questions of curation "
  1. Wonderfully said! I totally agree with you. I've been the same way, when I got my first camera at 13ish I would take self portraits all the time, and that's a habit that's never stopped. I take photos of everything, my home, my dog, my boyfriend, and myself. And I see nothing wrong with wanting to share the story of your life as you choose to show it.
    http://thegirlwhosays.blogspot.com/

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  2. Very true! I agree on the very last sentence in particular! Well phrased Jessica! And btw I LOVE thie pic with you in space pjs on the kitchen floor :D

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  3. Love this! I too have double the amount of likes on my selfies. I never understood that? But I love seeing your face on my IG feed so keep 'em coming!

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  4. Hear, Hear! Love the part about embracing each other!

    _Abby
    bottesdeleanor.blogspot.com/

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  5. What a great post :D I liked the part about sharing our image as a story, not as a vain thing. You really articulated the way a fashion blogger feels about photos of themselves. So thoughtful! I've had a "thoughts on" type of post in my queue for awhile but was kinda afraid to share, but I feel braver about publishing it now :)

    <3 Megan
    http://www.garden-variety.net

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  6. Great post well said. I agree that face photos always seem to go down the best on Instagram by a mile and I think there's something simple and beautiful about that - our faces are unique and express ourselves so naturally they're the things about us that are the most interesting to look at. And you're right that it's quite difficult to get tired of other people's selfies - and when someone has the nerve to post their face for all the internet to criticise it's totally right other people applaud their efforts by 'liking' :)

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  7. Great post! I like to hear this kind of perspective on interweb happenings.

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  8. I think the word selfie has a stigma, whereas when you say "self portrait" it sounds artistic. Let's reinvent the word! Here's to embracing ourselves & others.

    :] // ▲ itsCarmen.com ▲

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  9. "It's okay to like yourself." I think that's the most important thing, really. Selfies are just another way of saying that. I like seeing my friends' and family's selfies, whether they're creative or even just quick shots. Sometimes I feel more connected to a selfie than a status because it can convey more about the person than just a few words.

    And ugh, I hate the word "selfie" too.

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  10. I agree with this so much! I dislike how we have a culture that is so negative towards taking photos of ourselves. If you take too many photos you're 'self absorbed', you're not allowed to dislike your appearance because then you're attention seeking, you can't like your appearance because then you're up-yourself. When I feel pretty or bored, I like to take self portraits and it makes me feel good about myself, when others take them I always like to be positive. I think we live in a society to hell bent on making us feel inadequate so we should all treasure ourselves. No shame in enjoying and sharing who you are as a person, whether its a creative shot or a snapshot of your everyday life.

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  11. This just struck so many chords with me. I got into photography in college and did a lot of self-portraiture and always loved the challenge of showing a different side of things, whether a traditional portrait or something surreal (that's one of the reasons I was drawn to blogging in the first place, I think.) ANd it is so much part of our culture now. I love seeing people document life and seeing others selfies because they tell us about that person's life. I'd never thought about it before but do agree too that it is refreshing that selfies mean people are embracing what they look like too.

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  12. I think you made some great points. There's nothing wrong with feeling beautiful or cool and sharing it with the world, nor is there anything wrong with setting up a shot to really capture something with your camera as you see it in person. I know some people seem really proud any time they use #nofilter, but something I think filters help add back that dimension that you lose when you try to capture something with a camera instead of seeing it firsthand. I'm actually really glad now that it's so easy to document our lives. I have no pictures of myself as a child because we didn't own a camera, and sometimes I wish I had those mementos to help bring my childhood back to life for me.
    On the other hand, it's hard to see "living for the likes" as an entirely positive thing. I admit, as much as anyone, that I get a good boost when other people agree with me that my outfit is cute or my makeup is looking good or my meal looks delicious, but I've started to dislike how sometimes I'll be disappointed when I don't get the response that I expect. I think it's good sometimes to remember that that kind of validation is fun and can make you feel good, but it shouldn't be something that you depend on to feel good about yourself.
    This isn't to imply that I think your opinion is wrong, or that you personally need that kind of validation, just that there are people out there who take things a little too far and come to rely on it.
    Cheers,
    Jessica, Zella Maybe

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  13. Wise words, lady! I just like how I can see the world through other people's photographs - places I've never been to and probably won't ever get the chance to visit. Although I don't think posting pictures of your body or your face means that you feel good about yourself, it could mean quite the opposite, it's wonderful to see (for the most part) a welcoming community of women. I'm all for self-confidence, which in the end comes from inside!

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  14. This was very well stated. I have been taking "selfies" of myself since I was 14/15 and I discovered MySpace and owned a point and shoot. I don't think there's anything wrong with posting tons of pictures of yourself and being proud of how you look. I don't think it's necessarily vain or narcissistic or negative in any way. I don't think it means you're full of yourself. I think it means you have confidence and you love yourself, and that's always what you should do. You should love yourself. I mean, they always say you can't love someone else until you love yourself! There's nothing wrong with being proud of an outfit or that your makeup came out awesome that day. I think that selfies get more likes because people like to see beauty, and beauty doesn't have to be models or perfect bodies and faces...it can be an average person being proud of their body and face. Loved this post!! :)

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  15. What a wonderful piece you've written Jessica!
    Wow, you summed up so much of what I think about selfies in this post. Very well put!
    I was just talking to a friend today about this topic. We were saying how an ego is just what some people need, and to be confident in how you look/appear could change your whole attitude and perspective. It's good to look at yourself and like what you see. In fact, I'd say it's vital!
    Anyway, lovely post, and lovely work with composing shots. Haha, I've always enjoyed seeing your face pop up on my Instagram ;)

    The Dragonfruit Diaries

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  16. Narcissism seems to be a trending topic on the blogs I follow lately. I think you've put it well, though. I used to take A LOT of selfies back in the day, before they were called selfies and mostly with disposable cameras. (Not many of those turned out to be what today's teens would consider Instagram-worthy.) I like the idea of documenting yourself because I like when people are proud of what they look like. So much garbage out there is telling us not to feel good about ourselves and I think selfies prove that not everyone is listening...which is a good thing. Great post, Jessica!

    -Chelsea
    chelsandthecity.blogspot.com

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  17. I love this so much Jessica! I really wish I had more/better pictures from when I was a teen and in college but it was the days of film so it was a lot more work. Man- I'm really dating myself! Although I did almost always have a disposable camera with me, but each shot was too precious :) I love seeing pics of my friends (real life and online) and think it's so lame that people judge that. We all could use more confidence so why not encourage someone who's feeling good about themselves that day!

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  18. Love this post! Amen! I'm pretty sure people have done studies that determined people are drawn to pictures of faces on social media over pictures of anything else. Don't quote me on that, but I know I've read that somewhere. I absolutely have no problem seeing "selfies" of the people I follow. I enjoy them and I notice I get a lot of engagement on pictures of my face too.

    I'm just like you with the taking pictures of myself for many many years. I started with my flip phone and my little digital cameras back in the early high school days. So like 2004. Selfies are nothing new and I'm sick of people acting like it's some new thing to take pictures of yourself. It's easier now so more people do it more often, but we were doing it 10 years ago too! The Myspace days were full of it!

    I mean, a feed full of just someone's face in various poses, posted multiple times a day and absolutely nothing else would be a little weird. That might be a cry for attention. But the odd selfie isn't and shouldn't be something offensive. It's just another part of everyone's carefully curated digital presence.

    Jamie | PetitePanoply.com

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  19. Yes to selfies! Thank you for spilling your thoughts onto the internet. I totally agree with your excitement over a new selfie posted because at it's core, someone who had the confidence to do it. Why shun those feelings and shame others?

    -Hannah
    www.theoutfitrepeater.com

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