Selfie the Good
May 23, 2015
About a third of Frida Kahlo’s roughly 200 paintings were selfies. Sort of.
How do you feel about selfies? I like them!
It isn’t something that I used to think much about, but when I had Jonah things kinda changed for me. I was a student interrupted, baby on boob in an attic apartment in a big city and pretty well none of my friends had kids. And the internet became less a tool for work and play and more a real, meaningful social opportunity. Basically, I went a little Instagram crazy and got into a lot of blogs.
It felt so good to interact with other mamas trying to live beautifully and navigate the same new shit as me! And it is indeed a special sort of 21st century love that I’ve got for those girls who so valiantly rescued me from my nap time silent retreat with their visible mending and overexposed photography.
So selfies. Here’s the thing – a lot of these women hardly show their sweet faces. For some it’s a privacy thing, and that is completely okay. What doesn’t sit well is when the selfies do sneak in, only over-explained and apologised for or looking just silly enough to prove that – heavens! – no one’s thinking they might actually be looking good.
I get it too. The selfie shame – that uncomfortable feeling that posting a selfie will somehow mean that I’m narcissistic, needy, or at the very least, immature. Herein lies the silly schism. Because it feels totally normal and nice to see the faces of others in my feeds. In fact, I look for it. One of the very coolest things about social media is the space it offers to be real and make some honest connections. Kinda like we would in non-internet life (like, where people have faces), except with a gloriously enormous pool of potential kindred spirits. In the last few years the internet friends/”real” friends distinction has pretty well dissolved for me. Studies like this one conclude that, yes, we really do find real community and social, emotional and instrumental support on the internet. The troves of us tapping into that opportunity share and connect on what we love and do and think and care about… family, food, miscarriages, autism, our homes, creative projects, many of life’s celebrations and frustrations, little and big!
But when it comes to sharing a simple pic of ourselves things get kinda weird… and that’s just so unnecessary. I think it’s normal to wanna communicate, as we human beings do, with our faces and bodies. It feels nice to be seen and known and appreciated. Especially, especially at this crazy, rumpled, over-grown haircut, stretch-marked, baby weight, weird inbetweeny clothes time in our lives!
THE EVIDENCE ON SELFIES
Just to make absolutely sure I’m not promoting something somehow unhealthy, I poked around looking for an empirical take on the selfie. There doesn’t appear to be much, and happily, I could find nothing with any meat to damn the selfie.
Weird misconstruings of this old article seem to make up the bulk of what’s out there. Remember this story? It popped up about a year ago. Basically, this one clinical psychiatrist notices that some of his patients with body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), a mental illness involving extreme distress with one’s physical appearance, take a lot of selfies. Then the article recounts the story of a young guy with BDD, including his compulsion to take selfies.
So, keeping in mind that BDD is not new, and obsessions and compulsions are a symptom of the disorder, this story really doesn’t say much about selfies. Before there were smartphone selfies, there were mirrors. At best, we learn that some people with BDD are using their phones (like everyone else).
This Huffington Post article and its spin-offs suggest that posting selfies hurts our relationships. The original paper can be found here; the bottom line is that depending on the nature of a relationship, your various FB friends may or may not love all your posts and it can affect how they feel about you. That goes for all kinds of shares – not just selfies. For example, although I cannot imagine why, I’ve heard tell of hip young folks who don’t altogether appreciate adorable toddler anecdotes filling up their feeds. Crazy, right?! 😉 Anyway – as for selfies, your colleagues might not love them, but according to the study, selfie sharing amongst family and close friends actually seems to be good for those relationships.
Over here in the pro-selfie camp, PsychCentral wrote this refute and Psychology Today did a little study on the link between selfies, Facebook and narcissism. They found no connection between posting selfies and narcissism. Outside popular science, I like this editorial on selfies as a tool for social change, and Laci Green’s body-positive take on selfies has some great insight (although I’m not sure I totally agree that “the body is an artfully decorated bag for the brain” …hmm). Plus, James Franco is more than happy to see your face!
And for what it’s worth, so am I! I’ve wanted to write this post for a long time – basically, whenever I see or hear someone putting down selfies, or another sweet girl apologising for showing her face. I think partly I’m concerned that it’s another case of mamas avoiding pictures, their beautiful lives going unseen. So I just wanted to put this out there, loud and clear, once and for all: Sweet woman, made up or not, rumpled, real, radiant – I, for one, love to see your face.
That’s all. ♥