To Selfie, or Not To Selfie

Ah, the selfie. A great divide of our times.

I’ve taken a handful or two. Six or seven of them have even made it onto the internet. Nearly every time I’ve posted one, it’s been like ripping off a band-aid while getting caught talking to myself.

Number of selfies I posted online in 2013: three. Unless this counts as a selfie? You can see my hand there, holding onto the corndog:

corn dog at Indiana Stae Fair

Why are some people so cool with them? And others, like me, find them painful, awkward, bloated with ego. It’s been hard for me to see selfies any other way. A recent post by Leilan McNalley gave me a glimpse into how the other half see the world. I’d never really considered these self-portraits as a higher form of self expression.

I mean, let’s face it. They’re everywhere. I’m surrounded by amazing people who post them all the time. I work in marketing, mostly on the web. It’s about time I made as much peace as I can with these.

Watching this phenomenon unfurl to all corners of the internet (Selfie managed to edge out twerk as the word of the year in 2013), I really thought there were two kinds of personas – selfie-takers and selfie-haters. But when I asked the question: To selfie, or not to selfie, I found a lot of us living somewhere in the middle.

selfie poll

Some outtakes from my quick survey:

Selfie expression.

“My audience expects it. I like the ribbing and I honestly enjoy the attention. I’m a highly social person, and selfies are just one more way of engaging.” – Craig Dodge Lile

“I think selfies are a form of expressing yourself and capturing the way you look/feel in a certain time/place.” – Rita Troyer

“The funnier and more creative, the better. Aside from that, who am I to judge anyone for taking a selfie?” – Jason

“I don’t take them seriously. My friends and I send them constantly through SnapChat, it’s a fun way to stay connected throughout the day.” – Ashley Mennel

This isn’t ‘Nam. This is selfie. There are rules.

“I take them sparingly, basically if I need a new profile picture. Otherwise, selfies seem indulgent.” – Louis Meyer

“I mean, if you’re in need of a new profile pic I don’t see anything wrong with it. Maybe you look funny – that’s cool too. Otherwise, I’m not in to it.” – Kasey Bradley

“I wish you had to be a certain age before you could selfie. None taken before the age of 21” – Meggie Dials

“In general, I feel that no more than like 1/10 photos should be a selfie.” – Dan Dark

Rules, part deux: Duck lips. Just no.

“Neutral ….. unless duck lips. I mean come on.” – April Duncanson

“I don’t mind them a bit. Granted, I’m 43 and not 18, so I’m not friends with people taking pic after pic of themselves with duck lips in a teeny bikini. But sometimes it’s a fun way to capture myself and kids at a fun place or for my friends to show themselves finishing their first marathon or on a mountaintop or lovely vacation spot. Maybe middle-aged and old-folk selfies are the ones I appreciate most.” – Tracy

What have you done for me lately? No seriously. Should a selfie provide value to others?

“I feel…ummmmmm…about selfies. Like most anything, the selfie can be used for good or evil–it can be a moment of thoughtful self-expression, self-composition, in a way, or it can be gratuitous and yuck. Maybe that’s the thing of it for me: if the selfie (which is by definition of and for the self) seems to somehow transcend that and actually OFFER something to the non-self viewer, that’s when it becomes worthwhile. So maybe the selfie is like anything–but I question that, that I seem to want to require substance or value of a selfie, because again, by definition it seems to be excluded from the task of universalizing value.” – Jackie Lutzke

“Selfies come in a wide variety, and the quality and sense of expression matters. Goofy shot that includes half your arm – lame. Great picture that shares information, like my friend’s selfies of her baby bump – priceless.” – Kathy Slaughter

People might think you’re just that into you.

“Sometimes selfies are warranted or funny but mostly I feel bad for the person on the other end like everyone’s in on the joke but them.” – Abby Schoonveld

“Narcissistic and conceited. It’s bad enough we have to deal with constant status updates about what you’re eating for breakfast. We certainly don’t need an unflattering, ill-lit picture of you doing it.” – Whitney

(Aside: I’m so guilty of food pics… let me just hang my head in shame right now. But really, I think one of the most engaged tweets I ever sent was about meat loaf.)

 In closing, wise words from anonymous:
“If every picture you post is of just you, you might want to reconsider a few things.”

So, what say you:
To selfie, or not to selfie?

This post is part of Think Kit by SmallBox
Today’s prompt: “December 2: Take a poll and share the results. Is there something you’ve been curious about? A decision you’re struggling with? Ask the crowd, and report back on what the results might mean.”

  • Kacey

    I’m so glad you delved into this, especially as a 20-something whose Facebook, Twitter & Instagram (and I guess SnapChap counts too?) feeds are flooded with selfies on a regular basis. After traveling alone this year & wanting to capture myself in the action, I realized you’ve got to come to terms that sometimes TAKING a selfie is necessary!

    I’ve always taken selfies to send to loved ones — blown kisses via text, miss you pouts when someone missed out on a roadtrip — but rarely posted any online. I looked through my own posts from 2013 (including solo trips) and realized that I didn’t even post any from my travels, but I still wanted them to look back on.

    Selfie away! But think first about POSTING :) And if you do, just show us your best side. We don’t need every angle!

    • sara mcguyer

      In response to this post, my best friend who lives in Philadelphia sent me a duck lips selfie text. And it was awesome! There is definitely a time and a place… but I have to agree. A less is more approach is more my style!