It’s time for me to weigh in on the selfie-stick (apparently one-sided) debate and outspoken selfie-hatred in general. And yes, I’m doing it for my first official full-length blog post on my professional photography website where selfies are basically banned.
[Warning: I do use salty-language here. Do turn back if that’s not for you.]
Full disclosure – I do own a selfie stick, though I’ve never yet used it to take a selfie.
Full disclosure – all my favorite pictures of myself are in fact selfies.
Okay, except for one when I was 23 taken on a movie set, but that’s cheating.
So call me devil’s advocate. Call me vain. Call me an underdog, but I am going to defend the act of taking one’s own picture tooth and nail.
Not Everyone Has Someone Around Who Wants to Take Their Picture
I’m single. I’m sort of recently single, it’s been about a year. But even before that turning point, as far as photographs of me were concerned, for the previous five years I may as well have been single. My husband and I had an extremely (with a capital E) busy (with a capital B) worklife. Rarely if ever did we get together with non-business-related friends, much less have date nights or days where we were so relaxed that we were feeling like recording where we were at, what we were doing, what we looked like doing it, what we looked like we were feeling doing whatever that thing was we were doing. And many days, we weren’t even in the same city.
All that’s not a complaint (except the part about not enough being in the same city). Rather I’m very proud of what we built together during that time. But relative to this conversation there is little record of my life over the previous six years. That’s a hard reminder that a marriage where there are two people who don’t take pictures of each other, who don’t consciously create times worthy of picture-taking, just might be a marriage that won’t last long as such. In retrospect, it was in fact a clue.
On a soon to be explained related note, I like to travel. And for my entire life I’ve often done it alone. Every job I’ve had since my early twenties has involved at least a little or really a lot of travel. Being child of divorce with a dad in the Air Force got me accustomed to going to new places. I’ll get on the plane at the drop of a hat and take any opportunity to explore a place on my own if there’s time for it. Not having someone to do that with has never stopped me.
So if there were going to be pictures of me in these travels, or in these years of co-work-aholic-itis, I could maybe make new friends (not impossible but I’d rather that happen naturally); I could hand my camera or phone to a complete stranger; or I could take a selfie.
Why is Having — and Actually Posting — Pictures of Yourself Important?
What I’m about to say may not be important to everyone. But for me, I live in a highly digitally-oriented world. And if you’re reading this, chances are, you do too. Pictures, and blogging, whether you do it via a blog-proper, or Facebook style, or Instagram or Tumblr style, is modern journaling. To my knowledge, journaling has been encouraged for centuries, and these digital methods of making our diaries are a way of life in today’s era.
Why do each of us who do it, do it? Let’s leave out those of us who do it to promote a specific business objective. Why do the rest of us do it? Because we get a reward. And that reward is the attention we get from others in addition to the special feeling we get when we can look back in time and re-witness our lives. But for the greatest many of us this is absolutely not a one-way street. It is an interaction.
I didn’t get on Facebook and stay on Facebook because I wanted people to like pictures of me. What got me on there and keeps me on there, even if I don’t use it for months at time – especially when I haven’t used it for months – is the pictures and commentary left by my family and friends around the world, of and about themselves and the people around them.
90+% of my Friends on Facebook aren’t pushing an agenda, but many of them are defacto experts in creating content, and thank goodness. If all of us on there hadn’t thrown self-effacement out the window and selfishly posted pictures of ourselves and our children and our dogs and cats and rabbits and our interests and our concerns… not only would there be no content, no Facebook, Instagram, etcetera… but I would have lost touch long ago with these people whose place in my heart grows and grows as we continue to get to know one another long distance.
Isn’t Posting Pictures of Yourself Vain?
Hold onto your boot straps readers, but I really couldn’t give a fuck. So you’re not going to like me if I’m vain enough to post a picture of myself? So you’re going to unfriend me, unfollow me, disconnect from me if I post a picture I took myself of myself?
I’ll Make It Crystal Clear…
…If I’m connected to you, I’m begging you to post pictures of yourself. And if you have to take pictures of yourself to do it, fucking do it. And often.
I miss you. I love you. I like you. I care about you. I want you to exist and keep on existing and if you stop existing I’m going to be crushed that not only wasn’t I close enough to you to take your picture for you and often but that you were too concerned about people’s perception of your vanity to take a fucking selfie.
Or worse, sadly you were too concerned no one would want to see pictures of you, too worried about revealing your imperfections to let people take pictures of you or take some yourself and get them posted, for me.
But Isn’t the Proliferation of Selfie Sticks Hateful?
What’s starting to distinctly interest me is why you are being so hateful about people buying, carrying, and using selfie sticks, or posting selfies at all. Why do you care so much? Because you’re good at pithy aren’t-they-full-of-themselves commentary at these people’s expense?
I’d venture to say any derogatory commentary delivered in any form or format renders the same effect as taking a selfie and posting it. You’re seeking attention and approval. And if people keep Liking your hateful commentary, I get it, you’ll keep making your hateful commentary. I totally get it.
In the case of the selfie, a person is recording something that makes them feel good, a moment they will feel good remembering. And the truth is, for anyone who loves, likes, or appreciates this selfie-taker in any way, it will make that person feel good too when they see it.
Even when there is someone with you who you trust… someone you trust to give you back your phone or camera after you’ve handed it to them… someone you even trust to take a really good picture of you… isn’t it a thousand billion times better for both of you to be in the picture?
Isn’t it a googol times better for all five of you, all ten, twenty of you to be in the picture at the same time? [If you don’t know what I mean here by “a googol times”, do Google it.]
The answer is YES. And as the one of you who couldn’t make it on that trip with you, as the one of you who couldn’t make it to that particular concert/dinner/hike, as someone who is happy you’re adventuring — happy you’re all adventuring — I absolutely do want to see that picture where you got all of your faces in it and the Taj Mahal in the background.
And for all those people around you who scowl in your direction, for all those people thumbing away at their phones crying their woe on Twitter about the horizon of selfie sticks laid before them…
…kindly, gently, mustering all the trustworthiness you can, offer to use their camera or phone to take a picture of them, maybe just them, maybe them and their date, or friend, or family, in front of the photo opp. Because there’s someone in the world who will be glad you did. And it just might be them.
[Note: I’m crushed I deleted the darling picture of the three girls using their selfie stick together in front of the Templo de Debod monument in Madrid, Spain, pictured above. My purpose there was to get a background image for an art project I’m doing, one devoid of people, and they were in my way for so long I became charmed watching them and snapped the pic. If I still had it, I’d include here. Never delete your b-roll. Never.]