Embrace the Selfie

Hundreds of years ago, portraits were a big deal. People would spend a lot of money on an artist and would sit still, posing for hours on end. Old family portraits were a fact of life—they were a mark of the times, a way to catalogue history. Nobody judged the subjects for “wasting” time and money on a glorified picture of themselves, one that would hang in their parlor for all of their friends to see. They were not called narcissistic, arrogant or superficial.

Flash forward to modern times. “Portraits” are suddenly much less burdensome to have done. They take maybe a second, and you don’t have to pay anybody. Almost nobody is framing them and hanging them up in their living room. But people who take selfies, defined by Merriam-Webster as “an image of oneself taken by oneself using a digital camera,” are deemed narcissistic, arrogant and superficial. Why? Selfies are literally self-portraits and aside from taking a hundred times faster than the painted portraits of old, they are not much different from the oil-on-canvas paintings that were popular hundreds of years ago.

People take selfies for a lot of reasons. Maybe you feel like you’re looking good that day—take a selfie. You have photographic proof that you look fantastic. Maybe you want a picture of yourself doing something cool—you’re at Niagara Falls, a concert, whatever—and there’s nobody else there to take it. Maybe you want to see how your face looks from weird angles—pure curiosity and justifiable vanity.

According to the UK’s The Daily Star, a study reports that 60% of regular selfie-takers have a “low self-esteem.” They phrase it as a “shocking” statistic, as if the numbers were unbelievably high. However, 70-85% of people are reported to have low self-esteem in the general population. This shows that selfies aren’t the cause of self-esteem issues. Some external factor—maybe the way that people are portrayed in the media—is the root of self-esteem problems. Selfie-takers are apparently less likely to take issue with their body images.

So if somebody wants to shell out $30 for a high-tech, Bluetooth enabled selfie stick, you can laugh at them for wasting their money, but don’t judge them because they take selfies.