Just seen one more social media post making fun of people who use selfie sticks, and I feel like screaming.
People get so much stick (yes, I went there) for posting selfies online, accused of narcissism, judged and ridiculed mercilessly by people who have clearly never listened to the heart-breaking stories of those who are using selfies as a way of fighting their inner battles with self-esteem issues, those who have struggled to come to terms with, for example, being fat or being “the wrong shape” or just not fitting in with current standards of beauty – I could go on, there are plenty of reasons why for some people it’s a really important, healing, liberating thing.
And then for others it might simply be about keeping in touch with friends or family who are far away. When I left my country at the age of 27 and came to live in England, I had a friend take a photo of me standing in a London street and sent my mother a copy – back then, in the late 1980s, there was no such thing as mobile phone cameras or even digital cameras, so it was a question of a friend with a real old-fashioned camera taking the photo and then having it developed. The technology was different, but the principle is the same: here I am, standing in an ordinary London street and I want my mother, who is 2000 miles away, to see her daughter standing here. And, oh yes, also to see my new suit. My late mother framed that photo and kept it on show in her lounge till her dying day. It meant something to her.
My family are 2000 miles away, so photos help us to keep in touch. When I got new glasses recently, I emailed them a webcam selfie so they could see what I look like these days. I have friends who live in different countries and we communicate through social media. When they share pictures of themselves doing even normal everyday stuff, it helps build the friendship as I get to see their face, and how they’re dressed, and those small mundane details of their lives – it’s nice, and it’s nothing to do with showing off. It’s just putting meat on the bones of a person you otherwise only know through words.
Sure, some people do it a lot and it’s ok to feel that maybe this person or that person overdoes it in your opinion, or that you personally don’t like the style of their selfies. But to judge people’s intentions? No. To tar all selfies with the same brush? No. Please don’t. I know people who have worked hard internally to get to the point where they can feel confident enough to share a photo of themselves online and say: this is what I look like and while I may not be a supermodel I’m ok with what I look like.
Some of the people you’re ridiculing are heroes. In a world that keeps telling women that we’re not ok unless we achieve supermodel perfection, I’d say any woman who shares a photo of herself without having it photoshopped to death is showing courage. And even if she does have it photoshopped – so what? what is the difference between that and wearing make-up when you go out? We humans seem so eager to find stuff that we can mock other people for, and to judge other people’s behaviour without having a clue about what’s behind it.
Taking a selfie can be out of vanity, sure – but it can also be for a zillion other reasons, some of which are seriously positive, and even admirable.
And then some are just a bit of creative fun, which is also not exactly a crime. Here, as they say, is one I made earlier.