On Selfies

Courage sent me this link yesterday, after telling me her father had spent the evening taking selfies following the purchase of a new iPhone.

“It was weird,” she said, “My dad was so into it. He like, moved the phone around for a long time trying to get the best angle.”

“An iPhone would have made this so much easier.” -Sofonisba Anguissola, 1556 

I laughed, imagining the awkward Asian man smile and the self-denial that comes with selfies at a certain age, or any age. I’m not one for selfies, mostly because the selfies never hold up to how good I (think) I look in real life, but when I do take them (in the privacy of my room in the not so dark depths of boredom), the resulting images are always sobering. Do I really have that many moles (or “fly shit,” as my aunt calls them) on my face? Yes. I plan to get them lasered off some dark winter when I will be antisocial. Am I imagining the right side of my jaw being more developed than the left? No. But asymmetrical faces are more interesting, right? Crow’s feet, at twenty-seven? Really?! Sadly – or happily, yes.

My kind of selfie. 

But maybe I’m missing the point of the selfie, which at the base of it, is self-love. How else do you explain those people on Facebook (cough *Taiwanese/Korean/Japanese FOB girls e.g. my sister-in-law) who unabashedly post selfie after selfie without the slightest whiff of embarrassment?

“This is me,” the selfies say, “Love it or hate it, this is me.”

“I see,” I think, “Thank you for sharing.”

The flip side is of course that the selfie represents the opposite of self-love.

“How sad that she or he (because men take selfies too, and it is like ten thousand times less okay than if a girl does it – just one of the unspoken laws of the universe) needs the affirmation.”

We put up our faces to be judged, hoping that our friends will take the bait, be kind, and compliment what we hope are our best angles (eyes up, face down, camera up and up), but the selfie is just that: bait for the compliments we’re fishing for. Compliments equal affirmation equals reasons to go on living for a few more days. Okay, that’s a little severe, but you get the gist.

And then there’s kind of a middle ground, a boring place to be, but a place nonetheless because it exists. I find myself standing there sometimes when I’m dressed well and my makeup is done and my skin looks brighter than usual. It happens before I’m about to leave for a party or some other event where other people will see me and (hopefully) compliment me.

“Like” away! Perfectly distanced selfie. If you’re wondering, yes, my room IS that pink. 

It takes a tremendous amount of nonchalance to post a selfie. I care what people think, but it’s a weird magic that happens once the photo is posted: you think “Damnit’sagoodphotowhocaresI’mgonnapostit,” all in one breath because it’s akin to taking a cold plunge into cyberspace, where you don’t know if the selfie, essentially your self, will be sneered or cheered. I don’t recommend getting used to it. I haven’t.

But when all’s been shot and done, I realize that I keep a personal blog. Which, if you think about it, is one giant, long-running, verbal selfie.

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