How can I unlearn this toxic lesson when it’s so deeply embedded in our everyday lives?
Last year around this time Selfie was crowned the 2013 word of the year, and the collective groan that went up from the Haters was loud, long, and frankly whiny. No need to rehash that old argument (Lesley's takedown of that attitude still stands as one of the best). However, the backlash did inspire me to join the #365feministselfie crowd. Though I rarely took selfies before January 1st of last year, I jumped into the project happily and with high hopes that I might actually be able to keep up.
Spoiler Alert: I did not take a selfie every day, but some days I took several (especially when I was at a convention) and I think I'm pretty close to 365 total. I did manage to take a selfie every day for several months at a stretch. And I learned a few things about myself and about selfies along the way.
1 - Selfies Aren't Always About Showing Off How Good You Look
Taking a picture of yourself every day means that you're not going to look absolutely stunning in every one of them. And that's okay. Sometimes my selfie was about expressing the mood of the day, documenting a place I visited or a friend I hung out with, or preserving a memorable moment. None of that required me to look my best, just to be present and honest. And because I was trying to take a picture a day, I allowed myself leeway to not be perfect.
2 - Taking Selfies Every Day Inspired Me To Get Creative
That said, on days when I was like UGH, MY FACE or UGH, MY HAIR and didn't want to take a standard picture, I did other stuff. A few times I only took a picture of an isolated body part, like my eye or my awesome #severelipstick.
I hid behind things, like the book I was reading or a gadget I was reviewing. I have a lot of cool t-shirts, and they made appearances even when my face didn't. Sometimes it was a matter of finding the right angle, even if that angle was way above my head. When you take a selfie every day you become an expert at taking great selfies.
3 - Better Quality Selfies Really Do Make A Difference
Most selfies end up filtered and on Instagram, where grainy or dark comes off as an artistic choice. Still, starting out with a quality image mean that the filters and editing aren't there to cover up flaws but to enhance the awesome. Over the past year I've tested quite a few smartphones and cameras designed with selfies in mind and I have a few favorites: the Samsung NX Mini, the HTC Desire Eye, and the Huawei Ascend Mate 2.
The NX Mini is an actual camera, not a smartphone cam, and I love it. I've been using it ever since I wrote about it in May and it's proven to be an even better camera than I first thought. It makes taking selfies easy, I can take them in dark rooms thanks to the flash, and I can even upgrade to a better lens if I want. Here are some more samples.
The Desire Eye is notable because the 13MP front camera is the same quality as the rear one and there's a flash up front for in the dark selfies. Plus, HTC has some sweet image processing apps on board. The Ascend Mate 2 has a 5MP camera that can take panoramic selfies (labeled Groufies -- yeah, I don't call them that, either) which are pretty fun. Especially when you use it to put a person in a picture multiple times.
4 - Selfies Can Boost Your Mood
As I said, selfies are not about vanity or just about showing off how good you look. Some days I felt I looked downright terrible. But friends and family and perfect strangers compliment me on my selfies all the time. The daily stream of "You're so awesome!" and "Wow, that's a cool shirt!" and "Your lipstick is amazing" added a nice jolt of positivity to my day. And that sometimes made a big difference in my mood, just like any kind words from a friend would.
So why didn't I keep up with posting one every day? Whenever my mood takes a dive, a lot of things fall away, including selfies. In fact, one could track my mood cycles by looking at when I posted them and when I didn't. The flip side is that I could sometimes use selfies to lift me out of a funk or to let those close to me know what I was going through so they could help, when possible.
5 - Selfies Aren't All About The Self
I love seeing other people's selfies in my feed. I love it when they post smiling selfies, sexy selfies, even angry selfies. When they snap pictures of today's outfit, when they do group shots with kids or pets, and especially when they take selfies that capture how truly amazing they are -- whether they think they look their best or they think they're a mess.
Selfies are like any other social media status update: they exist to let the people who care about you know how you're doing. They are no more narcissistic than text updates, no more vain than posting your thoughts and opinions. If my selfies make my friends as happy as theirs makes me, then we're all winning.
So I'm going to keep on going with the #365feministselfie thing. This year I'm going to do better and aim for a selfie every day no matter what and stretch the limits of my creativity even more. You're welcome to join me in this endeavor on Instagram.
Also, I'd love to see which of your selfies you consider your favorite and why. Post them in the comments! (It will break up the monotony of the inevitable anti/pro-selfie argument that's about to ensue.)