It seems to be a cool thing to denigrate Generation Y as being self-absorbed and entitled. A lot of this has to do with my generation’s love of social media and the rise of the selfie art form. And sure, there are some problematic tendencies with my peers’ culture. Are we sometimes self-absorbed and entitled? Sure. But I don’t think selfie culture is all bad.
Ezra Koenig, lead singer of the awesome band Vampire Weekend, once said something that completely solidified my positive opinion of selfies.
“I’m definitely pro-selfie. I think that anybody who’s anti-selfie is really just a hater. Because, truthfully, why shouldn’t people take pictures of themselves? When I’m on Instagram and I see that somebody took a picture of themselves, I’m like, ‘Thank you.’ I don’t need to see a picture of the sky, the trees, plants. There’s only one you. I could Google image search ‘the sky’ and I would probably see beautiful images to knock my socks off. But I can’t Google, you know, ‘What does my friend look like today?’ For you to be able to take a picture of yourself that you feel good enough about to share with the world – I think that’s a great thing.”
The selfie–a trend that we are taught to think is self-focused–can be a beautiful tool of connection. As Koenig said, I can find pictures of nature anywhere, but I won’t know what my friend looks like or what they’re doing unless they take a selfie. As someone who moves around and has pockets of friends in several different cities around the world, I am so appreciative of selfie culture! It would be beyond easy to lose touch with friends if it weren’t for Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat.
Let’s talk about Snapchat. I’ve only recently fallen under its spell, but I’ve fallen hard. Again, of course Snapchat can be used in negative ways. We’ve all heard about naked picture scandals. But blaming Snapchat itself is ridiculous–people have been sending nudes via text, email, or the postal service ever since we realized the nude form was appealing. So please forget that side of Snapchat for a moment.
What I love about Snapchat is the instantaneous connection. Emailing and texting fall short by ignoring non-verbal communication. “Okay” can be interpreted as excited, bored, or anything in between. But with Snapchat, I can see the “okay” reply alongside a picture of my friends’ face. Mystery solved! Texting is a wonderful way to keep in touch with the friends I love and miss. Snapchat brings me one step closer to them, letting me peek into their lives as they peek into mine. I know what my friends are wearing, where they are going, and what they are thinking. Suddenly 500 miles doesn’t feel so far away.
In a similar vein, I think selfie culture is promoting an appreciation of the little things in life. Back when film cameras were the norm, you had to choose your photographed images with care. Each shot cost money. Now that photography is free and instantaneous, there is a growing awareness of the simple beauty all around us. Sunsets, winged eyeliner, a crooked smile, a grinning puppy, a funny sign–everyday occurrences that suddenly take on more weight when uploaded to Instagram. And the selfie-with-sunset, etc? Even better! It is a message to the world: look at me enjoying this amazing thing! Life is good! And it’s a call to response, whether explicit or implicit: Are you enjoying life? Will you share this experience with me?
Selfie culture may come across as self-absorbed to some people. And yes, there is a scandalous kind of self-love inherent in the form. I think it’s beautiful to see people confident enough to post pictures of themselves for all the world to see. It is a kind of body image therapy. But selfie culture doesn’t stop with self-love. It is also a way of connecting with others and keeping intimate friendships with people who would otherwise fall away. For all of the above reasons, I am a complete fan of selfies.