5.29.2014

#EveryDayinMay - O Selfie! My Selfie!


Oh, the selfie. Or should I say #selfie? Truly, the self portrait has been around for as long as art has existed, although The Public Domain Review says the first ever photographic selfie was taken by a rather dapper looking young man by the name of Robert Cornelius. It wasn't until social media exploded that what we know as today's selfie became popular.



I mean, let's face it -- it's a thing.

Even the Oxford Dictionary says so. And seriously, the beloved selfie even has its own song.

I've been thinking a lot about selfies lately, and what their prevalence means for society. When I read Becoming Odyssa by Jennifer Pharr Davis, she talked briefly about how after spending four months on the trail with nary a mirror in sight, her definition of herself changed. Beauty became less about her appearance and more about her strength.

I don't know about you, but that's the kind of beauty by which I want to define myself.

Earlier this week, musician (and Neil Gaiman's wife), Amanda Palmer posted a link on FaceBook that deepened my thoughts on how this selfie culture is changing the value we place on beauty. It seems some women are actually having their left hands re-beautified. I shared this little tidbit of pop culture with The Husband and he couldn't figure out why on earth anyone would have their left hand worked on. Then I held up my hand and waggled my ring finger in his face.

"Because," I said, "how can any proper lady possibly take engagement ring selfies if they've got mangled up fingers?"

He just shook his head.

And more and more, that's what I seem to be doing as well. There was also research conducted recently on the disease of the selfie. Thinking about young people falling into depression and becoming suicidal because of body image makes me ill. No one should ever have to feel that way. Granted, most people that fall victim to this degree of body dysmorphia are typically already suffering from other mental illnesses as well, but I don't think we need much more proof that narcissism is on the rise.

Top all of that off with the tragedy that happened earlier this week in California, when Elliot Rodger killed 6 people and then himself, decreeing in his manifesto that he was troubled (among other things) by his lack of success with women. Then add the fact that he was highly visible on social media with a large number of his own selfies.

If I hadn't already decided to go on a selfie-free, mirror-free challenge, all of these things combined would have sealed my thinking on it. I just have to wonder -- how differently might I view myself if I wasn't primping in front of a mirror each morning? If I didn't check my reflection in the window or take those selfies -- the ones I only seem to take when my hair and makeup is just right? So be on the lookout for some posts about how I will accomplish this vanity-banning challenge. Maybe you'll even want to join me!

I guess that's why I took my final selfie and posted it on Instagram the morning I left for my overnight backpacking trip. It was, I believe, the first picture I've ever posted of myself completely sans makeup. I could be wrong, but I can't think of another one. At the very least, it was the first intentional picture I've taken of myself not all glammed up. It felt like a turning point. I don't want to be defined by what I look like.

I want to be defined by who I am.

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