I didn’t have a smart phone until after I graduated high school. The cell phone I had was $30 from target and I didn’t use it much (we didn’t have cell service at my family home). I always had a camera with me, but that tiny thing was never turned around and aimed at me. I used to only be behind the camera. Now I fully embrace selfies and love them, even if I look crusty next to my friends. There is no reason to hate selfies simply because they are selfies. They are self-portraits in an age where anyone can take them. Why do we continue to shame people for loving themselves, or at least trying to? Selfies are a personal practice, no matter who else sees them. I personally consider it an act of self-love, and love for friends and family.
In high school, my friends had smartphones and took loads of selfies. Sometimes I was in them, but for the most part, I wasn’t. I could only take selfies on their phones if they initiated, so I felt the need to boycott selfies altogether and chose to not be in them. I made up excuses for not wanting to be in a selfie even when I kind of wanted to. I was a major snob about it. I looked down on the practice of selfie taking. I hated them. I thought they were incredibly stupid and vain. I think I was just jealous that my friends had this option and I didn’t. If I wanted a picture of myself, I had to set up a camera with a timer or turn the camera around and hope I got it right multiple times. I did take a few selfies with a few friends, but I feel like I didn’t take enough in my past.
The result of this silly rebellion: there are no pictures of me between the ages of 13 and 18 in my personal life, (outside of school and cheer). My friends have a lot of selfies together, but I’m not in most of them. I spent a lot of time behind a camera documenting my friend’s lives, and not enough time in front of a camera documenting my own with them in it. At 18 years old and the second half of my senior year of high school, I had my brothers iPod touch, which I used like a smartphone, but I was new to the scene and had no idea or confidence in how to initiate a selfie with my friends, so, I didn’t. I relied on my friends to take pictures of me and of us together.
In 2015, my friend Kerrigan died. In the wake of her sudden and tragic death, images of our friends with her in selfies surfaced, along with a bunch of her solo selfies. I, and so many others, cherish these. Everyone took a picture with Kerrigan; except me. There are no photos of just Kerrigan and me. There are cheer team pictures that we are both in and there are a lot of pictures of her that I took, but none of just us.
This is one of my deepest regrets. It feels trivial sometimes that I’m sour about not having a picture of us together, but it will always be important to me. Having a picture of her and I together, just the two of us, is something I will always want. It’s almost like I doubt our friendship without it, when there is no room to doubt. I love Kerrigan, and a picture wouldn’t change that one way or the other, but it would make me feel closer to her now that she is gone.
I realized in 2015, that selfies are important. They are important to me, as they are a self-portrait that tells a small story of what was happening in my life, and selfies with friends document my relationships with them. If I were to suddenly die (sorry for turning this direction), I want my friends and family to always have recent photos of me. I want recent photos of my friends and family if I were to suddenly lose them.
Today, my best friend has short term memory loss (really) so she takes a lot of photos, and even more selfies. I love it. I never pass up a chance to take photos with her and what we are doing. I want those memories, and I want her to always have them too. A selfie of us together goes up on Facebook and Instagram at least twice a week.
I am slowly but surely, getting better at taking selfies. I’m not at the initiating a selfie point yet, and I’m sure it’s just my personality that keeps me from asking people to take them with me. Regardless, I have thumb drives, folders, and physical photo albums full of pictures of friends and family, and myself too. I maintain an Instagram and I am exploring self-portraits recently and having a lot of fun with it.
Take photos, don’t be ashamed of your selfies. I used to tell myself they were for my friends and family to justify the act. But now, my selfies are for me too.