March 1, 2017

The Art of Selfie Reflection

Oh, the lessons you learn from a front facing camera

How to take an Instagram selfie

The selfie is nothing new. Before they were snapped with handheld computer phones, they were painted in careful strokes by renowned artists for people who wanted to see themselves reflected so badly they paid large amounts of money and sat still for hours on end in what just had to be some of the most uncomfortable outfits known to man. Point being: we like to see ourselves. 

"But in cleaning out my camera roll one day, I noticed that these pictures were more than just self-serving celebrations of what my face was doing. These pictures were time capsules. Each one had a memory, a feeling, a lesson attached to it."


Since my MySpace days, I've been practicing and perfecting the art of the selfie—angles, lighting and even experimenting with ways to make it look like someone else took the picture. All this time I thought these modern "self portraits" were just a simple way to honor one's appearance. You know, what the critics call vanity. 

But in cleaning out my camera roll one day, I noticed that these pictures were more than just self-serving celebrations of what my face was doing. These pictures were time capsules. Each one had a memory, a feeling, a lesson attached to it. Here are some of those lessons. 

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The Selfie As a Companion


Cheetah Halloween Costume Makeup

This girl looks cool, right? She felt cool, too. Look at that costume! But also, she was totally hiding in a bathroom while taking this selfie. I was at Halloween party where I knew not a single soul. Instead of being shoved into a corner by a crowd of drunk strangers while waiting for my friends, I camped out in the bathroom. I wasn't lonely in a completely desperate way, but I was alone. It's something I'm sure we all do—turn further inward when we feel alienated. For me, that came in the form of a bathroom selfie.

The Selfie As a Catalyst


Faux Goddess Locs

This was a very, um, experimental period in my life—my hair, my career, my love life—I was doing a lot of things I'd never done before, all at once. Most of the time it was disorienting, but in this one moment, I was sort of okay with that. I was in a place not my own, working from a bed not my own, waiting for said bed's owner to come back home from work. Yeah, a weird situation.

After taking this selfie, it struck me that I didn't really want to stay there. I also realized I didn't have to. Would leaving have created a potentially messy situation? Yes, but this unpolished selfie reminded me that I could do whatever the hell I wanted even if it was messy. My life was all topsy-turvy anyhow. What was one more bump? Accepting the messiness of life was a relief from all the fighting to keep it together I'd been doing, even if it only lasted a picture and day.

The Selfie As Bait 


How to Take an Instagram Selfie

This one is a tough one to write about, because what it comes down to is this: I want you to like me. This selfie is the equivalent of saying, "Look how great I am? Don't you want me? Why don't you want me?" Doesn't that just make you cringe? I feel silly typing that now, but the truth is we've all been there—asking someone to like us, approve of us, love us.

It turned out, this person did want me, but only as this version of myself. The picture was liked, a text was received, a date was made. The bait had worked. In the end, it went exactly two miles to nowhere, and really, I knew that would happen. Anyone who could be lured by a picture is not someone I would take seriously, anyway.


The Selfie As Authenticity



As someone who exists on the internet, having a put together appearance is a part of the gig. Most of my selfies reflect that. Sometime last summer, in the midst of my life getting flipped and reversed like a Missy Elliot song, it became too much. I'm not a perfect product for consumption. I embraced the reality of myself. Here my mop of curls (that I'd just started to like) and a random palm frond are hiding what should be the selling point of a selfie—my face. And though you can't see most of me, this felt the most like me.
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With every old selfie deleted, I realized I was getting rid of an old version of myself and making room for a new one. I accepted who I'd been, and in doing so, made it easier for me to accept whatever the hell it was I was going to become. It's a special kind of self acceptance. Dare I say, selfie-acceptance? 

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