By Ann Varner
Over the past 10 years selfies have become incredibly well-known. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a selfie as “an image of oneself taken using a digital camera especially for posting on social networks”. If you have social media, you’ve likely had many friends who post selfies, whether it’s just of themselves or with others. I’ll admit, for many years when I would see the same woman or man posting 10 pictures of themselves every other day, I would roll my eyes and think to myself that they were being vain or seeking attention. This is actually a common thought — that selfies are narcissistic. More often than not, I would think this about the women who posted their selfies more than the men. However, the American Counseling Association states that the personality traits that indicate narcissism are much more evident in men than women. Essentially, their studies found that when men took selfies, the act was for the most part linked to narcissism. But that same link was not nearly as present with women.
As selfies have become more and more commonplace in my social media feeds, I have watched as women began to explain why they were taking the selfies. One woman had an autoimmune diseases that would cause her skin to flare up. To help her become less self-conscious, she would post selfies of herself during a flare up to receive support from her online friends. Another woman had lost a lot of weight and wanted to show it off, so she would take selfies as a way of self-motivation. My eye rolling began to lessen as I began to see that selfies didn’t necessarily mean that these friends on social media were vain or seeking attention — it was a form of empowerment for them.
Curious about this realization, I reached out to my social media friends and asked one question: Are selfies empowering or narcissistic? Most people responded to say that they posted their selfies because they were proud or feeling good about themselves. Some responded that it depended on how often they posted their selfies. In all, it appeared that most people (limited to my social media) were supportive of selfies as empowerment.
One article perfectly explains the misunderstanding that people have with confusing narcissism with empowerment when women post selfies:
“Novelist and poet John Berger once wrote ‘You painted a naked woman because you enjoyed looking at her, put a mirror in her hand and you called the painting Vanity, thus morally condemning the woman whose nakedness you had depicted for your own pleasure’. In a way, selfies are a perfect example of this. It isn’t permissible for a young woman to take control over how she is depicted, so people get worked up and freak out when a woman posts a picture of herself that somehow gives her social empowerment and validity”
In the end it comes down to this: we all have our own struggles and self-consciousness even if others can’t see it. We all have different reasons for our selfie posts whether it’s a hidden disease, weight loss, or feeling great about life. Try to empower your friends when they feel confident enough to post a selfie instead of rolling your eyes. After removing the bias from my mind, I now love seeing other’s selfies and encourage them to keep on posting.