From one to 3,048,927,848,827,153,059,330,311 selfies taken a day, it’s safe to say these things are constantly slithering into your stories, floundering into your feed, and twitching into your tweets. The new craze that officially hit the Oxford English Dictionary in 2013 is taking the world by storm. But why?
Ever since the European Renaissance the “selfie” has been a thing – even if the medium was oil paints instead of iPhone cameras. Getting a portrait painted in the European Renaissance was a symbol of power, elegance, and beauty. People wanted to be remembered in the best light possible, so portraits were extremely important. It is much the same today, except, we are not posing in front of an artist. Instead, selfies are taken in front of the mirror and while flexing muscles or showing Louis Vuitton purses. Sometimes selfies are shot in front of Lamborghinis and mansions or ice-cream cones and even cute three-month old puppies. Sometimes, the subjects of selfies are just a happy, smiling people.
Why do these happy smiling people feel the need to take selfies?: 116 people out of 131 answered “For Snapchat”. Snapchat is a social media platform where you can send one to ten second pictures to friends, and then they go away “forever”. Student Jillian Heilig is a Snapchat enthusiast. “Snapchat is nice because it allows you to talk with people you aren’t close enough to text with. You can make funny faces, make yourself look like a dog and it’s entertaining. It keeps me from being bored.” Snapchat is a new way of communication. We used to only communicate with words and we now communicate with photos. A photo with an expression can go for miles in a “conversation”.
Another popular place for selfies is Instagram (Rinsta), but have you heard of Finstagram (Finsta)? Okay, that isn’t a real website, but the concept is real. Instagram is basically Facebook for the younger generation, but the platform is all based around photos. To post something on your Instagram feed, the post must have a picture. There is no text only stand alone “status.” So, let’s get into the differences of a “Rinsta” and a “Finsta.” A “Rinsta” stands for “Real Instagram”. This is where you portray your best self, and must have over 1,000 or more followers if you are anybody of importance. Of course, you don’t know everyone that follows you because, who cares? You post pictures of the sky, your three noodles of spaghetti from that fancy Italian restaurant you went to in New York City, and of course, selfies. But these are not your average run of the mill selfies. These are top notch selfies. The best of the best selfies live on Rinsta. Slaughtered with filters, the best angles, lighting, and of course the best face you can possibly muster. You try and act perfect on a Rinsta, but there is also a place for fun.
May I now introduce to you Rinsta’s much more fun little sister, Finsta. “Finsta” stands for “Fake Instagram” I know that this is confusing, but bear with me. On a Finsta, you post anything your heart desires. Did you just throw up? Post about it on Finsta. Acne so bad it looks like a pepperoni pizza on your face? Post about it on Finsta. Got locked out of your house at two AM after being at Six Flags Great Adventure all day so you, your twin brother and your mom have to go sleep at your best friend’s house for the night? (True story, by the way.) Post about it on Finsta. The coolest thing about Finsta, is its unique way to connect people from different grades, schools, or even countries. Teenagers can ask which outfit to wear tomorrow, which hairstyle looks best for Prom, or even what they should text back to this creepy boy who has been “sliding into their DMs”. Selfies as a form of communication is more relevant in teens than adults. In fact, 7 out of 8 adults don’t even know what Instagram is. Could the impact of 21st century culture also be bringing on the photographic titan we call selfies?
The cultural phenomenon of selfies is very real and seems to have a prominent correspondence to age. You don’t see many 78-year old’s posing for the ‘Gram do you? (If they even know how to work their phone.) As the interviewees got older, their selfie count got lower along with their knowledge of selfies. But as the age of interviewees got younger, descending into the teens, more selfies were taken per day. Perhaps this increase in selfies comes with the entrance of social media to teenage culture. We know Snapchat and Instagram are an instant automatic battery killer on an iPhone 6 because of ample teenage use. But why do teens love Instagram and Snapchat so much? To communicate? To boost egos?
“Selfies sometimes make me feel better about myself. You know those days when you just feel a little down in the dumps? When you just feel so ugly and wonder why you ever step out of your house? Well, when I have those moods I look at pictures of me and my friends. Me smiling and laughing, having such an enjoyable time – and not always looking like the lochness monster. They remind me of happy memories with people I love, or even just times when I looked decent. It’s a good pick me up,” Emily McInnis, a 15- year old sophomore at C.B. South, confessed. She later explained she felt a little embarrassed revealing this about herself, as it sounds a bit narcissistic. “I’m not saying I have a huge ego or anything, the farthest thing from it! But, sometimes you just need to know that you are cherished and loved. A selfie to me is an instant memory, one you can have forever.” So, selfies can be used as memories, communication, and a little ego boosting as well.
But, even the sun must set on a beautiful day. Yes, there are negative views on selfies. “I don’t understand why all the teenagers take selfies. Don’t you spend enough time looking at yourself in the mirror? I just think it is so narcissistic going through Facebook seeing all these young people looking into the windows of my soul with their “bird-lips”! It is all about trying to project an image that isn’t true. Angles, lighting, filters and makeup are not real life.” My Nana, an iron fisted-Pittsburghian dreams of the day when selfies are banned from the internet. This look on selfies is popular within the adult/baby-boomer world. But selfie lovers all over the world prepare their rebuttal.
Selfies in the teenage world are as fresh as a photoshoot in a patch of sunflowers. “Woohoo! You are beautiful, boo! Keep doing you! ????” Selfies are not narcissistic but instead a confidence booster. Selfie supporters love seeing how beautiful all their friends are on the night of Homecoming or laughing at goofy group costumes on Halloween. Selfie supporters love applauding when someone gets their braces off. So, use that Colgate smile and pose with your friends or just yourself; no matter what, your teeth and your spunky personality will shine brightly in your selfies.