The newsfeeds are sprinkled with them – shots of tight-jeaned teens in bathroom mirrors, lips puckered and eyes wide like cats in a dark room. The word selfie entered our vocabularies as social media disciples decided that self-portraits were as relevant as the daily news.
I’m not bashing social media here. I actually find it to be a convenient way to check in with friends from my past and present and see how their lives are progressing, their children are growing, and their ideas are changing.
Yes, I also occasionally enjoy the light gripes on bad bosses, dinner disasters and husbands who can shoot hoops all day but can’t manage to make their socks land in the hamper.
This is all fun and good, but it’s becoming more apparent that social media is for so many people, particularly teens, a measuring stick by which they gauge their importance. For this reason, the Internet can be a potentially damaging place to those with underdeveloped senses of their own self-worth. As one reader mentioned, science confirms this is the case with teens.
Often, teens default to the mindset that the girl with the most “likes” must be the most likeable. This became glaringly obvious to me when a lovely teen in my circle (whom I love and find to be an amazing young woman) commented that “No one cares unless you are pretty and skinny.” Those words stung.
And while I have resolved to start listening to myself more, silencing that voice of doubt that’s media driven and peer-inspired, I wonder how my teen handles online attention– good or bad. What does he say to the voices he hears analyzing his faults, criticizes his appearance and highlighting his missteps? I’ve been thinking about the extent to which social media affects us, how influential the onslaught of opinions can be.
In some cases, I think selfies are annoying, they’re a cry for attention – look at me…aren’t I stunning? Sure, we adults realize we don’t need a dozen thumbs up from a throng of Facebook friends. But do our teens know this? We don’t need our social circles to validate us. But let’s be honest, isn’t it great when we get positive feedback? Doesn’t it feel good to be approved of?
The truth is, we should already know we are beautiful based on other, less superficial factors. If we didn’t, and if our teens didn’t either, I will say it now:
We are awesome because we are unique manifestations of the miracle of life – not because social media said so.
Let’s encourage our kids to selfie with caution. And may we all make a point to be more careful, more kind, about what we say online, because it’s all too easy to be careless with our words when our keyboards are doing the talking.
Despite my mini rant here, I don’t hate selfies. Because they can be just photos, simple art rather than narcissistic snapshots. In addition, I believe selfies can be a great tool for self celebration (in a balanced way), and they can help us get over our fears of being seen.
After the original airing of this post, I had one beautiful woman comment on social media, saying, “I worry about showing my kids I’m self-involved or that looks matter, but I also recognize what a journey it has been for me to allow myself to be seen, and how my pics are proof that I find myself beautiful no matter where I am– a message just as important as stepping away from narcissism.” She makes a very important point. Thank you, Shawna Ayoub Ainslie.
So, whether selfies are self-sabotaging seems to depend on the aim of the poster. Is it a means to garner attention and approval? Or is it simply a Saturday afternoon snapshot, a memory to savor?
What are your thoughts on selfies? As a parent, I think it’s important to have this discussion with my teen. And while it appears my son couldn’t possibly be more full of himself or proud of his “popular hair,” deep down he is still discovering who he is, and that means he’s intently listening to what the world says.
Mantra: I aim to make my soul the most radiant aspect of my being.