“My face is my mask.”
Parading through life with a fake smile, my face has been my mask. When asked how I’m doing, my response has been I’m happy, masquerading as a fully functional adult. The stormy seas of my brain don’t allow me to show weakness. I stand stoic, brave and somber, letting on that nothing is or ever has been wrong. I place my fingers over this keyboard, dog in my lap, although he’s not a lap sized dog, and feel my fingertips pulse over the keys mindlessly. Nothing to see here, people, move along or take a picture, it will last a lot longer.
Which really got me thinking about selfies. Selfies ruined the world, and will continue to erode at the overall psyche of general social media using public. Am I guilty of taking maybe too many selfies in my life, yes. Will I stop, probably not. What is now a cultural norm was once an inner pride sort of feeling. Instead of having to shoot your face and show the world your accomplishment, we used to use words. Words. Text via hand written letter or even a phone call to people important to us, informing them of what had happened to warrant attention.
The following is a 100% fictitious conversation, I promise.
“Hey Mom, how are you doing today?”
“So-so, I had to go to the DMV today to renew my license and I failed the eye test.”
“No way, I’ve been failing that for years now. Be lucky that you’ve gotten by this long without glasses.”
“I know but, I guess it’s just a sign that I’m getting older, you know, my eye sight is going, what’s next?”
“Gee Mom, don’t think that way.”
“Well, your Grandmother was nearly blind when she got up there in years, and I remember how hard it was for her to get around and do anything. She wasn’t a burden on anyone, but it just made her so helpless, you know. She was such a proud woman when I was young, then to see her up in age, it just makes me realize that I’m getting sort of old too. I don’t mind wearing glasses, I actually always wanted them when I was young, I thought they looked cool.”
“So I’m going to have to go to the eye doctor and they’re going to do that blow in the eye thing, I don’t know what it’s called, and I won’t be able to drive afterwards. I’ve never had it done, but I’ve hear from your Aunt Georgia that you can’t really focus or see anything at all. I’m afraid that will trigger some sort of panic attack in me. I saw a video on Facebook of a woman acting goofy after that eye thing, I don’t want to be that goofy woman.”
“I’ve got an appointment, I’m not sure if I can get your Dad to take me, he’s been a little under the weather the last week. That flu shot didn’t do him very well, I think he’s having some sort of reaction to it. They were talking about it on the news. I don’t think it’s bothered me as much, maybe the first day a little, hey, what are you doing anyways? It sounds loud there.”
“I’m walking the dog. I just got home from spin class.”
“Spin class, all that work and you don’t get anywhere. I don’t get it.”
“I remember you hated riding your bike when you were a kid. We bought you a bike for Christmas, you bitched about it. You said it was a boy bike and never rode it.”
“It had Spiderman on it.”
“Girls could like Spiderman too. It might be one of those phases you were going through, like that phase where you wanted to be a rock climber, I can’t for the life of me figure that one out.”
Back in the day, this is how people used words. If you were to pick apart the conversation using only selfies, I count ten opportunities to take a photo as opposed to actually respond (the child and mom both).
- Mom takes selfie in front of DMV, eye roll look, as if we all need a visual on how aggravating the DMV is. Sticking your face in a photo at the DMV is the equivalent of taking a picture of a corn on your foot, nobody likes it, nobody needs to see that shit.
- Child takes photo of face with glasses on, for use later to send to Mom, showing her that glasses aren’t that bad. Possibly with a fake smile, perhaps with a thumbs up. Fake enthusiasm about an otherwise cumbersome item to allow the second subject to feel better about something sort of crummy.
- Mom takes several selfies in the waiting room of the Optomotrist, trying on silly glasses, making silly faces, trying to make light of an other wise depressing to her situation. They get posted on social media, people like them, somehow she’s validated. Glasses aren’t that bad.
- Child takes selfie for Snapchat (which the mom isn’t on) with a rolling eyes and fake finger phone to the ear. Caption, “Mom is a talker”. People her age get it, but don’t really care, it’s a selfie, you like them no matter what.
- After the eye test, Mom takes a super chic selfie rocking those cook wrap around plastic tinted shades, proclaiming she’s going to make it through. (Of course, this won’t be posted until her eyesight comes back. This inspires a meme of her in the tints and the caption “My future is so bright, I have to wear shades”.
- Obligatory sick selfie from Dad, laying on the couch, perhaps wearing a turtleneck. The cautionary caption reading “DDont take the flueshot this year.” Three people like it, all old buddies from the military.
- Dog walk selfie, dog panting, probably a golden retriever or doodle or whatever. Caption, “Feeling the burn after spin, this might be a short walk.” The dog is almost never cooperating with the selfie, and there is almost always a smear of sweat (perhaps just spit to mimic sweat) in post work out selfies). People like this post because the light spring jacket is cute and it has a dog in it. People like dogs.
- Spin class selfie, even worse than the dog walk selfie. A usually sort of blurry snap of clavical up, with sweat. So much sweat. You can almost smell the BO from your phone. The need for approval for hard work and determination to be a healthy person. The clever person will try to strategically put a less than in shape person behind them, the selfie taker with less experience will sometimes get a finger in there, but leave it, not having time or energy to try another photo. This inspires a rash of others to take selfies in the gym and all of a sudden its a full out photo shoot.
- Mom takes cute selfie with Spiderman cup she found at Target. The caption is “My child loved Spiderman, but doesn’t want to admit it.” Other Moms love this post and comment similar stories of things that their kids liked as a phase but won’t admit to. Spiderman cup does not get purchased, although, it rides around in her cart for a while. She decided to put it back when she realizes she rarely sees her child, they’re always busy.
- After the phone call is complete, child takes a selfie with a glass of wine while sitting on a throw pillow clad couch, with a hint of dog head in the corner. The caption of “I’ve earned this, love you Mom” gets likes, but mostly from the Mom and men that like to look at her picture. The child turns on Netflix, but mostly checks to see who has liked the picture. While doing this, the child realizes that adulting is difficult and Mom was right, everyone is growing older.
To be absolutely fair, I took a selfie this morning. I don’t even know why. I hadn’t applied a single drop of makeup, I don’t think I brushed my hair and the background was less than majestic. I thought about it for quite a while, actually, and wondered what the point was, do I have to prove that I exist? Do I have to prove to other people that I’m a very ordinary person that can put on an excited face for no apparent reason? All of these things fell into my pondering lap, and I chewed on it quite a bit. After chewing on it for quite some time and getting nothing but selfie indigestion, I turned to the internet to find out why people take selfies.
“To prove you were there, that you heard of them first.”
Cake, in the song The Distance
Do you want to know why people take selfies? Self promotion? To win the imaginary popularity battle that is social media? Because we all feel like we’re talented photographers at an arms length and we want to show the world our talent? Interestingly enough, it’s been studies and nobody agrees on why. There are psychological ramifications, but nobody can agree on what they are.
One study says that people base their self-worth on others opinions. Big surprise, hasn’t that always been the case, even before the selfie era, you don’t really need a study for that. Another mentions that only narcissistic people take selfies, which makes sense, but when seemingly everyone does it, does that make the entire social media culture a narcissist? That’s a bold freaking claim, to throw everyone under a bus due to a societal norm.
The very best article that I read about it claimed that selfies can’t be bundled in with any one connotation, selfies are multi purpose. We take pictures when we feel happy, and although the first shot might not be the winning show, we strive to make sure that the photo is fully mirroring our feelings, sometimes leading to aggravation and giving up, losing happiness and replacing it with aggravation. We’re happy and we know it, but we don’t clap our hands anymore, we snap a shot. Look at me, I’m happy, therefore your perception is that I’m a happy person and you’ll probably want to hang around me and have fun.
Also, for those of us with less than stellar self esteem, we can channel our stinky thinking into a more positive outlet. When feeling down, blue, over all crummy, you can put on your happy face (your mask) and project a better persona. I’m guilty of this, big time, I feel like I can put something out there that looks better than I feel. It gets more complicated when filters are applied, as if putting a mask on top of your already phony mask. I’ve never understood the filters on Snapchat, which is probably why I won’t participate in it. I can’t knock it, if it makes someone feel cute or good about themselves, praise be to filters. The most creative I’ve ever gotten was doing a sepia shot.
Oddly enough, after reading through yet another selfie article, I saw that they too referenced the DMV (this was after I had written my dialogue in this article). I realized that I’m guilty of the DMV shot, and other people are too. The research on these sorts of selfies are centered more on the fact that they want people to realize that they exist, that they’re real people. I totally get it, which is probably why I did it. We use it as a coping mechanism in tough moments, moments of aggravation, moments that you might need friend but they can’t be there in person.
There’s an evil side of the selfie, the bitter “non-selfie” taker. I’ve been there, I’ve done that and have wondered, “Jesus, do you have to take a freaking picture of your stupid face every goddamn day and pair it with something you’re trying to sell me?” That is wrong, and I feel bad about it. We can get super judgmental, and forget that for the most part every snap that is taken is done for a reason. Life is tough, folks, and sometimes you need to be reminded that even a little accomplishment is better than a loss.
To the guys that do the muscle selfies, instead of thinking of you being a showoff, more than likely it’s a testament to how hard work and determination has paid off. Muscles don’t grow on trees. Same thing with car selfies, you don’t see people posing with a half rusted out neon without a headliner, you see people with cars that make them proud. A snap of that is an indication of having pride in ownership (which, for Pete’s sake, is getting lost, ask me how I know). Females with good hair selfies, that earns a round of applause in my book. Hair isn’t easy, hair is actually a pain in the ass. Even the walking the dog selfie, there isn’t a day that goes by that I feel like I haven’t taken enough pictures of my little dude. He’s not going to be around forever, but I’d love to have a memento of us being together.
Selfie it up. Go, do it. I’d go take one now, but I have a pimple and I’m still not over childhood trauma of pimples. Maybe with more selfies….so you’ll just have to deal with a Shakey selfie complete with finger. He’s damn cute all the time.
No duck lips though. I still haven’t figured out that one.