“My ‘selfie’ was an outward expression of my inner transformation. While selfies are often viewed in a negative light, they can have a positive influence in our lives. They can help us portray our best version of ourselves to the world—a statement that says ‘This is who I am.’ Maybe we’ve been through some things, and our evolving image is an inspiration to others. Or maybe it’s just a way of fulfilling our basic human needs that feels good, reveals only what we wish to share, and allows us to present ourselves in our aspirational light. A selfie may capture a moment in our life that means something to us, but it can also be a method used for getting to know ourselves better and leaving our mark on the world.” – Dayna Mason, writer

In honor of National Selfie Day, I’m going to suggest this as a way to celebrate: take selfies. Lots of selfies! Lots of different types throughout your lifetime! However, I’m going to start this article with a big old caveat so that you can contextualize and discern for yourself (and perhaps your kids) whether this is something that would be good, healthy, and life-giving for you. And then scroll to the bottom to see some of my favorite kinds of selfies (and laugh at my goofy face in some of them).

Oftentimes, when I speak to adults about teenagers in the United States, they mention something about how time spent on social media is making people poor in-person communicators (as well as self-obsessed little snowflakes or something of a similar bent). In some ways, I get it; I have many qualms about social media, too, and the effects of social media on children are only somewhat known yet and are not necessarily looking great on the whole. And young adults who grew up with social media as part of the fabric of their lives – and never spent any years without at least one option for a platform – know that it can be challenging, too. I write this article as someone who studied child development in college, so I know that when we don’t know enough yet about how something will affect children’s (and “emerging adults’”) development, we may want to set healthy boundaries with the known that is still also unknown.

The best thing you can do as an adult who cares about younger generations (and yourself) is to discover, practice, and model healthy use of social media yourself. (I know and admit, as I write this, that I would have to learn a lot in order to do this well with a kiddo! We all have a long way to go.) However, I believe it can be done with more ease than we think, and I think it’s an opportunity not to demonize an entire part of life either for them or ourselves. This means exploring some topics together with children and/or friends (or house plants, if you’re a living and breathing stereotype of a millennial like I may be with my three succulents). This is a non-exhaustive list and hopefully it’ll spark something in you!

  • Learning that “likes” are not a measure of self-worth, and it would probably be pretty dang overwhelming if 50 people came up to you in real life to say “I like this” (or at least it would be for me?!)
  • Creating spaces and times in your home when cell phones are away (I have a plate that I put it on)
  • Having fun and taking photos together as a family, some of which to post and some of which to just stay with family and friends to create a greater sense of intimacy about who gets what information (and then you have stories to tell that not everybody already knows about, too)
  • Defining what healthy online relationships look like (especially due to the complexities of indirect communication and lack of body language), as well as healthy relationships to social media platforms themselves
  • Reminding ourselves that social media is often used as others’ highlight reels, not the middle-of-chapter rough drafts we more often feel we are, and knowing that people who post about their relationships and lives as if everything is going fab may actually be less confident about them (and hence are looking for external validation like “Oh my gosh, you guys are too cute together”), so that we fall less into the rabbit hole of social comparison
  • Balancing online interests and offline interests, making as much space as is fun (and possible) to be away from screens
  • Considering what might qualify as “oversharing,” or information that might better be shared with loved ones in real life in order to get emotional and social needs met
  • Knowing that filters are a fun option, but can lead us to misunderstanding what beauty we already have and perhaps make us wish we looked more like the edited versions of ourselves (something that can go as far as “selfie dysmorphia”)
  • Showing our friends lots of love because what does it cost us to write annoying and wonderful comments like “I CAN’T BELIEVE HOW GORGEOUS YOU ARE!” or “you amaze me!”? We have the power to lift people up for no other reason than we all need that in our lives.

 

There’s more I could say, but let’s move onto some selfies

I hope you take these kinds of selfies:

1. For no other reason than you felt beautiful, powerful, capable, and/or loved. (Not felt cute, might delete later – just felt cute. Unapologetically.)

2. When you’re feeling goofy.

3. To celebrate milestones.

(For context: One of my favorite parts of my life is my rich spiritual heritage that I am learning more and more about every day. I am both a Presbyterian Minister and a Jew! So here’s me on my ordination day and here’s me on the day I put a Mezuzah at my door (with the Ashkenazi tilt in honor of my Polish great-grandparents). Credit for the amazing Mezuzah goes to MyZuzah, who provided an authentic scroll and beautiful outside.)

4. Both alone and with friends. (Selfie stick if you really feel like it.)

5. With your partner, not necessarily for the Christmas card, but just to make you smile. (Here’s one that still makes me smile almost a decade after my high school sweetheart and I broke up!).

6. To celebrate little things.

7. To celebrate changes in appearance like haircuts.

8. To remember holidays.

9. To try out new facial expressions and clothing choices.

10. In beautiful places.

11. To show your values.

12. To thank people who have done something kind for you and to show them that you appreciate it.

13. No filters, no makeup, just you being you. Feel free to have it be portrait mode and have there be visible pores and acne if you’re one of those #blessed adults who still sometimes feels like a teenager. Who cares? You’re beautiful inside and out.

What are your favorite kinds of selfies? And post your filter-less selfie in the comments! We want to see and celebrate you just as you are.

Emmie Arnold

Emmie Arnold (she/her/hers) is a hospital chaplain in New York; a Reverend in the PC(USA); avid cook; traveler (on hiatus); friend and family member to many; writer; and musician.

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