Friday, November 03, 2023

A brief meditation on selfies and resilience

Once upon a time, I was judgmental about selfies. From film stars to your third cousin, everyone was pouting, clicking, and uploading selfies on social media, and I was disapproving. A photograph taken by others captures more of the physical environment, a more uncertain expression, a likeness that you cannot fully control. Selfies, on the other hand, give their subjects too much control. The selfie-taker is intent on being seen as they see themselves rather than on capturing memories. And how much memory could a selfie possibly contain?

I bit down on my disapproval though, and read scholarly commentary on the sociocultural implications of relentless self-portraiture: what does it say about our generation? What does it say about societies where women are unsafe when they become visible, or where self-fashioning comes with a side of grievous harm? Perhaps selfies were good for something after all, if they could help us understand ourselves?

I cringe now to think of that former self—so blinkered, she didn’t even know how to look at herself squarely in the eye. How, then, did I get to a point where I have a folder full of goofy selfies and where my own self-portraiture is unapologetic?

The answer lies buried in an analogue photo album.

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