For the entire part of my life during which I have been taking selfies (approximately the past five years), I have been taking selfies in which I am not “serious.” I realize this now in looking back, yet never thought about it at the times of the photos. Whether I am trying on hats that I think are hideous at Walmart, using my hair as a fake mustache, or making some random face for another reason, I am always posing in ways that I think will make other people laugh. I usually send my selfies to friends or family members as texts, but do not post them online (except very rarely on Facebook) because I feel that people who don’t know me will not “get” what I’m trying to do. My selfies don’t really line up with those you see on, for example, Instagram (to the best of my knowledge).
Susan Sontag, in her 1973 book On Photography, writes: “We learn to see ourselves photographically: to regard oneself as attractive is, precisely, to judge that one would look good in a photograph” (85). I have never seen myself as particularly attractive, and certainly would not describe myself as “photogenic” in the sense that the term is commonly understood to mean today, so I make faces that I think others will find funny (rather than simply smiling or making a more commonplace “selfie” face [i.e. duckface or open-mouth]) in an attempt to keep people from really seeing how I think I look in most photographs.
Besides showing a very particular sort of self-consciousness about how I think I look, a reason I do not take “serious” or more typical selfies is because I have long looked down on selfies as a self-indulgent throwaway form of photography. The selfies I am posting here are the type I would have sent friends via Snapchat (had I known about it at the time), and now that I do have Snapchat, I definitely take less selfies (outside of the app).
I tend to quietly judge people when I see them taking numerous selfies, yet commonly participate in selfie-taking practices myself. Because I was (and I suppose still am) ashamed to embrace selfie-taking in the way many others have, and because I don’t like (what my mom would call) “good” pictures of myself, I will probably not change my perspective on selfies anytime soon, but at least I recognize in retrospect that I have been complicit (even hypocritically so) in a practice I regularly criticize.
Sontag, Susan. On Photography. New York: Picador, 1973. Print.