The selfie is getting a bad rap.
At least every other week I read or hear the word selfie paired with the word narcissistic and, to tell you the truth, it annoys me big time.
It all seemed to start when the Oxford Dictionaries declared “selfie” to be the 2013 word of the year last November. Apparently the word can be traced back to 2002 but only gained momentum in 2012 and then really took off in '13.
When I wrote The Tricks of a Solo Photographer in 2011 I had not yet heard of the term “selfie”. I actually added it to the post a few months ago in case readers were searching for it on the blog.
My purpose for that post on taking a selfie was simple: to help solo travelers take photos of themselves on the road. Selfies provide great memories and tend to make friends and family more interested in your photos.
My purpose for this post on defending the selfie is also simple: to ensure that you're not affected by this negative nonsense and continue to take photos of yourself on your travels.
The research on selfies and narcissism
When I began to write this the other day, I decided to look up selfies and narcissism and, to my surprise, found a few articles defending the selfie. You are wrong about ‘selfies,' they are not proof of narcissism argues that the selfie is the result of social platforms such as Facebook providing an outlet for what is just the latest mode of “forming and reinforcing our identities by making them visible to others”. So, we're not more narcissistic than those in the past, we just have this new social way managing our identities.
The issue of being visible is important. As we travel solo we are not visible to those who count in our lives. We are evolving without being seen by family and friends. While this is, to some degree, the reason for traveling solo, being seen by those same people is also an important aspect of life.
The importance of a witness.
When I lost my husband I lost the witness to much of my life. The person who knew me best, the person who knew all the things I had done, was gone. Losing my witness was a loss unto itself.
Having a witness or witnesses, being visible, is important to our sense of self. To our identities. Yet as we travel solo we don't have a witness who will continue to be part of our life. This is why taking selfies is so important.
Returning home with photos of ourselves in front of a waterfall we’ve just hiked to, with a new friend we’ve just made, at one end of a landmark bridge we're about to cross… with these selfie photos we have the goods with which to make the witnesses to the rest of our life witness to our growth as solo travelers as well.
Five reasons selfies are great
For clarity, let's enumerate why selfies are good things. I'll start with five. Perhaps you can add more reasons in the comments.
- A selfie is a great, weightless, inexpensive souvenir.
- Friends and family want to see pictures of you more than of pretty places. They'll happily view your photos with you.
- As you're taking a selfie it becomes evident that you're traveling solo so you may meet new people as a result.
- With a selfie, the important people in your life can witness a more complete you.
- Selfies help complete the record of your life. Looking back through travels, they will be more meaningful with selfies than without.