Wow, does that sound strange to me. As an avid consumer of social media, I’m used to watching trends develop right before my eyes. A song (like the Chainsmokers’ recent pop hit “Let Me Take A Selfie”) can heighten a craze. But as quickly as it comes, it goes. Poof. Never to be heard from again.
But one trend has stuck around, and it’s arguably one of the most defining of our time. Nothing has been more interesting to watch than the evolution of the selfie.
When I was in high school, way way back in the 90’s, it never dawned on me to take a “selfie”—especially not in the bathroom with my shirt off. It just had that “ick” factor, not to mention the geek shame that would result! Granted, we had out-of-date things called cameras that captured images on something called film. Heck—one-hour photo places were the norm back then, and just imaging the weird guy behind the counter looking at my photos gave me pause on the normal photos I took.
In my opinion, a selfie is something that has evolved from weird to wow. So what’s up with selfies, and why are Gen Y-ers obsessed with them?
Social media, at its heart, is about connection. Before the dawn of Facebook and Twitter, people interacted with each other directly. That interaction was governed by a loose set of social rules. Those invisible rules are still in place today, but the Internet and social media have created new rules for social interactions, and new rules for what is acceptable and what isn’t.
Akin to looking at yourself in the mirror and fixing your hair or shaving, a selfie is a reflection of who you are in the moment. Sad, happy, made up, shirtless—it’s you, or at least a staged version of yourself taken from your better side. The selfie isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but brought to the extreme, it can bring out dark elements of narcissism.
But then there’s a part of me that realizes image crafting is nothing new. We do it all the time in real life, right? We fix our hair, buy a car we can barely afford, to what? Impress our friends and neighbors? Our image is something all generations care about.
In a generation of born image crafters, Instagram has given them a gift: a new platform focused on beauty and searchable by hashtags.
When the “Let Me Take a Selfie” video has over 75 million views on YouTube, you know it’s a thing. Need more proof? Go ask your tween if they’ve taken a selfie, or worse yet, ask them if they will take one with you.
In a world of social media and personal social media strategy, selfies aren’t bad, but I believe they are just a fad. Let’s hope it fades, because if it doesn’t, we’ll be watching the young Gen-Yers age, selfie after selfie. Life has taught me that beautiful will fade, and eventually, others won’t want to watch anymore. Or at least I won’t.
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