I think if I was still in graduate school, I would do a research study on selfies. I'm serious. I believe I could turn it into a social work issue.
Long before "selfie" was even a term, taking photos of myself was part of my recovery from an eating disorder. 12 years ago, in an attempt to see the beauty I had a difficult time seeing, I began taking a lot of photos of myself. This was long before you posted stuff like that. Before Facebook. Before Instagram. Before you shared your face after you snapped a picture.
I didn't take pictures of myself to look for bones and thinness. I took pictures of myself to look for beauty in them. The purpose was to try to like the photos I took of myself. Or at least to like something about them.
Taking selfies (before the word "selfie" existed) was how I learned to smile at myself. How I learned to laugh at myself. It was how I learned to tell myself it was okay to have thoughts like, "Wow, I look really nice here" or "I like this picture of myself." It was how I learned that liking a photo of myself didn’t mean I was conceited. It was how I learned to perceive happiness in my face in a picture. It was how I learned to like my own appearance, even as the weight went on.
Back when taking selfies would have been deemed ridiculous or unheard of or horribly self-centered, I used to just sit with myself, inside or outside, hair up or hair down, and snap photos of my own face and body with my old digital camera. I'd upload them to my computer and save them in a folder. Then, instead of picking them apart, which was the initial reaction my mind had, I did my best to admire them.
As time wore on and self-criticism was replaced with self-confidence, I took selfies more to chronicle feelings and changes in myself. Not to share, just to keep for my own personal reflection. And then lo and behold, selfies became a craze... First, selfies were mocked with zeal, then they were all the rage, and now, they are simply part of our new culture.
If I could make a video montage of all my selfies from the last year, I know it would show a progression of great magnitude. A tale of grief and growth and change and strength and emotion. When I post a selfie, it's not to say, "Hey, look at me!" - it's to say, "Hey, look what's happened to me! Look what's changed in me! Look what's inside me!"
I mean, yes, selfies are a portrayal of the outward appearance. Obviously you can't ignore that or discount it. But I know damn well that every one of my selfies shows just as much of what's inside me as what's on the outside. And that's what I think is so cool.
You know what they say: a picture is worth a thousand words.