The Story behind “Selfies”

Photo by mahr in Flickr

Photo by mahr in Flickr

Unless your head has been buried in the sand—or you stay far away from social media—you are well aware of the latest preteen/teen trend, “selfies.”  These are self-portraits taken with a camera and uploaded to Facebook.

Many an adult has attempted to understand this strange phenomenon.  Especially considering the fact that a lot of these photos are taken in the bathroom—I have yet to figure that one out, except that maybe it’s the most private room in the house.

So after a relative recently posted a status on her Facebook page, questioning the reason behind selfies, I couldn’t help but respond.  My answer isn’t based on having some kind of psychology degree or special training in adolescence.  But from my experiences in raising teenagers and being around them, I’ve come to a couple of conclusions.

The first is that it helps them feel better about their self-worth.  Think about it.  After posting a selfie, you get instant feedback.  You tally up the “likes” you earned and read the comments:  “So pretty,” “Nice pic!” and so on.  Teens feel instantly validated and valued by this feedback.

Second, it’s for attention.  I’m referring to those selfies in which there is cleavage showing or hardly any clothing on the body.  It might be a selfie in which the teen’s pose is seductive.  It certainly brings attention but it’s the wrong kind.

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other outlets has opened up an entirely new world.  Raising teenagers today has become so much more complicated because we aren’t just battling against the culture or the latest fads.  We are battling social media—with all the good it offers, there is just as much harmful stuff.

Selfies can actually be helpful to parents.  It may reveal a hidden message from our teens, or reveal a side of them we didn’t know existed.  It’s important to look beyond the portrait to the meaning…in other words, the story being told behind the picture.

© 2013, Stephanie Romero


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