Why do we take selfies?

By John Toth / Editor and Publisher

A friend asked on Facebook: “Here’s a question: when you take a selfie, who are you taking it for? (I really am wondering this. Answers, please).”

She received dozens of comments, and this one from me: “You can control the photo. Don’t need to ask someone to take your picture.”

Smartphones these days come with very good front cameras, and that makes it possible to take better quality selfies. On my phone, the back camera still is much better, but the selfie is acceptable, especially outdoors.

But not everyone is a candidate for taking selfies.

“I don’t take selfies because i don’t get it. Right now i’m really pondering how i can even put an effort into my appearance without it paying tribute to the power of the internalized male gaze in my life (i know, kind of extreme, but that’s where i’m at). i don’t get most of the talk about selfies being inherently feminist either, but i have a conflicted relationship with “beauty” so maybe that’s why,” posted a friend of a friend.

This person should not take a selfie. Judging from the reply, the picture would turn out something like a Picasso painting.

I left the original text alone. Excuse the spelling and grammar. It’s Facebook. There are no rules.

“Because all the cool kids are doing it, and I’m old and want to be young and cool. Mostly to show off where I am and make sure everyone knows it. I don’t do it that often but I’m known to take a selfie now and again!” chimed in another guest.

It’s instant self-gratification and feedback.

Remember the old days when you went on vacation and shot several rolls of film? Then you returned home, took the film to get developed, just to find out that a bunch of the photos didn’t look all that great - either too dark, out of focus, or someone has his or her eyes closed.

That was the way it was before cell phones and digital cameras. How did we ever get by in such a primitive environment?

As a writer who has always liked to take his own photos, I think selfies are a great invention. Why not put yourself in the the shot?

The first rule of thumb I learned working for newspapers is that people humanize a photo. You can’t just shoot a picture of a building and run it. The building is not the story; the person is.

When we’re on vacation, I always ask someone to take a photo of us with my camera. I’ve been asked also many times. Now, you just hold your phone, stretch your arm out and snap the photo.

I still ask at times, though, when I want a better quality shot than what can be taken by the front camera.
Plus, the human arm is just so long. Sometimes I want more background in the photo.

That’s why I bought a selfie stick recently. I attach the phone to it, extend it and push the Bluetooth button to take the photo.

Selfie sticks are selling like hotcakes. (I don’t even like hotcakes).

Anyway, I played with it a couple of times and have not even used it since. It’s too cumbersome to take with me and do all that preparation when I can just extend my arm and take a shot, or ask someone to take it.

“I have to admit: We were in Vancouver last week at the aquarium, and there were at least four Asian families that had “selfie sticks” and were taking pictures of themselves having fun. And, it really looked like a good way to have family shots of themselves. I was almost tempted to get a selfie stick, even though the kids were making fun of them,” wrote another contributor.

They work great if you don’t mind fooling with it. But don’t buy it at tourist spots. I got mine for $12 on eBay.

And there is also something called selfie abuse. If you post on social media a selfie while driving to work and back, and a selfie at work each day, you should cease and desist. Nobody cares.

So why do many people like to take selfies?

“Because I take ALL the photos so I’m never in any.”
“Because if I don’t, who will?”
“Mostly to amuse myself and others.”
“I take them for myself and for those with whom I care to share them.”

For a good time, Google “selfies gone wrong.” You won’t regret it.