Anything But Empty

"Let your words be anything but empty."

A Defense of Selfies, Fall and Lattes

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It’s fall, the time of year when people wear ugg boots, scarves, and leggings; Instagram and Facebook will be filled with pictures of Pumpkin spiced latte’s and declaration of how much they love sweater season; which is fair, because leggings are comfortable, pumpkin spice lattes are delicious, and sweaters are cozy, I can’t wait to break out my cat sweaters.

But despite these perfectly legitimate expression of things they enjoy, social media will also be flooded with people who have nothing better to do with their days then make fun of girls for wearing leggings, posting pictures of the Starbucks, and taking selfies.

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Okay, I get it. When girls aren’t filling our timelines with selfies and statuses about fall, I am sure those timelines are usually filled with gems and life-changing nuggets of wisdom so it is a big sacrifice, but you know what, I really think we can handle it.

In fact, I bet we can handle it for more than just the fall season, I think making fun of people for harmless things that they enjoy and mocking them for expressing excitement about it is something we can handle retiring all together.

Sure, there is a wider conversation we could be having about authenticity and the immediacy of social media culture, the competitiveness and comparing it can cause, and how we at times are too focused on sharing the memory then having the memory; but I promise you selfies and food pictures are not to blame for that.

We lament how social media has turned a generation of people into self-indulgent, entitled, vain brats. And maybe that’s true, but I think we are pointing our fingers at the wrong ones when we say that. We point at the selfie takers, the Instagram users, the people who post about things they like, we say “Ugh, I don’t care about your lattes.”  But really whose the one who thinks everyone’s interests and posts should be about them?

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(Meme made by insecure people who think they have a monopoly on a fandom and have a conniption when someone not like them expresses interest)

I remember when I was 16, I had a hoodie that had a character from my favorite movie. Maybe it was a little obscure, a cult classic of sorts, and I didn’t really look like the type of person who enjoyed the movie, and I was labeled by a young man who saw the hoodie as a poser. Never mind that I had the special addition DVD, watched it with commentary, owned a signed copy of the screenplay, and performed a monologue from the film for a drama class, the real question was why did he care so much about my hoodie and whether or not my interest in the film was superficial or geek to the max?

A high school girl I know, loves a particular band with a fun, beautiful and exciting passion! This band makes her happy, and she has expressed how she has seen the way people will rip into that fandom just because they don’t like this band.  What do we gain from that? What do people get from trying to get her to enjoy something less?

Why do we care why the girl who posts selfies on Facebook does it? I may not know the motivation, but I can say with relatively certainty this isn’t her way of saying “I’m the center of the world.” Maybe it’s because she wants likes and compliments, maybe someone made her feel like crap last week and now she wants some affirmation, or maybe it has absolutely nothing to do with you, and she knows her curls are on point today.  I don’t know, and frankly it doesn’t matter.

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(Yeah, sure, because those two things ARE mutually exclusive after all)

 

Maybe that filter she used on Instagram is pretty or cool to her, and makes her picture look better. Maybe she’s not trying to make you think she’s a professional photographer or trying to make you think she is flawless.

 

Maybe she really really likes fall, and crunchy leaves, and yoga pants, because they make her happy, and warm and fuzzy and comfortable. Please tell me what you gain by coming a long and mocking her for it.

I don’t want anyone to read this and think I don’t have a sense of humor. I enjoy self-deprecating humor as much as the next person. And my friends and family make light hearted jabs at how invested I get in the X-Men fandom and I can laugh with them.

But from what I  have seen, I do  think that this has gone beyond a simple internet memes to an actual shaming and labeling and predatory ownership or rejecting of certain interests, fandoms, and hobbies.  There are articles and essays that float around with the purpose of making someone feel bad about their leggings or selfies or the fact that they wear a Batman shirt without having read a comic book. And I can only speculate about the cause, whether it’s from sad little lives that have nothing better to do, or a concern for how ‘self-centered’ and entitled this generation is. I don’t know.

But I do know this, if your daughter or friend or sister is taking selfies, enjoy it. Don’t lament for a generation that is self-involved, or thinks they are the hottest person in the world, because usually that’s not what is happening. Enjoy that she thinks she looks good that day, enjoy that she feels good about her appearance, because I promise you when she comes to you crying because she feels ugly, or fat, or someone made fun of her, you’ll be wishing for that happy smiling girl in the selfie who just knew she looked fabulous that day. If you want someone to take down that selfie girl a peg or two, no worries, sadly, someone will, and next time she may think twice before daring to put a selfie in your timeline. But let’s delay that as long as we can.

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And if I ever have a daughter, I hope that she can go to a coffee shop, or a comic book shop, and enjoy whatever look, drink or shoes she wants without being turned into an internet meme. I hope she can wear a shirt with a superhero emblem on it, whether she likes the movies or not, and not be ripped apart by rabid fans.  I hope she can shamelessly selfie with her friends (or whatever space-age technology is available from Apple at that point), whether it’s in bright red lipstick or a dirty, sweaty pony tails after a soccer game.

And yes, I will have had the conversation with her and will continue to have it, that the world is bigger than just her, that where she lives has luxury and first-world problems that can’t compare with some of the rest of the world, that her value is in so much more then how she looks, that another person’s opinion of her is not nearly so important as her own opinion of her, and that unhappy, unimaginative, unexcitable people will resent you when you love something, and will do whatever they can to tear it down.

So honestly, you do you. You want to Instagram your pumpkin spiced latte, go ahead, if you want to wear leggings as pants, and ugg boots you do that. If you don’t that’s okay too, scroll right on past and I promise you you’re day will not be worse for the wear.  If your hair is on point and you finally got that perfect wing tip with your eyeliner, snap a selfie. You can’t please everyone, if you post silly stuff you’re shallow and fake, if you post a problem you are having you are “sharing your drama on Facebook”, the world doesn’t know what it wants from you and it probably won’t stop judging you,  so no reason you should feel guilty for looking fabulous while they do it.

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