They call us the selfie generation. They say we’re the vainest generation yet, that we were raised by the internet. All of those labels will be true—well, at least until the next generation crops up.
‘Selfie’ is now a recognized word in the Oxford English Dictionary. The hashtag #selfiesunday was coined and brought into mass mania pop culture mainly by teens and pre-teens–mostly girls–who seek the admiration of total strangers. There’s even a song about selfies that garnered over 170 million hits on YouTube. Facebook is filled with ‘like for rate’ and ‘like for tbh’ statuses; Twitter, with indirects—tweets, often nasty or insulting and targeted towards such things as physical appearance or sexual promiscuity, that are directed at someone unnamed but known amongst their shared peer group. Teens, no matter how vehemently they protest that they don’t care what others think of them, do care. They thirst for attention or their five minutes of fame, which translates for them into a well-posed selfie or profile picture. And we all buy into that mania. Every single one of us.
We live in a world where 10-year-olds have iPhones and 15-year-old girls eke out an existence solely on popularity, where beauty is measured not in aesthetic appeal but in the number of likes they get on their profile pictures, and the number of comments they receive from the opposite gender that praise their attractiveness. This marker has become so important that girls will turn to makeup, Photoshop, and in the most extreme cases, even buying followers or likes on Instagram. There is so much importance on these pictures that girls may spend hours getting ready for a selfie or photo, making sure that their backdrop is okay, that their makeup is flawless, that the lighting is good, and that their pose is perfect. This process might take over a day for the ones most determined to get that perfect pictures. Furthermore, they might spend even more time perfecting their pose and expressions in a mirror, so when the chance for an impromptu selfie arises, they can know just how to hold themselves and manufacture their photogenicy.
Every teenage girl holds an unofficial Masters Degree in Marketing; they are professionals at selling their images. They know their audience—usually teenage boys—and just how to pitch to them, just how to dress themselves and makeup themselves and pose themselves. They know how to toe the line between decent and indecent and the exact point where too much skin is being shown. They know their good sides, how to make certain aspects of their body seem smaller and others bigger.
And I am a girl like any other; I take selfies on occasion and find myself hoping desperately for admiration from my peers, for those likes and comments from boys that supposedly control my worth as a human being. And if I judge myself exclusively on that criteria, then I’m not beautiful. On a scale of 1 to 10, I might be a 2. Maybe that’s because I don’t pose right or do my makeup right or show enough skin, or because I sit in the back of my classes quietly and don’t say anything. And maybe I should stop getting bothered by the likes garnered by a peer’s bikini picture. Because likes on my selfies do not measure who I am, and beauty is more than likes-deep.