Oxford Dictionaries named “selfie” their Word of the Year 2013. Defined as “a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website,” it’s something that almost seems too slang-like to be represented in any dictionary, let alone the Oxford. In actuality, their “Words of the Year” tend to fall right along this level of ridiculousness. For example, the 2012 Word of the Year was GIF. In 2011, “squeezed middle” came out on top. 2010’s Word of the Year was “refudiate,” a word made up by Sarah Palin because she is a f*#&ing idiot (sorry… calming down now) and didn’t know the difference between “refute” and “repudiate.”
Out of that batch, “selfie” doesn’t seem so out of place.
Still, the decision to make “selfie” their 2013 Word of the Year sparked some conversations about selfies and their overall value to society. An article at Slate praised selfies as “tiny bursts of girl pride,” while a headline at Jezebel called them a “cry for help.”
I wrote an article over at Thought Catalog, discussing both articles and concluding that selfies are not inherently good, nor are they inherently evil. I see no reason we have to assign positive or negative value to what is, essentially, a harmless action. What’s the worst outcome of a selfie? Someone gets annoyed that their friend overshares? Well, I used to get mad anytime I received Farmville or Candy Crush invites on Facebook, yet I’m not decrying players of those games as in need of help.
I wanted to write a quick follow up piece to my Thought Catalog article just tackling another issue: my personal selfie history. Yes, I take a fair amount of photos of myself (I know, I know, that’s an understatement). Am I crying out for help? No. Am I projecting a burst of girl pride? Nah. For me, as a trans woman, it’s been important to track my progress over the past year and a half through photos. There have been so many days where I look in the mirror and see nothing but a man staring back at me. I know that’s not how I really look, but my mind plays tricks. By having photos at hand, able to compare how I look today versus two months ago versus a year earlier, I can remind myself how far I’ve come. I’m not narcissistic, I’m just looking for reassurance in myself.