Nearly two years ago, I came home from work to find our dog—who had been with me through a deployment, two cross-country moves, and two babies—seriously ill. He had gotten into something he shouldn’t have, and it hurt him gravely. Within days he went from being healthy (albeit old and slow) to being on his deathbed. As he lay in pain and agony in our backyard, barely able to lift his head, I cradled him in my arms, put my face to his, and snapped one last selfie with him.
I had taken many selfies with him over our years together. On our walks. On road trips. Sometimes just to let him know I hadn’t forgotten him despite the two crazy kids and that third pregnancy. He always obliged, often begrudgingly, but obliged all the same.
Certainly, my sweet pup wasn’t the only one I have inundated with requests for selfies. To be completely honest, I don’t hate how I look. I don’t shy away from pictures or hold a hand up when someone lifts his camera or phone. Some call it vanity. I call it a lack of self-image issues. Regardless, selfies—and selfie takers—get a lot of criticism these days.
A quick Google search on “selfie narcissism” brings up several hits on selfies linking to narcissism and mental illness. Again, I’ll be honest. I couldn’t stomach reading every ill-researched recap of the same supposedly scientific findings. (I’m sure some of it’s more scientifically rooted than others?) But I’m already battling all-day “morning” sickness; I don’t need anything else to induce nausea.
While I’m certainly not denying that some folks compulsively take hundreds of selfies due to some underlying—and serious—disorder or illness, nor am I denying that selfies can cause us to place ourselves at the center of our world, I disapprove casting widespread nets, labeling anyone who takes a picture of himself and posts it to his social media site as a narcissist.
There are perfectly valid reasons to take selfies and share them.
1. When Traveling
My husband and I traveled a lot before we had children. I’m not a huge fan of vacation pictures that lack people. Sure, some scenery shots can be wonderful to frame and display in your home as art. But without at least some shots of the travelers who made the trip, the pictures could have been taken by anyone at any time and bought for all we know.
Twenty years from now when I look back at photos, it won’t be the pretty scenery that reminds me of that trip, it will be the pictures of my husband or me with the scene behind us. That way I’ll remember it was us who actually took that trip. After all, my mom brain probably won’t allow me to recall such facts at will.
Plus, it is quite nice to have both of us in the shot, even when a friendly passerby wasn’t around to snap the pic for us. Wouldn’t you know, those awkward selfies of us in Czechoslovakia, New Zealand, Belize—wherever—are some of our favorite photos.
2. For Family Keepsakes
I don’t have many pictures of my mom from when I was little. There are a lot of us kids, and some of us with our dad (although he wasn’t around much), but few of us with mom. I wish selfies had been a thing back then, because it’d be nice to have more pictures of her. I really hope my kids look back at their childhood without wondering “Where the heck was mom?”
I’m sure other moms can relate, as many of us are the ones behind the camera, but this probably applies to plenty of dads as well. If you’re always stuck behind the camera, it seems perfectly reasonable to let yourself turn it around every once in a while to ensure your family knows you existed.
3. When Growing Babies
Regretfully, I don’t have a lot of “baby bump” pictures from my first pregnancy with our son. I did a little better with our second, having my husband take my picture whenever we could remember. By number three, I decided I wouldn’t wait for someone else to be handy, and we have a much better record of how she—and I—grew over those long months. Of course, now with my fourth one I’m so busy, tired, and overwhelmed with our hectic life that weeks go by without me even thinking about snapping a picture.
Exhaustion aside, selfies allow us moms to capture our pregnancy’s progression more easily despite busy and hectic schedules.
4. Because You Are More Important Than Your Dinner
I love taking pictures of food as much as the next girl, bacon and beer especially. But I love pictures of people.
I love seeing the smiling faces of my friends who have moved to the other side of the world! I love seeing happy mamas with their new babies and military couples reunited after a long deployment, or, heck, even a friend who’s simply celebrating her ho-hum thirty-something birthday with a giant sweet treat from Starbucks. Wait, that was me—but, hey, if it had been a friend or family member, more power to ’em for celebrating and wanting to celebrate with their friends who couldn’t be there.
Yes, I love food, sunsets, pretty flowers, and pets, but I’d rather see your shining smile, your awesome beard, or your tired-but-hanging-in-there-face, too.
5. Special Moments to Remember
I touched on this under travel, but it’s important enough to say again. There are times in life when it’s important to look back at our pictures and see ourselves in them, to remember we were there, to see the emotion we felt in that moment.
That may be you on your wedding day, the day you shipped your spouse to war, the day you brought your baby home, or the day you said final goodbyes to your dog. Sure, you can capture the emotion without including yourself, but there’s something about those selfie moments that make those emotions feel 100 times more real for me when looking back.
So, no, that selfie of you having ice cream with your kid, or you savoring your favorite beer at the pub after a hard day, or you simply making it through a tough and grueling work week doesn’t make you a narcissistic jerk-face who thinks you should be at the center of the universe. Share those happy memories, those sweet moments, those hard-to-get-through times with the friends and family who live too far away to see regularly.
Now, if you really are taking thousands of pictures of yourself and missing out on your entire life as it passes behind you as you post them all over the Internet in search of approval from complete strangers all day long, you might actually have some issues to address.