Like everyone else, I own the copyright to my face. I am the one who gives birth to her self(ie). I know the messages I want to convey with each picture that I post, they are all arrows aimed at a big target, the one that could one day convey a larger truth about myself than any one image could. If we tell ourselves stories in order to live, sometimes those stories come in the form of pictures of your own silly miracle of a face, taken from as many angles and expressed in as many colors and shadows as technology will allow. We are writing the story of how we want to be seen.
Editing apps like FaceTune exist to streamline everything that comes after the snap; the serious work of preparing an image for gallery viewing. FaceTune features a powerful arsenal of editing tools: you can fuzz out blemishes, whiten teeth, add a dewy soft-focus like a smear of Vaseline on the lens, brighten your eyes, hollow your jowls. This is where selfies start to get more controversial: if, in 2015, we agree that it is blurry feminism (at best) to Photoshop celebrities beyond recognition on magazine covers, then why are we comfortable erasing our own perceived imperfections? If selfies are about warts-and-all self-acceptance, what message does it send when we don’t show the warts? I understand these fears, but also would argue that using a personal Photoshop machine doesn’t necessarily present the same grand-scale self-esteem attack that glossy magazine covers do. Celebrities and models never have final approval on their covers; but selfie-takers own the entire publicity machine: you take the shot, you edit the shot, you publish the shot. All the artifice is in your hands, and that can feel like power. FaceTune, and other apps like it, are a way of playing, of gaming your face. They let you you tweak and shade, paint and polish. They let you pick out your favorite features and highlight them. They let you art direct your own portrait, sending viewers’ eyeballs to precise locations on your face. Some people see editing apps as a way to hide behind magic wands, but I see them as very public declarations of a common human hunger: to be seen in the light you want to be seen in. It’s your selfie party; cry in sepia tone if you want to.
Here’s the secret: Nothing destabilizes power more than an individual that knows his or her own worth, and the campaign against selfies is ultimately a crusade against widespread self-esteem. What selfie-haters fear, deep down, is a growing army of faces they cannot monitor, an army who does not need their approval to march ahead. They fear the young, the technologically savvy, the connected. They fear a community they feel excludes them. The way that Henry wanted to silence and erase Clover, so these selfie-haters want to silence and erase the faces they don’t understand. It is that simple. Anyone who hates selfies outright is likely in the position of privilege to never have felt invisible. They fail to perceive the value that a new way of seeing can bring to so many lives.