A SEA OF FACES

Don’t forget to also read my seven-part essay “Selfie.”

For the last six months, I have been collecting faces. People send them to me in all different ways: email, DMs, texts, at-replies, late night Gchats. These selfies and the stories behind them have flooded my feeds and my inboxes, and yet I always find myself wanting more. And the words that come with these pictures continue to surprise me: there is so much more going on underneath the surface of a selfie than most of us ever guess. I have found myself heartbroken, buoyed, and haunted by these narratives, and I have an appetite for so many more.

That is where you come in.

Below is a selection of selfies I have gathered this year, and the stories of the people who took them, in their own words. You can leave your own (and I hope you will) in the response section. Join the stream.


Matt

This was on my 24th birthday. I’d had a difficult summer (roommate troubles, parents got cancer, single AF — in a nutshell) and I had to square with the possibility of a life alone. So I spent my birthday by myself and it was fun! As I walked around Brooklyn, I found myself at the spot where I broke up with my ex-boyfriend a year ago. I took this selfie so I could see myself how I felt: owning a day on my own, doing it my way, happy.


Stella

I took the first one in the bathroom of a fancy gala where I felt very out of place. In the other, I had bought this bikini online and when I put it on at home, I remember thinking: “How could I have ever hated all this?” and almost cried. For years, I thought that the size of my body and the fact that I am queer meant that any sort of femininity wasn’t available to me. Luckily, I’ve since realized that femininity is a choose-your-own-adventure, and taking selfies like this remind me that I’m statuesque and gorgeous as hell.


Matthew

In late 2010, two years after I’d uprooted my life and moved from suburban Indianapolis to Memphis, Tennessee, to live with and then marry the girl from that long-distance thing, I experienced a severe depressive breakdown. I couldn’t seem to accomplish anything, no matter how I tried. Up to that point, I had thrived on the energy that writing and music gave me, but I just couldn’t do it any more.

But — maybe by instinct, maybe by desperation — I kept taking selfies on my iPhone. Depression selfies definitely weren’t a thing then, but that seems to be what I was doing — documenting myself to remind myself that I was still there. One day, in late 2010, I stepped into the bathroom, looked in the mirror, decided I looked great, smiled as big as I could, and snapped a picture. The above was the result. I don’t know why I thought that was a smile, why I thought that a sweat-stained plain white tee was a great look, why I didn’t notice that my eyes were swollen from constant almost-crying, or that my eyes were almost completely vacant. Also my haircut was stupid, but my haircuts were always stupid until pretty recently. I do know why I thought I looked great, though: I wasn’t asleep or doubled over in the shower trying to convince myself to stop wanting to die. That ugly selfie was both a declaration of victory in that day’s battle and a rallying cry for the months to come. I could at least stand up. When my brain was screaming for me to kill myself, I could choose to do nothing.

I lost a job to that depression. My marriage spoiled into an abusive dynamic. (Which is a total chicken/egg discussion. I don’t remember which came first. I suspect depression did, largely because I was in such a vulnerable position for manipulation — I wanted to die every second I was awake; why would I not also believe that I was unloveable, unworthy of eating, deserving of being hit?)

New Year’s Eve, 2011, my wife insisted that she bring a friend over and didn’t allow me to invite anyone. It was the guy whose house she had been spending several nights a week at. By midnight, she had fallen asleep on his shoulder, after putting a pillow between us. I don’t know how I worked up the nerve to document that with a selfie:

On showing that picture to my therapist, he rightly insisted I move out. Which I did, but not until she told me to. About a week later.

It was weirdly magic. The difference happened almost immediately. This is from May 2012:

It wasn’t a sudden, complete change, but very rapidly (and really, I’ve only noticed while collecting these selfies), the light came back to my eyes, I re-learned how to smile (if only slightly).


Jolie

#SELFIEARMY is about radical self-love. I truly believe that for a woman, loving yourself is an act of social disobedience. We’re taught to critique ourselves constantly, ingrained to hate ourselves. We’re taught that anything less than perfection is not good enough, and we’re reminded damn well that we will never be perfect. We could always be thinner, prettier, have bigger boobs, a nicer ass, have clearer skin — and due to the Photoshopping epidemic we find ourselves in today, when we see women in the media, we compare ourselves to literally (literally) unattainable standards. Above all, we aren’t taught to define ourselves, but to instead see ourselves only through the eyes of the men around us. If we receive a compliment, we may say “thank you,” but we are never to compliment ourselves first. More than a virtue, modesty was invented to silence women. Historically, men have been the artist and women have been the muse. Taking a selfie is about reclaiming our right to be both — yes, I agree that I am a beautiful, magnificent, one-of-a-kind work of art, I just don’t understand why you think you deserve any credit for that. The selfie, a love story: I AM ART AND I AM AN ARTIST. YOU’VE held MY body for ransom for centuries and I am returning it to its rightful owner.


Meredith

I think of selfies like a timeline-diary, a way to document my adventures. I get an overwhelming desired to make an image sometimes. Like my circumstances will be really curious or beautiful and it’ll be like an itch I have to scratch. I have to put the moment down. I was a very early proponent of the selfie, growing up with a camera and being on livejournal and MySpace as a teen. Making pictures of myself has always been a part of my regular art practice.

After the worst breakup of my life, I took a picture of myself everyday for SO LONG just to remind myself I was real. I have an old broken laptop with probably 1,000 photos of myself at age 23–24. In a weird way, I cherish the selfie practice I’ve adopted because now, being in a band, I have my picture taken all the time and I know my angles. When it comes time for me to be on camera, I don’t panic. I’ve gained a lot of weight in the last year and I’m getting older… but this is my face, and it’s the only one I’ve got. Ergo: selfies. This is me, regardless of how I or you feel about it. I exist.

I have had such huge life changes between November 2013, when my band first started touring, and now, and I look back at my Instagram and I’m just shocked. My life has done three or four 180s, and there I am, surviving all of it, still getting on stage and smiling. Like whoa, little dude, there you are. Being as open as I have about my history with mental illness, maybe seeing a photo of my not only living but thriving might be important for someone.

Selfies are giving me agency to show people there’s more to me than the incendiary parts focused on by the media. People definitely want me to be this violent angry person all the time. All screaming pictures. So like, me feeding boys donuts or holding a bunch of flowers or working on one of my cakes is important. I’m a very nice, mild-mannered person. I don’t want people to be afraid of me. I’m a boring old lady!


Megan

Taking a selfie is the act of reflecting light I’ve already felt back to myself again and again. It’s an active attempt to remind myself I exist. I guess anytime I’m looking into a camera I’m facing my own mortality, then demanding there be a chance to last forever−but, with a selfie, it’s only in the way I want to be remembered. Like writing my name on some wall as a kid: I WAS HERE. That’s the thing: it’s this intimate promise to myself — I don’t have to be forgotten. There will always be this.



Ryan and Sara

Ryan: The first shot is one of my favorite selfies. It was taken while Sara and I were on vacation in Amsterdam. Usually I have about a seven attempt limit. I also shy away when we are surrounded by large groups of strangers. This picture is about attempt number 12 for a good selfie, and on the other side of the camera, there is a group of around 20 people at a cafe. As you can see, Sara has a different opinion. She has no limit to the number of pictures she could take to ensure she gets a good vacation selfie pic. It’s just one of the many reasons why I love her. This picture is also demonstrative of our selfie-taking process and me, likely not at my best.

Sara: The second picture was taken in the elevator of our hotel after dancing the night away at our friend’s wedding. I am a major believer in the couple selfie. It really helps capture the moments I might otherwise forget or just simply want to remember whether big or small or just goofy. When I’m away missing Ryan or bored one day, I’ll look through our selfies and instantly be transported back to that moment and relive all the emotions I felt. This selfie was taken almost a year ago and it still reminds me of the truly great night we had and all the laughs and love we shared. I think about how much fun I am always able to have with my husband, even if we don’t know anyone else at the wedding other than the bride and groom. Ryan will always make me laugh until I cry and make me feel so loved. Couple selfies help me relive these amazing memories and cherish my relationship.


Jessica

This is my favorite selfie. I took it last September. I was a few months into a relationship with a guy and pissed off at him. I wanted time to think before I spoke, but he kept texting me, urging me to respond. I sent this angry selfie in order to convey my displeasure without saying anything out of anger that I’d later regret.


Ira

Selfies for me are things I don’t take often — I prefer taking photos of my friends and my surroundings — probably because I’ve yet to perfect a fact that doesn’t look awkward while I’m selfie-ing, as opposed to the general neutral face I keep whenever I’m having my photo taken. It’s why I try and replicate that stony gaze with a shot designed to show: “I’m on vacation!” But the framing is nice.


Ava

For a long time I felt very beholden to the guilt complex around selfies and selfie culture, seeing them as self-indulgent and even potentially deceptive (insert unpacking of the rank sexism coursing through the veins of this trope here). Although I’ve been taking selfies since long before the term had even been coined — think haphazardly aiming with my 6-megapixel digital camera — I mostly kept them private or, if I ever did post one online, I always accompanied it with an apologetic or self-deprecating caption. I definitely saw selfies as an aspect of artifice that my real-life acquaintances would somehow “see through,” even as I also held a deep adolescent wish to be able to take control of my own self-presentation.

It wasn’t until this past year when I started an anonymous Twitter account (insofar as anything can really be anonymous online) that I was really able to embrace selfies and view them as a tool for caring for and humanizing myself — I can be paralyzingly self-critical. I have to give a huge amount of credit here to my beautiful angel of a friend, Jolie (@princess_labia) and the #selfiearmy hashtag for creating a space where I was welcome and allowed to experiment with selfies as a sort of habitual or ritual practice. Now, I take selfies almost every day, both when I feel good about myself and when I feel the opposite. I take selfies to practice seeing myself as a whole rather than the sum of my flaws; I post selfies online (enthusiastically, and often!) to practice unapologetically taking up space.


Joe

I took 25 pictures of myself laying in different positions across my bed. Some funny, some blurry, and two or three I like. Taking all those pictures made me put my guard down. To do that I imagined my phone to be the face of a friend I admire.

I feel strange sometimes, because selfies are about people declaring agency over how they are seen. Frankly, men who look like me are seen pretty positively by society. When women, trans, non-binary, and people of color post them it is a celebration and political statement: them taking control of their bodies and presentation is a radical move because it rewrites the narrative around their lives one snapshot at a time. I like selfies because they offer me control over my body.


Caroline

I took this selfie a few Fridays ago during my first visit to Planned Parenthood. I was recently cheated on by my former longtime partner and wanted to make sure he hadn’t given me anything, and I figured it would be cheaper than going to my regular doc. Everyone was so nice and wonderful. I took this photo while waiting in the exam room and posted it on Instagram with the caption “Portrait of The Artist As a Young Woman Who is Tired of Your Shit.”


Rohin

I love raising plants. Earlier this year, around spring, I finished eating an avocado and decided I would try to coax a plant out of the pit. This selfie features me holding an avocado plant I have successfully willed into this world — it took about six months or so to get this big, but now nothing’s stopping it from getting bigger. Something like this is always a gentle reminder that in a world filled with so much death and destruction, we’re capable of building and creation.


Rebecca

I took this on the day I was told that I would die if I removed the tube in my nose. I couldn’t keep my eyes open and forming the smile was the hardest thing I could do… I took the picture because I was determined to have a "before" shot because I was adamant that that day was the beginning of my recovery "after."


Matt

When I have my daughter, it’s usually just her and I alone together. So the only way for me to have pictures of the two of us together are selfies. Otherwise, it’s me taking shots of her alone. But I want her to see pictures of the two of us together having fun one day. So, lots of selfies.


Ashley

About two weeks before I took this photo, I was lying in bed naked and said to myself, “I’m tired of thinking of my body as a problem.” Every time I looked in the mirror, I had something awful to say (or think) about my body, and quite suddenly, the thought of going through that old emotional routine felt distinctly and profoundly boring. A week later I found this crop top on sale, and wore it proudly into a conversation with a group of thin white women who worked in fashion writing. On my way out of the meeting, I stopped in front of this mirror next to the elevator, and I posed like I was as fabulous and non-boring as I felt.


Summer Anne

A good selfie makes me love myself more than any compliment from a man ever has; I guess that must be really intimidating and difficult for them. If women don’t need dudes to feel good about themselves, do we need dudes at all?


Helena

This summer I slipped a disc in my back and was rendered basically immobile for almost a month. When I finally started recovering and could walk again, I felt uglier than I had since I was a teenager. It’s a stupidly dramatic phrase, but I felt like someone who had “lost her looks.” I also felt like I’d visibly aged about ten years in three weeks. I found I no longer wanted to take selfies because I didn’t want to look at myself. But when I started taking them anyway, it made a difference. They never looked the way I expected them to look, and even if this was only because my expectations were so low, I stopped seeing the monstrous version of myself I saw in my mind. Even if each selfie had controlled angles and well-chosen light and all of that, I could look at it and admire myself, an ability I thought I’d lost. I took photos and then eagerly scrolled back through the camera roll, astounded by my own face, a face I had not expected to see. Selfies helped me get back to wanting to see myself, to wanting to be seen.


Thomas

Being with my partner Helena has changed my motivation for selfies. As small as New York can be, I miss her so much when I go to work. Sending her a selfie makes that a little better, and the reaction she sends back to me is always sweet and kind. I don’t have to pose; I just have to be myself.​ ​

The cat selfies are something I’ll do when I get home before Helena is
there, as our schedules don’t always align. I’ll come in the door and
Sophie is so excited to see one of her humans, so I’ll pick her up
with one hand and take a selfie with the other. The result is often
blurry from a squirming kitten, but I send it on to Helena and it’s
another way to be in the same place when we’re apart.


Sherrie

I don’t like following people who tend to take a selfie every day — meaning in the Instagram grid of life, their face appears once in every row of three pictures. They have to be taking a lot of pictures of food in between those selfies for me to keep following them. And it’s not like I don’t like their faces, right? I just don’t know what they see there that warrants daily documentation. Maybe the makeup changes but your face stays the same — shouldn’t it?

Anyhow, I don’t selfie very often. This is maybe the only selfie of mine I truly love: I’m an L.A. girl through and through, and the blossoming bougainvillea that blankets my beautiful city ​was too eye-catching to pass up. This isn’t even much of a selfie considering you can only see a quarter of my face — I believe I entitled it “sorry for the semi-selfie.” I just saw this vibrant wall of color and wanted to be part of it for a short moment. I wasn’t thinking about me. I was thinking about how blessed I am to live in a city that provides me with so much visual stimulation day in and day out. How can people live in concrete metropolises? That’s all this damn selfie is about.


Caryn

At the Cadillac Ranch. When The River came out in 1980, and I saw the picture of the Cadillac Ranch on the inner sleeve, I said, “Some day, I will go there.” It’s in Amarillo, Texas, a place I had no reason to go, except to visit the Cadillac Ranch. It took me a couple of decades, but I made it. I made it!


Octavia

This selfie is one of my top ten because I’m happy, the lighting is perfect, I’m radiant, and it’s also the first day of the pumpkin spice latte comeback this season. I don’t know if this sounds vain, but I love selfies. I love taking them and I love being a part of others. In a culture so centered around the reachability of technology and specifically our phones, it’s an exhilarating feeling seeing so many beautiful people embrace this, which is why I love retweeting these beautiful people. I’m enamored by all the women I encounter online and I love to uplift them. I’ll never understand people who aren’t for selfies. Then again, it takes a lot of courage, time, good lighting, energy and a strong arm to get the right picture and to know your angles, which could be intimidating for these same people.


Elisabeth

My October birthday was a significant one this year: I didn’t cross any particular age Rubicon, or hit any arbitrary marker — rather, it was my first birthday after my mother died from cancer. When my mother died in March, there was one point of relief — no longer would I have to wait for the inevitable — and yet, that was one small relief in what has, essentially, been a major severing in my life, a journey of unmooring, a feeling that a source of unconditional love in my life (both ways) was gone from the earth. I took this selfie on my birthday as a record, to see where I am in this new world. It was at the beginning of a day that was hard, of a day that I felt my mother’s absence all around me, but in that small moment where I took my cat and my camera, I could look out at the world and say: I’m here, I’m standing, I’m working on being my own mother these days. It was a small moment where I felt brave, and for that, I have my selfie, I have my camera, and I have my cat — no matter how reluctant a conspirator.


Corey

I’m not really sure when I started taking selfies, but I know why I take them. I guess for me, it has a lot to do with loving who I am. I’ve learned that I am exactly where I need to be right now in terms of looks. I may not be the cutest twink this side of the Mason Dixon, but I damn sure believe I am. My selfies are a reflection of my confidence. My teeth are crooked and my pores are quite big, but I love that about me. It’s cliche, but it adds character. When you spend a majority of your life hating who you are and then learning to love yourself, it should be a celebration.


Alana

I take selfies because I hated my appearance for so long that I avoided photos altogether for several years in early adulthood. I’m sad that there is no evidence of me during that time and so maybe I’m overcompensating now by taking selfies as often as I do. Most of the selfies I take include either my cat or my ass, though never at the same time. In the case of this selfie, I like that my semi-nakedness seems inconsequential to me. The electric blue is a nice touch, but I think this would be a sexy photo even if I was clothed because my expression is so quintessentially me.


Craig

I took this selfie around midnight to send to a high school friend I recently reconnected with. I didn’t have intentions o​f​ sending a picture, but she requested, so I wanted to send the best selfie I could at the time. I figured lights and shower curtain patterns would help distract from my fatigued face and portray me in all of my mid-twenties crust and shimmer. ​Short of gym progression, I don’t know why I take selfies. Maybe there’s introspection in looking at a timestamp of my current wear and tear.


Tam

Usually, people take selfies of their most attractive/confident selves, but I am oddly only ever motivated to take selfies after something particularly awkward or memorable has happened (and this doesn’t seem to overlap with my feeling cute, unfortunately).

This was taken at JFK, right after TSA officers publicly patted down my hair and boobs because my “ethnic” hair (a term used by the TSA officers) set off the airport body scanner for the ninth time in four weeks. Apparently, thick hair blocks the scanner from working and conceals any area that the hair rests on. If you put your hair up in a bun, they’ll pat the bun and sometimes undo it, just in case you may be concealing a knife or tiny antique pistol within your locks.


Tyler

This was from when I first got my braids. I took this right after I woke up. I take selfies when I don’t want to get out of bed yet. When I took this, I remember thinking, damn, I look so pretty. I hadn’t had long hair since I was 16, and I was super excited about it. I came out when I was 20 as trans, and my hair was super short; then I was living as a man for two years, and my hair was super short. Then I went off testosterone almost two years ago and started growing my hair out. I was super excited to get my braids. It was very gender-affirming for me, and I couldn’t really stop staring at myself and playing with it. I took this selfie and I was like, this is everything. I am killing it right now.

I definitely take selfies for myself, but a big reason why I post them is that I want to be a visible agender person of color, and I want other young trans people to have someone to look at and see themselves reflected. I never had that growing up, and that is super important to me. I feel like my life would be very different if I had known anyone who was non-binary, or if I had known there were other genders than male and female. So my purpose with selfies is 1) I look cute as hell and 2) I want to be very out and accessible.


Kiana

I take selfies on two occasions: whenever I’m extremely happy and proud of myself, and whenever I’m lonely. I post them on Instagram and Twitter only, once a month or so, but mostly I just keep them to myself as a reminder that I can get through tough times and that the happy days far outnumber the lonely ones. Selfies in general, based on my experience with them and also based on Minna Gilligan’s essay on the selfie, is a way of “solidifying yourself over time” and a manifestation that screams, “I exist. I am here.”


Kara

I recently chopped my hair into a super short bob. It was a pretty spur of the moment thing; I’m really impulsive when it comes to my hair. It hasn’t been this short since I was 4! People keep telling me I look like Meg Ryan in You’ve Got Mail. As with all major hair changes, though, sometimes I’m like WTF did I just do? Therefore I selfie, and the Instagram hearts and texts from friends raving about the cut confirm I did the right thing.

I love selfies because a) I love my friends and peers so why wouldn’t I want to see their faces all the time? And also, being a beauty writer means that people who follow me via xoVain want to see my face, with products on it! Selfies are just another way for us to show off how we see ourselves and our world, and I love it. My world and Kim K’s have a few glaring differences, but at the end of the day we are both showing off our new haircuts from our POV.


Esmé

I took this because I wanted to capture a time shortly after beginning a new treatment protocol for late-stage Lyme disease. I was feeling better than I had in years, and it seemed like being able to freeze that experience of hope could magically prolong it, or at least commemorate it.


Georgie

Here is a picture of me with Sasha the Husky after I hadn’t seen her for a year. Sasha is my ex-boyfriend’s roommate’s dog, and I have known her since she was only six weeks old. She (like all pups that I take selfies with) represents unconditional love, and even though things didn’t work out with the guy, I’m so glad that she became a part of my life.

Selfie-ing as male has always been less fraught for me, since I identify as gay and haven’t struggled with performing masculinity since high school (and plenty of gay men do struggle with masculinity; I haven’t really felt that and I certainly think that’s a blessing). I do think that selfie-ing is definitely seen as a feminine act, and I’m sure many other men don’t feel as comfortable taking selfies as I do. I also think gay men use selfies as a form of self love similar to how women do, although some take it further and use hashtags like #instagay, which I think adds a dimension of narcissism to it.


Wendy

I see my selfies as an extension of the different personas I embody every day. Just like with my writing — usually memoir, personal essays — I’m trying to show different facets of this one body I live in. There is definitely power in that act. I took this selfie because it captures what I believe is my outer spirit as well as my inner spirit. I never tire of telling people my age — 42 — because I grew up around women who were ashamed of aging, and I want to counteract that.


Christin

I don’t have a ton of selfies on my phone because I take waaayyyyy too long setting them up, usually long enough to go “what’s the point” and not bother. I care just a little too much about the mise en scene, my office is kinda boring, and I’m self-conscious about taking pictures in public. I think selfies are awesome and I always want to see my friends’ beautiful faces, but I draw the line when it comes to myself.

Like, even writing this. Whenever people post stuff like “I want to hear from you, and yes I mean you” I always think, “Yeah but not. Like, ME though.” All that empowering stuff on Twitter and Tumblr like “You look cute today” or “Send me your address so I can send Christmas cards.” I always think “Oh, that’s sweet but they don’t mean me.” So that’s something I’m working on.

Also getting acquainted with my own face. Like, I honestly have no idea what I look like. The picture I took is pretty close to what I see in the mirror but there are photos of me from a party this weekend and they made me want to stay inside with a blanket over my head. Have I been walking around that ugly all the time? (Really opening up the floodgates here.) So part of why I like the few selfies I take is I get to control the narrative.


Trace

I’m 28 years old, an ever-aware member of the last generation to ever experience life pre-internet (or, at least, pre-internet dominance). We saw the internet rise and we lived through the tipping point. I believe that selfies and each person’s forever in-flux social media identities have worked together quite beautifully to more or less legalize pride — to make self-confidence okay. We can see this extended to our favorite artists (Kanye West comes to mind) and we can detect this same renewed sense of self-worth at the heart of generational conflicts (many people over 40 detest selfies and use social media in a much different way). Selfies are an exploration of the self, yes — but they are also a democratized narrative on what it truly means to be alive in a world of true connection. There is no narcissism here, just the art of the self — our greatest creation and contribution.


Alli

This selfie came as the result of extreme self-love. My new Hysterics shirt had just come in the mail, I was having a bomb hair day, and I decided to blow everyone off to put a mask on my face and watch Jane the Virgin. After a long week of getting shit done as a high-powered lady living my city dreams while still retaining my punk-ass attitude, why not celebrate with a selfie?

Also, who am I kidding? It was for the Twitter fans.


Morgan

I take selfies because, to be quite honest, I don’t look in mirrors to observe my beauty but rather to see if I don’t have leftover toothpaste or shea butter residue on my face. When I’m out in the world, I’m so busy looking at everyone else and how beautiful they are that I forget myself. So my selfies almost always happen when I’m alone in my room or in some corner where no one can find me, because it’s easier to center myself both literally and figuratively. It reminds me that I can appreciate my own beauty from time to time and that the woman immortalized in the photo really is me.


Jessica Eve

I have a deep, abiding love for other people’s selfies, but yesterday someone tagged me in a “post six favorite selfies” meme on Tumblr, and I suddenly realized that I probably didn’t even have six total. Why do I feel so much shame about accepting, let alone liking, my appearance? Whenever I see selfies, I feel such a burst of admiration for that person.

This one is from this past Sunday. I’d just finished running a 10-mile race — my first. I was feeling super proud of myself and wanted to yell about it on social media so I took a post-race selfie right afterwards. Of course, by the time I got home, I’d talked myself out of posting it. I looked sweaty and tired and with some space between me and the moment, I was thinking more about that than the cool thing I just achieved. I hate that. I hate it and I know I want to feel liberated by posting copious pictures of my face on my Instagram/Tumblr feeds with an “idgaf” kind of attitude, and yet something stops me every time.


Jeva

I took this when I went to a conference in Minneapolis by myself. It was my first time ever visiting the city and also my first time traveling without my parents or a friend or a boyfriend. I did all of my exploring solo, which was new and exciting and totally different from how I’d ever traveled before. I wanted to get a shot of me with the city behind me, but I’m a kind of quiet, shy person so I didn’t want to stop and ask a passerby to take a picture of just me standing their awkwardly by myself. Because that’s what selfies are for.


Sam

I ding-donged on the idea of sending this in, owing to my self-consciousness. This was taken as I was coming to the end of a two-year-long long distance relationship. One of the unintended consequences of that was an increase in my selfie-taking. Sending selfies back and forth in conversation is one of the little pieces of intimacy I hang on to dearly. This one was taken when I had (evidently) just waken up and she was going to sleep.


Emma

I guess I take selfies to express myself. The Internet allows us to share who we think we are. Who we want to be… I posted this one with blue lipstick recently at work because a perk of my job is I get sent weird make-up. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t use selfies as a way to work out if something “works” or not. Like in a changing room: “shall I buy this?”, “does this look OK?” and sometimes I’ll see what people’s reaction are. I think we ALL looking for a bit of validation when we post a selfie. Getting only two likes would make you feel crappier than if you got 200. Its’s true, we want people to like our faces! I like seeing selfies of people I like/admire in my TL. Makes the scary Internet all a bit more comforting. More human I suppose.


Mackenzie

Last year, a month after my mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, I spent all of October in Los Angeles. My mom was really nervous about me going because she rightfully thought I’d fall in love with it and not want to come back to the East Coast. To ease the fear and tension around it, I would send her selfies to help erase the miles and show that I was happy and hadn’t like, done anything to my look that she’d missed. So I took this one in the bathroom of my office there and sent it with the text “getting that Cali glow but miss you lots” then I tossed it through a filter and put it up on Instagram as my first Instagram selfie.


Dave

I took this selfie while stuck in an elevator and waiting for the fire department to come and get me out. I live in an older apartment building with an elevator that breaks with some frequency. Thankfully I get cell service in the elevator, so when I got stuck, I was able to both call 911 and then take a selfie. Maybe it was silly to do so, but it’s one of those moments where all I had was time, so why not? I’m fine with people who do pose and set them up to be perfect, but I also like the spur-of-the-moment selfie. The genuine, peek into my day selfie.


Fran

I took this selfie at my parents’ a few weeks back. I really believe it’s the best picture of myself online right now. I felt really good about myself on this day and thought I looked like a protagonist in my own life (versus maybe the villain or side character). I go back and look at it from time to time, and I try to remind myself to keep going forward.


Anmol

I am on the left. This picture is a reminder that:
1. Friends at least try to stop your self-destructive behaviors (i.e. drinking, binge-watching Netflix, sleeping 60 hours in three days, etc) even if that’s just going to parties with you, taking selfies to distract you from your awaiting shots, and making sure you make it home at the end of the night.
2. You did look good before your makeup sweat off from dancing and you woke up in your room not knowing how you got there; the day after is always worth the selfies your friends send you from the previous evening and who better to appreciate your good looks than your friends?


Derek

I think I’m typically one of those people that just don’t selfie well. I’ve never really been self-conscious about myself in photos, dating back to my acne-filled teen years, but once selfies began to blow up, I suddenly found myself very critical of my appearance. I don’t owe it to some egotistical, competitive drive to be more handsome than others on social media or show myself in cool places; I think it honestly comes down to the fact that front-facing cameras are just different than their outward-facing ancestors. They distort the truth of the image, these finicky front-facers, and I can’t get my head over the mental hump that I look better than what’s being presented on the screen in front of me.

“I’m positive I look better than this,” I try to remind myself. Yet, half the time I end up abandoning the endeavor, and putting that selfie away in my pocket. “Maybe some other time.” The days when the front-facing camera can’t get in my way are the best days. They don’t make my forehead look abnormal or my nose too big. “I woke up like thiiiis” begins echoing in my head, with a small reverb of “flawless.”

The day I took this selfie, my friend Tom and I were doing some local traveling, the sun was out, the weather ideal, and for once, my fickle hair was all up and obeying me. Not only did I look good, but I felt good. It all comes across in the photo: a bit of a cocky smile, a professional get-up that looks only slightly classier than a restaurant waiter, and that hair. I uploaded it without a second thought. The likes didn’t matter in a photo like that. That was just an unfiltered moment of “life is good” that I wanted to share. I hurdled the technological distortion of myself, and I got to enjoy a moment of positive self-image. I shared it with the world, but it was a photo for myself.


Lindsay

Where to begin: I for some reason have to suppress a weird self-conscious guilt every time I post a selfie. Which is not to say that I don’t still do it rather frequently — primarily when I want to show off something snazzy I am wearing, because I just really enjoy clothes and fashion — but that I consider it greatly every time I do so. I admit to even trying to make sure I post at least three to four non-selfie images between selfies for fear of seeming too self(ie)-absorbed.

I just read something Sarah Jessica Parker said about how Instagram brings out a “bizarre boldness” in her, which I thought was a pretty fitting to explain the way social media has a weird power to amplify our ego (or allow us to present an alter ego.) But for me, the boldness dissolves once I actually post the photo and start worrying about whether it’s going to come across as self-indulgent or immature or calculating. And then I feel stupid for overanalyzing a dumb picture I just plopped on the internet because that thought pattern seems to mirror the exact kind of self-obsession that I worry selfies themselves represent.

Another funny thing I’ve noticed is that I also tend to view likes or positive comments on pictures of myself as more of a referendum on my likability than my appearance; each one is a little validation that, if my selfie-taking is not greeted with an eye roll of disgust but rather a little upvote of "you-do-you, girl" by friends and acquaintances, I must not strike them as a hideously self-obsessed person IRL. Right?


Marian

I have a friend who goes to the Allure Best of Beauty awards every year where they give you a rolling suitcase full of products, and she had some pink hair dye, and somehow we decided that I needed to dye my hair pink. I’d do it the day before my birthday, because there is no surer way to make sure everyone pays attention to you on YOUR SPECIAL DAY.

I also just really like expressing myself visually. I have always had a deep-seated fear of being boring — I think it’s because a) I’m white and blonde and I like the way I look, but nobody ever sees my face and is like, “Damn, that girl has a really INTERESTING look” and b) I grew up performing in a live stage magic company which always made me *different* so I tried to be *normal* in high school and then sort of *re-embraced my different-ness* but maybe always feared that having done this thing made me interesting, and I wasn’t inherently interesting. I spend a LOT of time thinking about WHAT makes us interesting — the things we like, the things we do, our stories.

So I am really into the idea of decorating myself (my best friend calls it “adorning”) and I just felt like it was time for my hair to be pink. I did it and IMMEDIATELY TOOK A SELFIE and everyone was like “omg” and I was like *blushing emoji that means you feel awesome about yourself* and it made me feel like a peacock or a bird of paradise.

At the time I was seeing/sleeping with/always furiously romance-sexting with this guy, and we would send each other a lot of selfies. Not naked selfies or mirror selfies, just pictures of ourselves — where we were, what we were wearing, how we were feeling, etc., when I sent one I always wanted him to tell me I was beautiful and sexy etc., but it was also just a richer form of communication.


Tom

I took this the other night with my roommate’s kitten after a wonderful dinner with friends. This is my face on red wine, great friends, and a cute little cat. Sent it to my person overseas to say good night/good morning. Recently I started seeing someone who lives in Amsterdam, and we send each other selfies just to say “I’m thinking about you.”

I think the main reason I take them is the same reason Snapchat took off like it did: we often find ourselves thinking about certain people, and want them to know that, but don’t have anything in particular to say. A selfie fills that void because faces tend to express themselves without much effort on our part. You can tell a joke, show someone how you’re feeling, describe a place you’re in, all without the need for words.


Meghan

I rarely publish actual selfies, but I will publish pictures of myself alone, as long as there’s something funny or weird about the image, like when I pretended to rebrand myself as a goth for a character show or when I came across an aggressively religious sign at a coffee place in Texas. These don’t necessarily qualify as selfies since I didn’t take them myself, but somehow that makes it more comfortable for me to post, especially if there’s a (usually dumb) joke in the caption. I had a realization talking to my roommate the other night (after discovering the “recently deleted” folder of iPhone photo albums and being horrified by how many failed selfies I had floating around in there) that whenever I do post a selfie, it’s always with something (or some puppy) else instead of an image of me completely alone. For example, this selfie of me with my parents’ dog or this selfie of me with a Hillary Clinton 2016 mug. I think in a sense I want whatever else is in the photo with me to be the focus of the post and I’m just kinda chilling in the background as an afterthought. I guess I’m selfie-conscious (ugh) but there are worst habits to have, I suppose. Maybe one day I’ll be able to fully embrace the selfie lifestyle of someone who doesn’t try to hide behind puppies and mugs — assuming this change will happen for me when Hillary’s inevitably in the White House.


Hayley

I hate selfies. This reason is purely vain. I don’t look good in them. I don’t have an angular, photogenic face. There are faces that take good photos. My face is long. But it’s also round. In photos, my nose looks big. My chin too small. There are people who always take a good picture. When I smile too much, I don’t love my teeth. This isn’t to say that I haven’t seen pictures of myself and thought… Damn I look good. I have! Sometimes it takes a few shots to get a photo right. But selfies are very different. They theoretically should be self-expression, but they’re not, at least not in my experience.

The other reason I don’t like selfies is because they give me an identity crisis. I took this selfie 22 times before I settled on it. I thought my hair looked so great that I was like, “I have to capture this moment immediately so it’s forever documented.” I took the photo and all of a sudden, I was a suburban hausfrau. That person in that photo was supposed to be the brunette version of Kim Gordon. But it was another woman. It wasn’t me. It wasn’t even me doing “selfie me.” I ran to the mirror, held my phone close to my face, side-by-side, so I could prove to myself that this woman in the selfie is not the same woman in the mirror. She wasn’t! I wasn’t! Except, here I was. My flaws settling into this tiny box.


Pauline

I come from a large Mexican family that’s uncomfortable with expressing emotions, so when I was young everything was an innuendo or the opposite of the meaning. To be pretty was to look like a hairy monkey, to be smart was to be labeled a brat, to be loved was veiled behind the threat of a beating if you stepped out of line in any way, shape, or form. It was difficult to read between the lines in this Bizzaro world, and it’s still really difficult to maintain a healthy sense of confidence, but you have to learn to love yourself as you love family, friends, and lovers.

And although we still mercilessly tease one another in my family, we all love the everlasting shit out of one another. Although I give my BF a hard time about working out so much, I appreciate the benefits. When my friend reaches for the Ben and Jerry’s, I grab a spoon and dig in, too. Life is hard enough: tell the people who matter that you care, and care for yourself as you would a precious loved one. It’s a life lesson.

That’s why I selfie. I am riddled with insecurity and rocked by my pant size on a weekly basis, but this thankfully has improved from the daily hell that was my adolescence and the struggle of self-identity that was my 20s.

Every summer I #banpants and every time I think I look exceptionally well put-together or happy, I take a picture and I tag it with “selfie.” This is how I want to be seen and remembered. Beautiful, bathed in light, resplendent with pleasure that I hope the observer can see coming from my eyes.


Max

I was traveling alone in Berlin last year and went to try on some glasses at a shop that had been recommended. I sent a few selfies in order to get some second opinions. These were my favorite frames, but my mother emailed back that they were wrong for my face. I ended up not buying glasses in Berlin.

I don’t take too many; only when I deem it absolutely necessary. I prefer handing my phone to someone else to take a picture if I absolutely need to be in it. I don’t really have a problem with selfies in general. But for me, seeing that an individual posts an inordinately large number of them is often a warning sign: narcissism ahoy.


Madeline

This is an “I’m Drunk So Let Me Send This Selfie To A Guy I Dated” selfie. I think there’s such an intimate connection you create with someone when you send them a non-sexual selfie. I have many of these hidden deep in my camera roll. A common one featured me with my laptop, with a caption that read: “Me and Bae.” He often would send me selfies in return, also non-sexual. One of the best ones I got was of him posing with a “Wet Paint” sign on the subway platform. No caption was necessary.


Sarah

Selfies often feel tied to how we want to be perceived on social media: I first began taking pictures of myself — with a digital camera! — around 15, when MySpace and Facebook were beginning to occupy space in our lives. I don’t think my motivation has changed much can since then; for me, taking a selfie is about recognizing a moment where I think I look pretty and presentable. I’m not relying on someone else’s opinion when I look in the mirror or when I sit on the train, double-checking my lipstick. Its about gaining control of your self-presentation online, and for me, an attempt to imagine myself outside the male gaze and inside female praise instead.


Eric

This first one I took to tweet to a friend who was doing #dudetime on Twitter, where she was retweeting guys' selfies to her followers. I thought it would be fun, but I was super nervous. I actually WENT UP ON MY ROOF for this shot (lol) but I had a fun time, and it encouraged me to send more. Now I tweet selfies when I get a haircut or have a weird look going on.


Beka

I took this at an event at Hospice Austin where Cheryl Strayed was the keynote speaker. I’d just wept through her entire speech. It was beautiful and moving hearing her speak (instead of reading) about her grief over the loss of her mother and how she found a way to pull herself out. I lost my father young, and I, too, spent years actively trying to destroy myself because that seemed easier than accepting his death. So I took this photo to look at when I think I’m alone or it’s too hard or things will never be OK. I’m not, it will pass, they will.


Rosalind

I took this after dancing in sequin hot pants until 3am on Saturday night. When I got back, I sat in the corridor in my flat eating toast — feeling joyous and exhausted and exuberant, all at once. I wanted to catch the flush of my cheeks, the way my hair had straggled out of its pony-tail, and the sense of momentary calm during a weekend that, globally, felt very scary and out of control.


Alix

I took this because my co-worker teased me that I was dressed like the painter from Murphy Brown when I got to work this day, and I thought it was a hilariously weird reference, but also wanted people to tell me that no, I actually looked like a hip contemporary woman. A (male) friend of said co-worker’s texted her something along the lines of “Your friend in the ugly overalls is kinda cute” the next morning and it set me the fuck off, mostly because that’s the exact opposite impression I wanted to make. Nobody talks about my overalls like that! Also my cat is in this pic — shout-out to Phoebe.


Nico

I took this selfie — or more accurately, ussie — with my friend’s phone during Indonesia’s presidential campaign last year. We were attending a speech event by then-candidate Joko Widodo’s main supporter Anies Baswedan in a huge ballroom inside a shopping mall in Jakarta. It wasn’t like we were very politically active, but during that crucial time, we felt very moved to support a contender who appeared promising in bringing real changes to our country (the only other candidate was involved in serious human rights violations in the past).

While waiting for the speech to start, we thought showing our support by taking a selfie wouldn’t hurt. We grinned from ear to ear and made a V-sign with our fingers (Widodo was #2 on the ballot card). I instantly posted it on Path — Indonesians’ favorite social media app — and received some ♥s from my friends.

Fast-forward several months later, and now we call Widodo our president. His progress so far might be debatable and sometimes rife with controversy. But looking back at this selfie, I notice how our faces were flushed with an unprecedented sense of hopefulness. Were we naïve? Perhaps. Were we optimistic? Most certainly. After all, a selfie — at least in this case — never lies.


Chanel

When I take selfies (not including ones that involve other people), I usually do it in a not-so-glamorous, casual way. It’s like I’m almost making fun of it, but I think I’ve passed the point of making fun, because I continue to publicly post photos of my own face. I also think hard about photo captions when it comes to selfies, because if the whole package isn’t there, then I feel like I’m not my authentic self? It’s like I need to use words to describe the picture or else it doesn’t show my full personality.


Meredith

I took this on a beautiful late summer day. Our friend is a photography enthusiast, so for fun, he brought along two of his antique cameras (one Rolleiflex, one stereo) to take some photos of myself and my fiancé. We decided to do a sort of 1930s British colonial military look, with me as the “officer’s wife.” I dress in vintage pretty frequently, but I was particularly happy with how my makeup had turned out this time, and wanted to commemorate it as well as having just been called “Agent Carter” on the streets of Bed-Stuy.


A.N.

Pregnancy is such a blur, in part because it’s exhausting, but in part because you’re even more exhausted after the baby arrives. I was uncomfortable for almost all of mine. I had trouble, in the end, fitting into anything that looked remotely good on me, so I remember being very pleased with this outfit, because I felt like I was dressing like I could fit right into Waiting for Godot, which was playing starring Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan on alternate nights with Harold Pinter’s No Man’s Land. I am a Patrick Stewart superfan and was so excited to get out and see a play. But I made a huge (very pregnancy brain-related) mistake and thought the curtain time was 8 p.m., when it was 7 p.m. So I dragged myself and a friend to Midtown for nothing. I did manage to make it to No Man’s Land on time, and the next day, I met Patrick Stewart by chance at a rare book sale. I got to tell him how much I loved it, and my regret about missing Waiting for Godot pretty much evaporated. So this selfie reminds me of how I felt, where I was going, and who I met. And the play was excellent.


Noah

I’d been living in the Bay Area for approximately five years at this point, but really had only just finished my first year of a foray into adult life. I didn’t live in San Francisco, and this wasn’t my building, but this was the place where I always stopped before we would go out in the city. The pre-party as an embodied location. This night was my last night before I moved back to my hometown. So much uncertainty. I’m sure after I took this photo I did what I always did in the city, which was to get riotously drunk and eat pizza. But this night was different because it was the last, and that’s why I thought it was important to have a picture. Also, this is evidence that I was way out in front of the vest trend.


Liz

For a long time, I incessantly took selfies because I was interested in self-examination through the guise of taking self-portraits (hardly a new idea). Then, one day, I got bored of looking at myself in this capacity, and now I hardly ever take a selfie. If I do, I hide my face. The older I get, the more private I feel. Still, the experience of selfiehood is an important and valid source of introspection.


Andy

Even though I don’t actually think there is anything wrong with selfies, and see many others using them as a celebration of themselves, I am profoundly embarrassed by my habit. Very few people know that I do it. Strangely, this is one of the only things I feel any shame about; I’m generally very forthcoming.

I think I take the pictures as a form of self-evaluation. I often do it when I think my clothes look good, or when I’m curious if a new eBay purchase fits well. I buy almost all of my clothes on eBay without trying them on first, so I’m usually curious. I think I also kind of like the idea of some far-future relative finding a timeline of selfies as I grow up and change. Sometimes I’ll take one when circumstances are special, like after a long bike ride in the snow, or when I’m on my roof fixing a shingle.

I suspect my shame about them comes from my discomfort at confronting my privilege. I mean seriously, what’s worse than a white dude taking pictures of himself to see how his somewhat expensive clothes fit? Many of the best public uses of selfies I’ve seen are to empower a certain type of person, like teenagers who are going through the hell of puberty and trying to find their voice, women who don’t fit the model of stereotypical beauty, people of color who are under-represented in media (i.e. Blackout day), etc. But I, as a white, heterosexual, cis-gender male need no empowering, and I think that’s why I think I’m ashamed of it. It seems that for many, posting selfies is a subtle “fuck you” to the establishment, while mine feel like a celebration of it.


Mia

I shot this during the first week at my first full-time job in a few years (I had been freelancing from home in jammies and cardigans). It took so long to figure out clothes I could wear in public, I kept missing the bus. Titled “Not yet master of my new commute; or, Waiting for the 27.” Also: color-matched with Seattle winter.


Lauren

I took the day off of work for my birthday to get my hair done and have lunch at Tarallucci on Columbus Ave. it was 65• on a November afternoon in New York City, and I didn’t have a care in the world. I was feeling present, alive, happy in that moment. Those moments make me feel confident, gorgeous, accepting of myself exactly as I am, so Itook a picture and loved what I saw: 37, sun in my squinted eyes, feeling grateful and beautiful.


Anna

Last month I wanted to post a pic on Facebook of myself wearing my I Stand With Planned Parenthood shirt on the Pink Out Day, but I felt like it had to be so carefully chosen. It’s a delicate topic that could definitely invite attacks — I wanted it to be flattering, but not like I was trying to look pretty. I wanted to appear serious about the issue but not stern; I wanted it to be earnest but not showing off, etc etc etc. No smiling with my teeth showing. This is only a sampling of the contenders (of which there were 64).


John

This photo was taken shortly after a relationship I had ended. I was unhappy; drinking excessively, going on as many dates as possible to numb the pain. I played a version of myself online and in bars where I had my shit together, and for the most part people bought it… but if you look closely enough at the picture, you can see the misery in my eyes. I’m not that great of an actor.

I wanted to be loved. I wanted to remember that I was lovable. A digital avatar of my face that people could “like” helped sustain that illusion, until it was no longer sustainable.

Since then I have sought help and sobered up, the occasional beer notwithstanding. I ended a lot of friendships that were defined by drinking and partying. I left my neighborhood for a new one.

Eventually, my need for affirmation from the lips of strangers outside cold Chicago bars and the thrill of receiving new notifications on my smartphone didn’t matter anymore. I was learning to take care of myself for once. To love myself.

The few selfies I do take these days are with a wonderful girl I met, but we rarely share them online. In fact, we often set down our phones to spend time with each other, because what good is a “communication” device if it hinders one’s ability to speak to the person in front of them?


Paige

I have all kinds of self-imposed rules when it comes to selfies: there can’t be too many selfies in a row (the occasional cat photo must be in between at the very least), photos must always be filtered, hashtags are good but there can’t be too many, flaws are okay. I also never Photoshop. Everybody knows I have zits! Everybody knows I’m not stick-thin and that I am incredibly petite! My “brand” is way more about being real and accessible than perfect! And while not a rule, my selfie’s tend to have a bit of a “hidden” feel: sun flares, cropped close, shadows, shades. Keep the mystery alive, people!


Lane

When I feel like I’ve picked a great outfit and my hair is working, my self-esteem really goes bonkers. It’s unreasonable. Part of me thinks I’ll take this selfie and finally be discovered as the next great male model. Then the picture happens and the reality of the picture exposes my vanity, and I’m displayed as a fool.

But sometimes, like in the picture attached here, I just play the fool anyway. I felt like my hair looked hot. I took a selfie staring into the distance. My left eye betrayed me.

I think guys take selfies for the same reason that girls do, but we can’t take ourselves as seriously. Unless you are a total jackass, you have to have a sense of humor about it. Even Dwayne Johnson is a goof in his selfies.


Helen

I’m working on my senior thesis and am stuck in the library all day. I took this selfie to remind myself that even if I never win a Pulitzer, my face will always a luminous beacon of perfect beauty and serenity. I think that selfies are a way of playing ping pong with yourself, in that your image is a reference point and a reminder of what you need to be doing in the “real world.” Plus, I love my reflection! That girl is pristine.


Nev

First of all, it’s hard to focus on crying and holding a phone at the same time, so there is a degree of skill on display here.

I took that picture right after a friendship-ending fight over my transition. Someone I really trusted turned their back on me. You can see it in my face that it’s not mere sadness — there’s some real fucking indignation there. How could someone do this to me?

There are so many pictures out there, somewhere, of me and this person as childhood friends. This selfie was like the end of all that, like the final frame of one of those terrible coming-of-age movies. Except with an even suckier ending.

You need to document yourself at your most vulnerable, because just having that memory isn’t enough anymore. Without the picture, you don’t really remember how your lips stung when you made that face or the shape of the lines on your face that your tears left. All you remember is that you were sad, and that’s not enough for me.


Maura

I took this selfie in the waiting room before my first psychiatrist appointment to send to girlfriends to feel less alone, to take some control over the moment, and so I could see what I looked like. I remember feeling so strange and distant but thinking I looked pretty strong in this picture. I take a lot of selfies because my boyfriend and most of my closest friends live in different cities than I do. As a photojournalist, I’m used to thinking of storytelling in terms of pictures.


Jaco

My take on selfies is that it is kinda like this symptom of everyone’s vanity/insecurity. On the one hand, we all like to think we’re super important and something as mundane as a self-portrait is content the general public is interested in. But on the other hand, we’re also constantly in search of approval from our peers. Either way, my best bro and I started our own selfie trend — we call it the #ToiletSelfie. It’s all about just having a laugh and making fun of not only everyone’s reasons for posting selfies, but also ourselves.


Victoria

I choose mirror selfies more often than not due the proximity of the camera. If I do the front-facing camera selfies, it’s almost too much, too close. I’m still not 100 percent comfortable highlighting every tiny detail of my face.


Hossein

Before smartphones were born, I was taking selfies. Blind selfies, I call them, because on those small amateur digital cameras, there was no screen you could see while taking a picture. I was traveling alone and had developed a method and a style.

I took this one in front of Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem/Al Quds. I had always seen picture of its beautiful golden dome back in Iran throughout the eighties when I was growing up in Tehran. But seeing it up close was like meeting a celebrity in person who looks much better than in pictures. These selfies and the taboo-breaking trip to Israel that I made mainly out of curiosity — and of resistance against a dangerous war machine that wanted to drag the U.S. to invade Iran, similar to Iraq — are perhaps the most pricey selfies in history. They alone brought me 10 years of prison in Iran in 2008, over half of my 19.5-year conviction. Luckily, I was pardoned and freed after six years in 2014. Only to discover the name of something I was doing since 2003.


Sarah

Lately I take selfies to feel like myself because I have been doing a lot of questioning of what the hell I am doing with my life, living in Dubai. I sometimes wonder, do I look the same? Have I changed over the 14 months I’ve been here? And taking dumb pictures makes me feel like I’m still normal, life is still normal, some things will never change. Expat life is hard.

I think for many women here, Dubai is a weird conundrum of Western mentality and covert oppression. You find ways to cope and pose your own little baby rebellions. Not just myself but locals and other girls, posting selfies is a thing.


Lydia

I started taking selfies when I was pregnant because I wanted to document my strange mutating body, and also, secretly, because I was surprised that I didn’t hate the way I looked as a preg. And then I realized that I just loved the way I looked in selfies — before selfies, I probably liked one in 25 photos of myself; after selfies, it’s more like seven out of 10. I turn my head this way or that, and there is no more wonky eye or crooked nose or muffin top. I’m no longer at the mercy of someone else’s vision of me. My vision may be a false, Instagram-filtered vision, but it helps me to enjoy my remaining relative youth feeling good about the way I look, rather than worrying about my nose/eye/hairline and asking my husband if he thinks I’m pretty. It has even, um, empowered me to take/accept/post bad pictures of myself, because they can become the comic counter-narrative, rather than the sole narrative.

I now, of course, have anxiety about selfie-taking, because it’s vain, and now I’m not pregnant and have no “excuse.” So I take selfies with my baby. Yes, I’m a horrible person who uses my baby as a prop, because of vanity.


Mona

I love this selfie because I love strong colors. Selfies are important because they say, “Fuck you, yeah, I have a healthy ego; yeah, I look great, yeah, here I am.”


Eve

I took this after I had interviewed the Fat Jew. I had asked him for a selfie at the end of the interview, because it seemed almost inappropriate not to ask him for a selfie. I was feeling weird and bad because he was difficult to interview, completely impenetrable. I love profiling people because it’s nice to have vulnerable, honest conversations. The Fat Jew was having none of that. After the interview, I walked around for hours, and upon realizing I hadn’t eaten all day, I found myself at this deli in the East Village that low-key has the best sandwiches in NYC. I grew up in the East Village and there were all these elementary school kids at the deli, and my heart was swelling because that I used to be one of those kids.

My bestie Aria and I have spent many a drunken night at this deli, so I sent her that selfie to tell her I miss her. I liked this selfie quite a bit because it reminds me of Aria, and also because I looked pretty and put together. Often times, I take selfies to remind myself that I’m great and hot, and that’s precisely what this did for me.


Jasmine

Selfies are important to me because I get a chance to show how versatile I am. I never look the same. It’s important to capture different looks. It’s a great way to practice my angles and just reminder of when I looked really good.


Jenna

I’m a 23-year-old editor/grad student, selfie-taker, Facebook creeper, and peanut butter cup binger. I think my primary reason for posting selfies is because I find it to be extremely affirming. Maybe it’s the ex-retail employee in me, but I feel like posting a selfie is the best way of showing your world your “best version.” The likes and comments act as a mutual agreement or, rather, a conversation indicating that the general public — my general public — is thinking the same thing as me. Of course it’s vain. Of course it’s shallow. Everyone’s a little vain, even the ones who deny that they are, so why does taking and posting a selfie have to be stigmatized?

People get aggravated about the Kim Kardashians of the world, but I really think that’s because it’s done to excess. The eye rolls are in the excess. When you’re sending out a selfie a day, across all different platforms, it’s sending the message “EVERYONE LOOK AT ME” and that you have an insatiable need for attention. You want to look cute, not needy.


Sara

I took this picture yesterday outside of my apartment after grabbing coffee with a friend. I sent it to my boyfriend who is playing shows in LA with his band this weekend and added, “here’s a pic of me do you miss me?” I think he took a long time to respond. I just got this new haircut and am trying to be ok with it. The sunglasses help. I usually use a peace sign in pics; it just seems more funny that way. I could never take a very serious selfie without context or self-ridicule.


Mike

This is a picture of the first vacation I was able to take after quitting my job and launching my own company. Two years, never more than a couple of days off in a row, and I was finally able to schedule a disappearance to Tulum. Exhausted, after working my ass off to just try and sustain a company during an economic downturn, and in desperate need of a break. This breakfast on the beach was perfect — wearied, and at the same time, so, so happy. This was the first time I actually felt like I had earned my keep. Nothing was given to me. I worked really hard to build a path and a company culture that felt authentic, vulnerable, and real. It’s always been difficult for me to embrace any level of success, and this picture always reminds me of the first time I took a breath and felt really grateful for what I’d been able to build. I worry this sounds like bragging — and of course, a vacation picture ALWAYS feels like bragging, like “Look, see what I can do and where I can go!” — but dammit, I earned it. Earned a seat at the table. And that’s ok to own, for today.


Emily

My favorite selfie was taken before the world “selfie” had entered the vernacular (at least in my social circle). In March 2012, I took a six-day trip to Barcelona by myself. I’d gone through a disastrous, devastating breakup the previous summer, which had left me unmoored and unsure of myself.

Travel has always been a huge part of my life, but he didn’t understand why anyone would go somewhere just for the sake of going. So the reclamation of my sense of self took the form of a solo trip overseas, just because it was something that never would’ve happened with him. I stayed in an AirBnb in the Gothic Quarter — a multi-room apartment with a house grandmother who didn’t speak a word of English. I drank a lot of coffee and a lot of wine and ate a lot of olives and jamón ibérico and walked and walked and walked and walked. I relearned Spanish by crash-course immersion. I visited museums and churches and my little art history major art thrilled and nobody was sighing and complaining that their feet hurt and they wanted to take a nap. I spent three hours in the Sagrada Familia. I walked through the Botanical Gardens and the Parc de Montjuïc. I found myself at the National Catalan Art Museum (MNAC) just before closing. I ate cheaply and drank cheaply, except for one extravagant seafood meal near the beach.

On my last full day there, I found myself resentful of the expensive entry fees into one of the Gaudi houses, and tired of the crowds in the Eixample, and I gave myself permission to opt out. I went back to the MNAC. I wandered through galleries I’d seen a couple days before, lingering, taking my time. I was bone-tired and my knees and feet and back were aching. I fell into a squishy sofa just off the atrium — it was a weekday, off the beaten path, and mostly empty — and started reviewing the photos I’d taken that day. I turned the camera and snapped this picture of myself.

It’s not a typical travel photo — I’m not in front of a famous landmark, or posing with my travel companions. It could’ve been taken anywhere. But looking at it now, I’m right back there in an obscure corner of the Catalan Art Museum on a hill above Barcelona. I look at it now and I see how tired I was, but I also see how peaceful I was. I’d done something big entirely for myself for the first time… maybe ever? I wasn’t unsure or adrift. In that moment I knew exactly what I wanted.

Plus, my makeup looked amazing.


Bethany

I love selfies because it’s a way for me to represent myself, my image, who I am, as a woman and as a fat woman. It’s an amazing way to bond with others, especially women, over our aesthetic choices. It’s given so many people I know a newfound confidence because of the joy selfies inspire among female friends, and the encouragement they give each other. Selfies motivate me to put my best face on and show the world who I am!