Physician, Heal Thy Selfie
Social media has changed the way we interact with other people, including those we know and those we don’t, especially when it comes to taking and sharing pictures. With just a few clicks and swipes, we can take a photo and instantly upload it to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, a blog or any website, then just sit back and wait for the likes and the comments to arrive.
Thanks to smartphones and tablets we can post pictures of ourselves without someone else behind the camera. These “selfies,” as they are called, are everywhere. Not a day goes by when we don’t see anyone and everyone, famous or not, sharing selfies. But in this “do it now, see it now” age, it doesn’t take long for some of those pictures to cause controversy and make headlines.
I’m sure many of you have seen or heard about this story about the Norwegian model and fitness blogger Caroline Berg Eriksen who is facing a backlash for posting a selfie of her body just three days after giving birth. Some critics are saying she’s sending a bad message on body image to other women. Some are supporting her, saying what she did wasn’t meant to make others feel bad, but to be just a moment of personal pride.
To her credit, at least Eriksen didn’t put “what’s your excuse” over her selfie and she didn’t make fat-bashing comments. I seriously doubt she was trying to shame anyone. She might not realize it could be a trigger for those who are suffering or recovering from eating disorders, but I can certainly see where her picture might cause some potential harm.
The fact that people aren’t happy and are speaking out does say a lot about our society today, when women are expected to look just like they did before they had children. This is especially true if they were already thin to begin with, so that we lavish praise on those who lose the weight gained due to pregnancy and various other reasons.
Some see the selfie as a setback to women, as evidenced when Jezebel posted an article by writer Erin Gloria Ryan about how women who do them are “crying for help” and seeking external validation (mostly from men) of their appearance. That story caused an immediate reaction on Twitter by women who identify as feminists who proceeded to tweet selfies and disagree with the author’s thoughts.
I also disagree with the Jezebel article. Yes, many women do post selfies because they are looking for external validation, but there are also many women who post them because they want to show off a cool new haircut or an awesome outfit they’re excited about or just to be goofy and have fun. Like yours truly:
And being a very visible fat woman, posting pictures of myself and seeing other fat women doing the same is empowering because we aren’t hiding our faces and bodies as we’re told to do over and over again. I used to hate sharing pictures of myself; now I don’t mind and I don’t care. It’s just another step on my path of being a self-accepting fat adult. If people want to pay me compliments, that’s fine. If they don’t say anything, that’s fine too.
Despite social media being around for a while, we are still learning “the rules” of what’s considered acceptable online and what isn’t, and we’re going to keep seeing these selfie controversies. Perhaps we should consider them teachable moments and open invitations to discussions about our cultures and norms, which really isn’t a bad thing.