04/10/2014 12:48 EDT | Updated 06/10/2014 05:59 EDT

In Defense of Selfies

I have a confession to make, readers. I am a selfie taker.

If I may be honest, I love taking selfies. I take them down in the street, in the mall, at the grocery store, at work, at home, in different countries, and if my hair and make-up look particularly smashing on any given day, you better believe that there will be a selfie to follow. It's a hobby that occasionally veers into a lifestyle.

Due to the recent stigma surrounding selfies, It has been very hard for me to admit this to you. Now that we have it on the table, I feel like a weight has been removed from my chest. My name is Lauren Messervey, and I'm a selfie-taker. It feels good to have the courage to admit it at last.

When I was a kid, my mother called selfies "here we are" pictures. They were taken to prove our existence at various locations. Whether to photograph was of the family on a mountain top or a lone person relaxing, the "here we are" picture was an integral part of anything that held significance. Of course, it always made us chuckle when the "we" was the central focus instead of the "here," but then again, that was the beauty of the "here we are" picture.

Recently, the nature of the selfie has come under a lot of heat. Scientists, psychologists, psychiatrists, and disgruntled bloggers alike have weighed in on the damaging affect of selfies, both on the selfie-taker and the witness of the ensuing selfie. I've lost count of the number of blogs that have whined about the increasing volume of vanity on social media, but more intriguingly, I have read an increasing amount of reports from psychologists that link selfies to everything from Narcissistic Personality Disorder to depression and suicidal tendencies. What was once an annoyance to the general public can now destroy lives. How glorious the media can be in our golden age...

The claims of this recent research brought me back to Michael Moore's Bowling for Columbine. I vividly remember the politicians, priests, and advocates pointing their accusations at Marilyn Manson, an artist that both Columbine assailants worshiped. The critics blamed Manson's violent image and stage behavior as an influence on the assailants' final actions, driving them both to commit a ghastly school shooting. One particular advocate drew a parallel to the Manson comparison by saying, "Is every person who sees a Lexus commercial going to go out and buy a Lexus? The answer is no. But a few do."

Though Columbine and the existence of the selfie are in no way comparable, there is another parallel to be drawn here. At the time that Bowling for Columbine was released, there had been research conducted stating that teens who listened to violent rock music were more likely to abuse drugs, engage in irresponsible sexual activity, and commit violent acts. These teens were the "Lexus buyers," the ones who were using an artist like Marilyn Manson as an excuse to hurt others or themselves. However, I am willing to bet that for every violent teenager, there were thousands of others who allowed the music to speak to them in catharsis.

Readers, I have another confession to make. I listen to Marilyn Manson. Ever since I was 16, I was enthralled by the powerful rhythms in songs like The Beautiful People or The Fight Song. Worse still, I sometimes take selfies while listening to Marilyn Manson. Oh, what a mess am I!

I hope that the truth here is more the rule than the exception. I am not depressed, suicidal and do not have Narcissistic Personality Disorder (though some non-medical persons may try to convince you otherwise). My love of hard core rock music doesn't make me a violent person, to myself or to others. It seems then that I, Lauren Messervey, selfie lover extraordinaire, does not fit the paradigm, and that The Beautiful People is nothing more to me than a super catchy song that gets my heart pumping at the gym. It appears that I defy scientific research in spades, but then again, even science has to correct itself every once in a while.

We were once told that we were too ugly to love how we look, and now, loving how we look makes us ugly. Being skinny was once the only way to be fit, but now that fit is the new skinny, you must feel awful about being skinny. There is no winning for anyone who wants to be anything in the Age of Social Media Judgment. You're too much or too little, and whichever way you go, you have to be mentally ill to standing alone with too much or too little on your shoulders.

Let's be real, readers. If you like how you look one day, you have the right to show it. You have the right to like it on Facebook. By God, if others like it, they have the right to like it on Facebook too, and you have the right to like them for liking it. If a selfie makes you happy, take it and tweet, Instragram and Facebook the holy hell out of it! Yes, it could be true that constant selfies may be indicative of a problem, but if you are aware of your share and want a bit of a boost, you are allowed to ask for that by the boon of your social media cornucopia. Do not be ashamed, readers. I will like all of your selfies, if it makes you happy.

My selfie taking has led me to a diagnosis of being human. It's a terrible affliction that, believe it or not, affects over 98 per cent of the world's population. The symptoms include enjoying myself, having pride in who I am, desiring love and affirmation from others, and wanting to feel special. I've lost friends because of being human, and it is a crying shame to be so harshly judged for having such a common and misunderstood disease.

So I ask you, dearest readers, for the following considerations; if you are resentful of a selfie-taker, ask yourself why it affects you so deeply to see their humanity. If you are a selfie-taker, ensure that your confidence is not determined by the "likes" of each photograph, and then post that selfie with pride. If your happiness depends on the "likes" of each selfie, take some steps towards getting the help you may need. No one, who is worth it, is here to judge you for that. Ninety-eight per cent of us are human, after all.

Love and humanity is much more than a photograph. I think that science would agree with me on that.


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