Why is taking travel selfies (and selfies in general) so frowned upon? What does this disdain reveal about our internal biases?
Sometimes I feel like I’m the antithesis of what a “true” or “authentic” traveller is supposed to be like. In travel circles I’m a bit of an oddball, committing numerous faux pas that make so-called “serious” travel folk cringe.
After all, I:
-Count the number of countries I’ve been to (95!)
-Have been on a cruise (and enjoyed it, gasp!)
-Enjoy travelling on the beaten path just as much as off! (I mean, it’s the beaten path for a reason, guys.)
-And quite happily refer to myself as tourist (as opposed to traveller, which I think is the silliest and most pointless non-description ever).
I also have an extreme affection for taking travel selfies, which comes as no surprise to those who follow this blog or my social media feeds.
I love taking travel selfies, and stop just short of saying that the front-facing camera is one of the greatest technological advancements known to voyageurs (truth be told, wifi holds that distinction for me, lol! #travelblogger).
I derive great joy from taking photos of the places I visit, and my captures are made all the more special by having me in them.
I mean, if I want a picture of the pyramids or the Taj Mahal, I can just download one from Google. But having a picture of me interacting with the pyramids? Or a snapshot of the moment in time I was actually at the Taj Mahal? That’s priceless.
Nice snaps, right? But guess what? Sometimes you don’t always have the luxury of have someone who can take bomb azz photos at your side.
So, since I travel by myself frequently and often can’t bother asking strangers to take my picture, I have to get creative. I thus do one of two things: a) lug around my tripod and fiddle around with the self timer on my camera or b) whip out my phone and take travel selfies.
It’s logical, no?
However, more and more I find myself encountering people who just aren’t fans of taking selfies (travel or otherwise) but who actually regard the people who do take them with disdain. This stance puzzles me.
So what’s the issue?
Some fine art snobs will be quick to proffer that selfies are the lowest form of photography and sully the art world. However, I think there’s a general sentiment that selfie-takers are narcissists to the nth degree. Kim Kardashian, who published an entire coffee table book of selfies, immediately springs to mind.
The pervasive line of thinking is that when selfie-takers share their works of art on social media (because a selfie ain’t really a selfie unless you share it with your social networks, is it?!) it’s because they crave attention and approbation in the form of likes and comments from their peers.
While condemning people who take lots of selfies as vapid narcissists is more than a bit harsh, there’s absolutely a kernel of truth to seeking approval from the (virtual) masses. The vast majority of selfies are taken to be seen and appreciated by others online.
But, I ask you, how is that different from posting a picture of you that was taken by somebody else…
Or most forms of social media updates that we share? For snapshots of our newborns, travels, tulip gardens in full bloom, or medals from our latest half-marathons abound on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. And guess what? They typically garner praise, not eye rolls. Hmmm.
So what is it about extending your arm and turning the camera on yourself that elicits such a visceral reaction in selfie haters? And why and when did using a selfie stick become so cringeworthy?
Here’s the thing: I take travel selfies, but I also take loads of selfies at home in New York City. Sometimes I take them to capture myself with the amazing NYC skyline as a backdrop, and other days? I take selfies because my hair or makeup is on point and I’m feeling myself.
Moreover, I share a good number of these photos online, and while I don’t live and die by how many likes and comments they receive, I’d be lying if the positive feedback wasn’t valid or affirming.
This doesn’t mean that I’m vapid or narcissistic, nor it doesn’t make me any less intelligent or informed about the world than the dude that only takes “serious pictures” of the Empire State Building on his fancy DSLR. (And believe me, I could talk alllll day long about how gender-biased the vitriol directed toward selfie takers is– those getting the most hate are often female– but that’s fodder for another post.)
Rather, it’s biology: by nature humans like to share aspects of their lives with others in order to get a response. It’s the foundation upon which the whole internet community is built on! I thus find it sad when friends and readers tell me that they refrain from taking selfies (or using a selfie stick) in public because they’re afraid of the backlash.
So, my opinion, as always, is to live and let live. Being holier than thou over something as insignificant as a self-portrait is a time waster, especially since, as far as I know, selfies (whether they are travel selfies or “regular” selfies) are a harmless activity.
The question, then, is not why we feel the need to take these selfies, but why they elicit so much derision and criticism from others.
Why all the hate?
Do you take selfies on your travels or in your every day life? Why or why not? And have you ever been privy to selfie hate?