Don’t hate on me because I take travel selfies

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!)

-Often enjoy the thrill and breakneck pace of fast travel over slow

-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.

travel selfies 1

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.

travel selfies 2

travel selfies 3

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… 

travel selfies 4

How is posting travel selfies like this somehow more indulgent and narcissistic than posting the pic below?

travel selfies 5

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?

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  • Reply
    November 30, 2016 at 3:48 pm

    No hate. I’m not a fan of selfies. But its fine if that’s what people want to do. I prefer to photograph the destination and the people around rather than me. My fans do like the photos with me in it better than without though I must say.

  • Reply
    November 30, 2016 at 3:58 pm

    They been drinking the haterade. I don’t want my phone to get stolen! Selfies all the way.

  • Reply
    November 30, 2016 at 5:29 pm

    To be honest, I’ve always kind of looked down on excessive selfie-taking. I rarely take selfies, though I would say that for me (and probably many other women of my generation) this also has a lot to do with insecurities. After all, we never look good enough. In fact, we might have an issue with people taking selfies because we subconsciously wish we would feel that confident.
    Your post is completely on point from a logical point of view, and I will try to be less negative about selfies and maybe bring myself to taking one every once in a while. 🙂

  • Reply
    Caroline Achieng Otieno
    November 30, 2016 at 6:26 pm

    If I’m traveling with my daughter…she takes the cool shots so no much need for selfies..but being a pre-pubescent miss thang, she oft gets moody and sulky, not to mention tired..so I have to up my selfie game..I´m very proud of the selfie I took at Buckingham palace..for reference here you go


    I cringe at those selfies all over my fb newsfeed that are a) an overload of pictures not really showing anything much rather than a pouty face
    b) horribly taken pics
    c) pics focussed so close to the person that we totally miss seeing the destination

    But depending on one´s personality, it would be wise to let people be, no use trying to please everyone and ending up unhappy..`To each their own.`

    I have quite a number of destination pictures I´m quite proud of, but am more and more trying to place myself in pictures not because I want to, but because intellectual property and credit to myself or my blog.

  • Reply
    November 30, 2016 at 6:37 pm

    I like your selfies 🙂 They are inspired and not a trout pout in sight! I personally feel like a bit of a dafty taking selfies, especially in public. It must be the stiff Brit in me. Saying that I want to do more solo traveling so I need to get me some selfie confidence because I hate asking strangers to take photos of me more than I hate taking selfies!

  • Reply
    Katrina Morrison
    November 30, 2016 at 6:37 pm

    OMG!! I love this post and every selfie in it!! For now on I will embrace the selfie!!!

  • Reply
    December 1, 2016 at 8:53 am

    I usually find new ‘travel’ issues I never knew were issues on your blog! LOL. Love that you discuss these here and I also love that you are you, irrespective of what is being defined as the right way to be a traveller (not a tourist!). Also didn’t know selfies were frowned upon. I don’t usually take that many selfies and this is usually because I forget to, not because I am against it. At the end of the day, I find that I have more photos of a place I’m in than of me and I really want to be in the photos too. Selfies do come in handy when you travel solo, I’ve got to start taking more of those!

  • Reply
    Ashley B.
    December 1, 2016 at 9:22 pm

    Yea, sounds like hate to me. I actually hate taking selfies but its more because I hate about 90% of pictures taken of me, by me or otherwise lol.

  • Reply
    December 3, 2016 at 3:56 pm

    No hate here. I wish I had more confidence to take selfies! I’ll often look back through my travel photos and wish that I had captured myself interacting more with the environment (because I often travel alone too). I’m going to start it doing it more because it is nice to see yourself in the photos. You did pay money to visit the place!

  • Reply
    December 4, 2016 at 4:15 am

    I have no issue with people taking selfies, in fact I always take selfies when I travel for the same reasons that you do! I think a lot of the hate though is directed towards people who block the view for other people whilst taking their selfie – and they’re often not quick about it, they’ll take about 12 photos and analyse each one before taking the next. I try to be as quick as possible and put a limit on how many attempts I give myself to make myself look attractive.

    BTW I love your blog Oneika 🙂

  • Reply
    Albert Nesmith
    December 4, 2016 at 3:50 pm

    Those are pretty awesome selfies. Please keep them coming. Also, so jealous that I’m stuck working right now.

  • Reply
    jo ann Lawery
    April 20, 2017 at 7:48 pm

    I love taking selfies but there are times and places where selfies should never be taken. Inside of churches , cemeteries and memorials like the National September 11th Memorial among others . On my blog, sportsandtravelblog.wordpress I have a blog post about selfie etiquette .

    • Reply
      April 21, 2017 at 6:21 pm

      I agree that etiquette should be in place, though the parameters for everyone will be different depending on their personal experiences.

  • Reply
    July 20, 2017 at 6:40 am

    The only problem I have with selfies is that I never like how I look. But to be honest, that is also true for pictures other people take of me. I just don’t like photo’s of myself in general. I have been taking them more these days, because my family likes seeing me in my pictures rather than just the places I have been to. So maybe one day I’ll learn to take selfies I’m happy with.

  • Reply
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  • Reply
    September 27, 2017 at 5:58 am

    I think the Internet in general is a lot more narcissistic than it was before smartphones were invented. I’ve been online since the 90s and have watched it evolve for better and worse over time. Likewise, I’ve been carrying a camera of some sort around with me since I was a kid, long before life went digital. But it wasn’t until smartphones were invented that I ever bothered to awkwardly try to squeeze my face into location photos. We’re all guilty of selfies at some point, but maybe some people (myself included) long for the days when our heads were all held up and we were experiencing life fully through our senses rather than with our cell phones.

    It’s hard not to miss those days and/or question how dumb you must look when in selfie-mode, as you watch a stranger bump into things while they stumble around with their selfie stick 😉

  • Reply
    Claudine Lewis
    December 17, 2017 at 1:28 pm

    This was an honest and interesting read. We really like to police other people’s behavior and use the information gathered to decide if the person is worthy or not. Live and let live! Personally, I’m not a big fan of taking selfies, but it doesn’t matter to me what others do. Their phone, their IG/Twitter/Facebook… they’re entitled to do what they want…😀

    • Reply
      December 20, 2017 at 3:26 pm

      Agree! Thanks for reading and commenting!

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