Selfies are for kids, that's what everyone thinks.
Selfies are vacuous, taken by teenagers and young people and the trashy.
Selfies are for showing people you look good, successful, thin, fit, rich and happy.
In selfies, you're meant to look amazing. Selfies need pouts, make-up, slick hairstyles, designer stubble. Selfies are for posing with tigers, posing in front of gold lifts, posing in fancy clothes, in fancy bathrooms or fancy cars, in fancy cities on fancy holidays with fancy friends and fancy cocktails. Fancy, fancy, fancy, fancy.
Look at me, people say with a selfie, and see how fancy I am. Look at my wad of disposable income, my rich social life, my intense love affairs, my fulfilling family life. Look at me in my gym clothes and see how toned I am, look at how much weight I've lost and how much muscle I've gained, how much younger than me my current lover is, how powerful my new car is, how close the sea is to my hotel window, how intellectual the book I'm reading is, how organic my avocados are, how much fun I'm having and how much I'm enjoying life.
Selfies are - stereotypically - the preserve of people who want to hide the bad moments and sink into the good, leaving an online footprint of an enviable life.
The average selfie represents something that's not merely fake, but is outwardly misleading. Selfies are a way for people to present an identity to the world to help them feel better within it. Selfies are meant to make people feel good.
So why have I - a grumpy, balding, man whose poor sleeping habits have caused the speed of my ageing to accelerate during the tail end of my twenties - embraced the selfie? Because I get a masochistic kick out of watching myself decline, watching myself move towards death.
I take selfies most days, and have done for years, using them to illustrate the majority of posts on my long-running literary blog, Triumph of the Now. This collection of pictures documents my change from being a relatively handsome and thin 24-year-old with waves of gorgeous, brown curls, to a man approaching 30 with no hair, bags under my eyes like the reefer addict I've never been, an extra chin, slight breasts, expanding eyebrows and visual fatigue. I use the selfies to chart my decline, and I've embraced them because seeing myself age is a source of relief.
What would be the point in taking pictures of myself as I fought against ageing? If I used selfies traditionally, I'd only take them after I'd put on my nicest clothes, plucked my eyebrows and nipples and hadn't consumed any cheese, chocolate and red wine for a week (i.e. avoiding unsightly tummy, skin and teeth respectively). But what would that achieve? What would that tell me about myself? I am ageing - as we all are - and I have already lost my hair. To try to look my best is always going to result in me looking like something is missing: the #vavavoom of a full head of hair. Learning to accept the reality of physical age is good for everyone's mental health. Also, the selfies remind me that this torturous hairlessness won't last forever. My body and face and mind are getting older, too, so selfies prove my own sweet mortality.
This doesn't make me sadder, it makes me happier. The evidence of my eventual death proves to me and all my social media connections that life is fleeting, nothing lasts forever.
As a man who's lost his hair and isn't happy about it, selfies should make me feel sad. But they don't, because they remind me that one day I will be free of this flesh, free in the empty nothingness of oblivion. Looking at a picture of my face is like looking at a skull or a dead flower: remembering that nothing lasts forever makes us free, pretending all our lives that we are young can only ever cause frustration.
Take a selfie, and look at it closely. Don't hide your blemishes or comb over your widow's peak, accept that you are what you are, and seek happiness in places other than appearance. It is how you think of yourself that matters, not how you pretend to the world that you are.
I believe that selfies should be used to show ourselves the truth, but I don't see my ideas taking off any time soon. Maybe I should work on my contouring?Suggest a correction