Mian: Selfie isn’t short for selfish, so take more


Naib Mian, Columnist

Following last week’s naming of the word “selfie” as the Oxford Dictionaries 2013 “Word of the Year,” columnists have taken to media outlets to discuss this worrisome trend, this symbol of our ever-more selfish and narcissistic society.

To set the record straight for those who fear the downfall of the English language: Selfie was not actually added to the Oxford English Dictionary (yet), but it was recognized as a word that “attracted a great deal of interest during the year to date.”

And it has. We can find selfies of young children with their pets, teens with their friends, technologically struggling grandparents, celebrities and politicians. Even the popular Snapchat, one of the top 10 free apps on Apple’s App Store, is used heavily for selfies.

We’ve arrived at a point where anything that involves “me” can be equated to narcissism. This may be true in some cases, and narcissism can be found in selfies. It can also be found in people who like to be in every picture, people who tweet every moment of their lives and Instagram every bite they take.

But these individual circumstances don’t define the trend; they are an inevitable subcategory. Selfies have become an aspect of contemporary culture that can mean so much more.

Last year, a high school friend of mine embarked on a selfie mission. Her photos captured joy, friendship and her dream of one day meeting Ellen DeGeneres. To this day, she’s accrued more than 400 selfies in an album titled “selfie time?” on Facebook, and on Instagram, she posts selfies with a caption that includes “#dailyselfie until I get my #selfietimewithEllen.”

Knowing her, the last words I could ever think of to describe her would be narcissistic or selfish. Her selfies are but a reflection of her vibrant and friendly personality. Selfies, for me, don’t mean being obsessed with oneself. They mean taking a moment to hit the pause button on life and appreciate an experience.

Moments with friends, meeting a celebrity, enjoying my favorite drink from Starbucks, or even making a weird face at a frozen puddle are appreciated through taking the time to stop and capture them. These become moments that we can share with friends and loved ones, allowing them to get a glimpse of how we’re doing, as well as cherish them ourselves as memories.

Instead of overanalyzing the dystopian consequences of people taking pictures of themselves making a funny face or with a celebrity, we need to appreciate a cultural phenomenon that brings a little bit of our everyday humanity to our pictures and allows us to appreciate everything we experience.

With that sentiment in mind over the coming holiday, taking a family (or whomever you’ll be celebrating with) selfie might be one way to stop and appreciate the moment.

Naib Mian is a Medill freshman. He can be reached at [email protected]. If you want to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected].