The #selfie experiment… What it was, how it changed, what it meant

What started out after one of those office conversations that must have started about something Serious and Journalistic and then turned out into a rant about why-do-people-who-just-post-selfies-get-so-many-extra-Instagram-followers, my “#selfie” experiment was intended as purely by-the-numbers game.

My intention was to post a selfie a day to my Instagram account for thirty days, and count the mundane things like likes and new followers.

And then I realised something pretty fundamental for the #selfie movement: I really, really, really do not like the way that I look.

This is not a fishing for compliments post. There are people that think I’m pretty/attractive/sexy/whatever. Most of the time, I just don’t happen to be one of them. (I’m also well aware that there are people who find me equally unattractive etc etc).

But that is still not the point of this post. It’s about how much I dislike feeling vulnerable. Or judged. (Which, if I ever get the courage to post The Post, will be explained shortly). And so, for me, the biggest discovery about my #selfie experiment was not my physical insecurities, but rather my emotional ones.

Three things, though, to kick you off: I didn’t get a single negative comment on my Instagram feed. Not a one.

Most of my selfies were taken at home – any of the ones I took in public were snapped very surreptiously. As in, look, I’m pretending to take a photo of the scenery etc. Because I was that embarrassed. And that convinced I was likely to be judged by a passer-by. Heck, even my friends.

And as soon as I realised how insecure I felt about posting, I started posting the “anti-selfie”. The idea? Selfies of me as natural and as vulnerable as possible.

When we think of the selfie, we generally think of young women, layered in make-up, cleavage out, in a totally-nonchalant-but-absolutely-sexy pose. Even the not-teeny-bopper selfies are still carefully constructed to show the person in the best light as possible – artfully done make-up, gorgeous hair, hipster-esque shots, oh-look-at-me-being-all-nonchalant (again).

Yeah, I tried. That’s not even a little bit me. And so as soon as I realised this, I started posting pictures of myself in my most insecure moments.

I didn’t make 30 days. There was no way I could. I’m not a selfie person (unless it’s for a very memorable event). But I learned a lot about myself – and the world – in the 15 days I did take them.

I think there are maybe two in which I’m wearing make-up, perhaps? (One of them was for a 90s dress-up – I’ll leave you to spot which one). But there’s me with mussy hair, me on a bus midway through a 14-hour trip, me on the way back (red-faced and exhausted after my hike home), me dying of my cold, in bed, in my dressing gown, soaked to the skin and very grumpy after standing in the pouring rain waiting for a lift back to my car at Smits. And yes, one hipster one thrown in for good measure.

And so, a “real” snapshot of my life, perhaps. Although, of course, all of the selfies are constructed in some way – every photo is.

And, interestingly enough, it was those photos of me looking like – well, myself – that garnered the most likes. Not the ones where I’m dressed up to the nines, or the ones that I thought were the most “selfie-ish” of all of them.

Surprisingly enough, in a world where physical beauty is held up as such a great standard and even the most beautiful men and women alive are Photoshopped to remove a mole or a scar – any defining feature, really – we’re slowly learning to appreciate reality and honesty more.

At least, I hope so.

20140514-124705.jpg

20140514-124723.jpg

20140514-124750.jpg

20140514-124802.jpg

Advertisements