Monday, June 22, 2015

The Vital Importance of the Teenage Selfie

Teenagers need to take selfies. If we don't, history will collapse. As proof, let me present everyone's favorite young outlaw.

This is Billy the Kid. In fact, it is the only photograph ever taken of Billy the Kid. As you can probably tell, Billy was drunk when he decided to stumble into the photographer's studio and get his picture taken. He was near twenty at the time.
If you're making an hour long documentary on Billy the Kid, you can show this photo. Or you can show his Wanted posters that also use this photo. You can use the colorized version of this photo. But your viewers will have nothing to do but look at this photo. For two hours.

Yeah, I'm bored already.
And here we have the only known photo of recluse poet Emily Dickinson. This was taken when Emily was around sixteen years old. Acquaintances claimed it didn't look much like her.

Writing a biography on Emily Dickinson? Here's your cover. New edition of a poetry book? Here you go. Making a PowerPoint report and your teacher wants a different picture on every slide? Yeah, good luck.
Emily and Billy teenagers, or thereabouts, at the time these photos were taken. Every scholar, student, biographer, and documenter wishes they'd posed for more. But they couldn't, because photographs were time consuming, expensive endeavors. If only they'd had smartphones.
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There you go. I don't know if I'll be Emily Dickinson of Billy the Kid, but there you go. You'll thank me in a hundred and fifty years.
History is only one reason selfies are important. The second is perception of  beauty and body image.
Taylor Swift on the cover of Glamour
Taylor Swift waking up in the morning.
See? Mortal. Don't you feel better now?
Keep in mind that celebrities aren't the only ones taking selfies. Normal teenage girls (and boys) proudly post pictures of themselves looking like normal humans on the internet for all to see. A 2013 Samsung pull found that selfies make up 30% of photos by people aged 18-24. Media critic Jennifer Pozner called selfies a toll for young people to break through "media gatekeepers" and say "I'm great the way I am."
And before you say selfies are a modern craze, here's thirteen year old Grand Duchess Anastasia Romanov taking one in 1913.
The Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia, the youngest daughter of Tsar Nicholas II, the last sovereign of Imperial Russia, took her very own selfie in 1913 -- five years before her untimely death

The Grand Duchess, who was executed with her family in an extrajudicial killing by members of the Cheka, the Bolshevik secret police, on July 17, 1918, appears to be one of the first teenagers to take a picture of herself

Here she is decked out in pearls for a formal portrait a year later. Thousands of photographs were taken of Anastasia and her siblings during their short lifetimes. Online archives show her with everything from a cigar to a shaved hear. But this one is the most widely used. As royalty living a few decades later than Billy and Emily, Anastasia had more access to cameras. Romanov fans have all kinds of content that captures her true personality.

As will the fans of another world leader's daughter.
So next time you ridicule the young people around you for taking selifes, remember we're going to go down in history. And we don't care if we look fabulous while doing it.

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