Selfies are horrible. At least, that's the implied argument in a new essay by ReadWrite's John Paul Titlow, who's drawing some much-needed attention to the indulgent, narcissistic act of snapping a self-portrait and uploading it onto the internet for other human eyeballs to consume. The sheer number of selfies with the #me hashtag on Instagram is a "scourge," argues Titlow, and transforms the beloved photo-sharing service into a "high school popularity contest on digital steroids."
But humans have long been narcissists. It's part of what makes us us. And indulging in the latent urge to "check yourself out" and share the results with everyone you know shouldn't make you the target of massive public shaming. Instead, let's adopt a few basic ground rules, which, at their core, aim to improve the overall user experience for everyone involved.
First, let's define what a selfie is. Just so we're clear:
1. It's a picture with your face in it.
2. You took the photo yourself. Another human being was not involved.
3. It is shared on the internet — Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, or whatever.
Now, the rules:
1. Selfies are off-limits for anyone over 21*
Are you allowed to legally consume alcohol in the United States of America? If so, you are too old to go fishing for compliments with a self-portrait. Leave the selfies for Snapchatting teens who can use the word "ratchet" in a sentence without Googling "ratchet" and "urban dictionary" at the same time.
*Exceptions: Fashion bloggers, models, and anyone else who makes a living off of their appearance is exempt from this rule. So is anyone 21 or over who's using the selfie to communicate something new to friends. New haircut: Great! New glasses? Snap away! Goofy Movember mustache? By all means, share. Same old you? Put the camera down.
2. The following words and phrases are banned from selfie captions
• "Ready for bed"
• "Good morning!"
• "Hitting the gym"
• "#GQ" (LOL)
• "Work hard, play hard"
Essentially, ask yourself, "What would Kim Kardashian do?" Then do the opposite.
3. Use your selfie allotment sparingly
Selfies are like paychecks: If you're like most people, you only get two per month. You know that grid on your Instagram screen that only fits nine square thumbnails at a time? Your selfie-to-pictures-of-other-stuff ratio should be 1:8. Failure to comply gives your friends permission to mercilessly make fun of you.
4. Don't look stupid
No duck lips. No ironic peace signs. No fake sleeping. No lying down. No crying toddlers in the background. These kinds of things are non-negotiable. Smile, if you're up for it. Failure to comply, again, gives your friends permission to mercilessly make fun of you.
5. Own up to it
You're allowed to show some skin. You do, however, have to own up to what you're trying to accomplish by doing so. For example: "Check out my sick abs, guys" is more acceptable than "Lol my bathroom mirror is dirty" <shirtless pic>. Be honest. Honesty is good.
There you have it. Consider quickly skimming this list akin to signing an unbreakable contract. In blood. Let's screen high-five and agree to never break these rules again, okay? Great.
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- This is what happens when Republicans actually enact their radical agenda
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- The Obama administration's nonstop incoherence on ISIS
- 6 things the happiest families all have in common
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- How I dug myself out of debt — and stayed that way
- 6 super-helpful iOS8 tricks you probably don't know about
- Why so many Christians won't back down on gay marriage
- The science of sex: 4 harsh truths about dating and mating
- Russia is stealthily threatening America with nuclear war
Subscribe to the Week