My teenager daughters and all of their friends spend lots of time take photos of themselves. The one day I took a mobile photo of myself in front of our garden with over 100 glorious tulips, my 13 year old, Josie, admonished me: “Mom, are you taking a selfie?
As if it is totally ok for her to take self-portraits, but not for me. As if I’m too outmoded. I got a good laugh out of it and proudly stated that, indeed, I was taking a selfie, so there. I hadn’t really heard the term before and it struck me as if there was sexualized undertone or something taboo about a “selfie.” Call me a psychologist, why don’t you? (Of course, some hormone-driven teens are taking and sharing photos of themselves that are, let’s say, inappropriate, but that’s a future post.) To prove Josie that I was also entitled to taking selfies, I started sending them to her. (Like the one of me waiting in the parking lot of school to pick her up). Mom’s here!
Yet, here is the thing. My daughters are constantly taking photos of themselves, their friends, their morning pancakes, and of the most mundane details of daily life. They are a generation of content creators. But what they choose to share on their networks range from funny faces or physical antics to their trusted circle to a very crafted “pruning” of their more public profiles. In fact, girls today are highly sophisticated editors of their profiles. Snapshot is great for the spontaneous moment while Facebook is the public resume of middle or high schoolers. Parents may find some solace in a recent MTV survey suggesting that this generation of social media natives is more pragmatic (and cautious) than their older digitally savvy counterparts, the 20 somethings. Maybe the message trickled down that a digital footprint lives forever in cyberspace.
What I also notice is that if I try to take a photo of my girls and their friends they resist with all the fervor that I did as a girl and that I still do today. In fact, I rarely show up in any photos and I joke that no one will know that my girls had a mother given the dearth of photographic evidence. Even so, my teen girls now protest when I try to document their life – when I’m the observer rather than they the producers. Gone are the days when they pranced around in mom’s high heels and capes. Uh-humm, culture has it’s strangle hold on beauty by age 11.
“I look terrible.”
“I have no mascara on.”
“I just woke up.”
And so on.The recent DOVE film entiteld Camera Shy, which just won a Cannes Lion award and part of a campaign called Camera Shy, portrays this sentiment, working backwards on the modesty continuum from women to little girls.
I just wish the message at the end was: “Reclaim your unabashed beauty.” After all, we once could have cared less what others thought. We just wanted someone to appreciate our joy, on camera or off.