Caitlin Essig takes a selfie to celebrate the word being 'Word of the year.'

Caitlin Essig takes a selfie to celebrate the word being ‘Word of the year.’ Credit: Caitlin Essig / Managing editor, content

When some people think of selfies, a few associated words might come to mind: self-absorbed, shallow, superficial.

I like to think of a more positive term, though.


Each year, Oxford Dictionaries chooses a “Word of the Year,” designated as “a word, or expression, that we can see has attracted a great deal of interest during the year to date” that will “have lasting potential as a word of cultural significance,” according to the Oxford Dictionaries’ blog.

This year, “selfie” was selected from a short list that included words such as “binge-watch” and “twerk.” In this Snapchat age, “selfie” is an on-point choice. And while some “selfie” haters don’t like the term for its negative connotation, I’m personally glad to see the much more ridiculous term, “twerk,” fall out of the running for at least the year 2013.

In its newly-bestowed definition, Oxford Dictionaries describes a selfie as, “(n.) a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website.

Surely not everyone is excited about Oxford Dictionaries’ claim that the word “selfie” is something of “cultural significance,” but I think selfies have been given an undeserved bad reputation. Some can argue that selfies perpetuate a culture of narcissism, and I find it hard to argue that’s implicitly untrue. However, I can argue that there’s more to a selfie than meets the eye.

Selfies can facilitate confidence in ways people haven’t been able to find on their own before. Taking a smiling selfie is a way to say to the world, “I am happy, I am confident and I am beautiful.”

Selfies are about loving yourself. Because that’s what it comes down to — loving yourself before expecting anyone else to. This isn’t necessarily selfish or narcissistic. Loving yourself is healthy.

It has been proven that smiling more makes you happier. And happy people can spark joy in those around them. So if taking a photo of oneself that makes one feel beautiful makes that person happy, sharing one’s smile with the world can have a domino effect.

Additionally, in today’s social media age, many millennials (while not all) feed off of attention on social networks, whether we like to admit it or not. “Likes,” “favorites,” “retweets” — these all can make us feel good, and make us feel like the information, photo or link we’re sharing is worthwhile. And when people “like” our Instagram selfies, yes, that does feel good.

Some charity campaigns have even turned taking selfies into a way to directly impact someone else’s life for good. These movements include and VH1’s #UnselfishSelfie campaign and Johnson & Johnson’s “Family is Familia” contest. In both cases, positive selfies were encouraged. For these campaigns, selfies tagged with certain hashtags on Instagram and photo-sharing app Donate A Photo, respectively, added up to donations given to allotted causes.

That’s it. One selfie can not only make you a more confident human being, but can directly aid someone else and make a difference in the world.

So why not choose to take a selfie and spread joy? Whether it’s for the world or for you alone.