College student Emma Strub has been known to take pictures of herself 15 to 20 times a day. Alone or with friends, smiling or making a goofy face. She shares most of them on photo-messaging app Snapchat and posts others to Instagram, Twitter or Tumblr.
She, like so many of her peers, is a master of the smartphone self-portrait — the selfie. Depending on whom you ask, selfies are either the latest form of self-expression or portraits of narcissism on the rise, society in decline. Pamela Rutledge, a psychologist and director of the Media Psychology Research Center, doesn’t see any harm in selfies: People have always liked to see themselves in photographs and sought approval from others.
Experts say the onslaught of selfies is changing the way we communicate. Why text “I’m happy” when you could post a picture of your smiling face?
For some, selfie-taking comes naturally. For everyone else, the experts interviewed for this story — tweens, teens and a couple of honest adults — offer some tips.
1. Hold steady. “If the first one is blurry, retake it,” said Alec Erdahl, 11. Even a photo of a goofy face should be in focus. If you can’t hold steady, maybe ask a friend to take the snapshot. (Yes, a selfie technically is a picture you take yourself, but there seems to be some rule-bending among the younger set. If you post a picture of yourself that you’ve purposely posed, it counts.)
2. Try, but not too hard. “You’ve got to make sure it looks good,” said Sarah Shipman, 13. But not too good. And no fishing for compliments, a la “Look how cute I am today!” That’s tacky.
“You can fall into a trap of oversharing things that are meant to make yourself look good,” said Greg Swan, who prefers silly in-the-moment snapshots.
3. Mix it up. No duckface every time. “A lot of people joke and say if you look good in a Snapchat, you’re doing it wrong,” said Yusra Murad, 16. “The uglier the Snapchat the stronger the friendship.”
4. Keep it appropriate. “Make sure it’s OK if the whole world saw it,” said Kelly McCloskey, 13. Nothing ever really goes away on the Internet.
5. Amateur mistakes. Other signs of selfie amateurs? Arms in the photo. “My dad takes them with arms in them all the time,” said Emma Strub, 20. But that’s OK. It’s about expressing yourself.
“You do you. You own it,” Murad said. “Give it your all and I’ll probably ‘like’ your photo if it shows up in my feed.”
Who’s in the photo: Across the top (from left) are Corbin Nelson, 13, of Everett; Kara Schubert of Everett; Corrie and Rich Crowder of Mountlake Terrace; Joe Orsillo of Mill Creek; and Ian Ruotsala of Everett. Directly below Orsillo is Stacy McCullough of Mill Creek. Across the middle (from left) are Tiffany Lindy Lindbergh of Everett; Marilyn Harlin of Snohomish; Amber Ritchie of Arlington; Rachell Bray of Everett; and Christine Del Buono. Across the bottom are (from left) Darren Phillips; Grace Martinez of Everett; Jeanett and Sasha Nelson of Everett; Henry Yarsinske Jr. of Marysville; and Amber Smith of Arlington.