We live in the age of technological exploration. Facebook, social media, and Internet usage is seen across all areas of the world, including many 2nd and 3rd world countries where Peace Corps volunteers serve. A lot of people have smart phones from which they can access the Internet, post statuses and photos, and share information instantly. We’ve moved away from interactions in person and much of our daily communication is being done over the web. People have work meetings over Skype or Google chat, you can network via LinkedIn, and you can even find a date without ever having to actually speak with someone in person. Some people have completely separate lives being lived out solely through the Internet.
Being able to snap a photo and immediately post it online for others to view has completely revolutionized our lives in an interesting way. Often times we are all so obsessed with getting a good picture, rather than actually just experiencing situations for what they are. Some people see this as a bad thing because we are so connected to the gratification of sharing our lives online for others to see, rather than actually experiencing these situations for what they are. Others see this as a good thing because it allows them to stay connected to people despite our busy, conflicting schedules.
This obsession with media, sharing our lives, and taking photos has led to an epidemic. The Selfie Epidemic. For those of you who do not know what a selfie is, a selfie is the common expression used for taking a picture of yourself. There are more photos taken every two minutes across the world, than were taken during the entire 18th century. I certainly can’t deny that I am among those who love to capture a cute photo and share my funny life stories online for everyone to admire. Yes, I use the term admire because, let’s face it, my life is super intriguing (hope you’re picking up on the sarcastic undertone).
Most Albanians I know love selfies. I wouldn’t be surprised if Albanians actually were the epicenter of the Selfie Epidemic because many that I know love having their pictures taken. And they bask in the glory of a beautiful selfie photo. Any Shqiptar event can turn into a 5-minute selfie photo shoot. Some people refer to taking selfies as being narcissistic, but I beg to differ. Selfies have the clout to empower people in their daily lives. Taking a striking selfie and posting it online shows confidence. That confidence, in turn, can spill into other areas outside of social media. Many people today lack confidence because of societal pressures to look and act a certain way, but taking selfies puts the power back in our hands. It says, “Hey, look at me. I’m confident. I’m gorgeous. Deal with it.” And I love that. Everyone is beautiful. The social constructs of beauty in the world today are unrealistic and daunting. Why not use selfies to empower us to think outside of the box, get creative with our own individual beauty, and show the world our confidence.
Here in Albania, I watch people of all ages and all backgrounds stop for the occasional selfie. Boys, girls, men, women, grandpas, grandmas – almost everyone loves a good selfie. This is a bit different than what I remember from selfies in America. Usually the females in the States tend to take more selfies than the males. Hence why my Snapchat account is constantly full of selfies from my female college friends and their dogs. My male friends on the other hand usually send photos of landscapes, concerts, etc. This is totally different in Albania. Men love a good selfie just as much as the women. I love this phenomenon. Why not share our lives? And why not share our confidence? Male, female, who cares! Let’s take a selfie!
Besides the actual act of taking the selfie, another important aspect of the Selfie Epidemic is posting these selfies to various social media outlets including, but not limited to: Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and personal blogs. Often times, selfies will receive more likes on Instagram with the hastag #selfie than many other photos my friends and I post. In Albania, selfies receive lots of attention on social media. Seriously, they receive a lot of freaking attention. When I go on my Albanian Facebook account and scroll through my newsfeed, I am instantly bombarded by a bijillion-million selfies of people doing all sorts of random things.
- Look at the beautiful lake. Hey, let’s take a selfie!
- Just spent several hours perfecting the makeup for a family wedding. Hey, let’s take a selfie!
- Hanging out on a furgon. Hey, let’s take a selfie!
- Pretending to listen to the teacher give a lesson in school. Hey, let’s take a selfie! (Now I don’t condone taking selfies in the middle of lessons, but after class – s’ka problem!)
- Anytime, anyday: HEY, LET’S TAKE A SELFIE!
These selfies receive hundreds of ‘likes’, literally hundreds, from other users. This baffled me at first because the only people I ever saw on Facebook getting more than 40 likes for something were celebrities, or they were posting something really freaking fantastic. Like I mentioned before in my social media post, most Albanians I know, especially the younger generation, are extremely connected with others through media accounts on the Internet. Most of my online friends are often people who I have not actually met in real life. My friends may be someone who reads my blog, a guy who drinks coffee in the lokalle near my apartment palace (apartment buildings are literally translated into palaces in Shqip), a student who has seen me give a health presentation at the schools, or someone who was curious about why there is an American living in Albania. These people often like a lot of things that I post on my Albanian Facebook account, which can be really satisfying on a boring afternoon in my apartment. Sometimes when I accept new friends and they will go back through my entire Facebook account and like pictures from years ago. It brings a whole new light to the term “Facebook stalking”.
The main reason why I decided to write this blog is to encourage people to continue taking selfies. Relish in that confidence. Love yourself and empower yourself through beautiful photos. Share them with your friends, family, and random Facebook friends. Pse jo?! We live in a time where most interactions happen online, so why not take advantage of that and put the control back into our own hands. Society does not need to continue to feed us magazines, television, and other junk to cloud of perception of what beauty is. We’re all beautiful, so let’s just take a selfie to prove it.
I’ll leave you with a bunch of selfies that I have taken during my first year in Albania. Proof that I truly do love a good selfie (or even a bad one because those can be pretty freaking funny).