Selfies & Storytelling

2013 was officially “The Year of the Selfie.” Experts don’t think it’s just a passing fad, either. Between 2012 and 2013, there was a 17,000% increase in the use of the word “selfie.” There are marvelous selfies, historic selfies (what, you thought your generation invented the self-portrait??), ill-considered selfies, heretical selfies, and selfies that just make us smile back at the monitor for a second.

2014 appears to be “The Year of Mocking the Selfie.” The year of labeling selfie-takers “narcissistic,” a label that used to be reserved for bloggers and really ought not to be slung around with casual abandon or applied to anyone outside of a psychotherapist’s office. HuffPo asks, “Are Today’s Facebook Haters Yesterday’s Telephone Haters?” I wonder if artists who painted self-portraits suffered as much labeling and derision as people who post selfies? (Eventually, the selfie-haters will catch up. They’ll give in. They’ll act like they invented the cell phone camera. They’ll post a selfie. And then we pounce.)

Poorly executed, cringeworthy, ill-advised selfies are nothing new. In fact, avid word sleuths, they probably predate the Oxford Dictionaries’ attributed origins. “No, a Drunken Australian Man Did Not Coin the Word Selfie.”

My friend Cairn Rodrigues inspired me with her month-long, Thirty Selfies – A Retrospective. I’m not sure anyone needs a daily selfie from me, but her spontaneous, “blind mode” selfies made me smile. If you’re going to make “rules” for yourself about how you take a selfie, let it be “without a mirror” – just hold up the camera, look into the lens, and be as surprised as the rest of us.

My friend Dani Greer keeps kicking me to create shareable graphics to promote my books and my author-selfie, broadly hinting that more people would be inclined to pass them around if only we authors were better at tooting our own horns, first.

10 Selfie Guidelines (Because, Really, the Internet Does Not Need More Stupid “Rules”)

  1. If you don’t have a front-facing camera, get creative with the reflective surfaces you use to preview the shot. Selfies should never be taken in the bathroom mirrors, showing off your “MySpace angles.” Try a flat-screen TV or computer display (the shiny black screen, when it’s turned off, works well). How about a spoon? Lean over a body of water on a calm day, and use that. (See #7 – watch out for selfie-haters who might push you in and ruin your cell phone!)
  2. They say that “a picture’s worth a thousand words.” Does your selfie tell the story all by itself? Does it need a caption in order to put it into context? Does it need an awkward paragraph of explanation before friends stop looking at it – and you – like you’ve got two heads?
  3. Crop, fix, and enhance your selfie if needed. Don’t get too creative with the special effects, but do get creative in composition. Crop out irrelevant and confusing stuff around the edges, if possible.
  4. Context is good. To help your selfie tell the story, be sure to include visually interesting backgrounds, such as landmarks, fun people, mouthwatering food porn, and so on. Think like a reporter: who, what, where, when, and – for the love of God – why?
  5. Avoid professional suicide by selfie: do not publish pictures of yourself naked, having sex, doing drugs, drinking to excess, committing a crime, throwing up on someone’s shoes, making the duckface, or wearing anything you wouldn’t want your parents, siblings, or colleagues to see. The Internet is forever.
  6. Avoid…suicide by selfie. No selfie is worth dying for, and who wants to be known as “that damned fool that necessitated a LAW against taking tiger selfies to get girls”? No need to be the gal who starts the “traffic jam selfie” trend, either.
  7. Be aware of your surroundings: Do a quick check to be sure your selfie doesn’t show your messy room, your butt crack, the price tag on your knock off “designer” jeans, the confidential blueprints for the Death Star that just happen to be out on your desk, or your family and friends in humiliating poses (assuming you’re not a sociopath and hope they’ll still be speaking to you tomorrow).
  8. Let your humanity shine, flaws and all. Let your freak flag fly. There is no “perfect selfie.” They are only fun when they are relateable and real.
  9. Be creative. Be playful. Have fun. Photoshop. If you never, ever share photos of yourself, use a selfie-surrogate.
  10. Have a sense of humor and remember that if you laugh at yourself, first, others can’t laugh at you – they have no choice but to laugh with you.



Holly Jahangiri is the author of Trockle; A Puppy, Not a Guppy; Innocents & Demons; and A New Leaf for Lyle. You can find her books on Amazon at For more information on her children's books, please visit
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9 thoughts on “Selfies & Storytelling”

  1. Those are good rules! I really urge people to crop selfies, often a really bad one has one interesting highlight if you play around. Food pictures are trickier, most often what looks mouthwatering and irresistible in real life ends up looking flat and colorless in a pic. If you take one, take several at different angles/lighting to give yourself options. A side note to that is professional chefs have less and less patience for people letting their food get cold while taking pictures 😉
    Cairn Rodrigues recently posted…Book Excerpt 2 – Travellers and TrampsMy Profile

    1. Can’t say that I blame the chefs! I suppose I should add

      #11: Take your selfie quickly and avoid inconveniencing others, especially the people who prepare and serve your food. Respect their time, talents, and efforts on your behalf. Leave a good tip if you ask the waiter to double as a photographer.
      HollyJahangiri recently posted…Just a Hint of AutumnMy Profile

      1. I did think about that briefly but decided it would give them something to think about. Love you, DoD!

  2. Totally with you on all of these, but especially #’s 5 & 7. I hate the duckface pictures a lot, but I do like the one Susan put up. lol As for #7, man, have I seen some horrid shots, often on sites that will show you some of the worst selfies around. I hope I don’t get caught in anything like that, but knowing me, I will one day. lol
    Mitch Mitchell recently posted…What Does Social Media Engagement Mean?My Profile

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