Taking selfies can be considered a peculiar, perhaps even dysfunctional, form of human behaviour. Arguably, it has been associated with a narcissistic personality, as selfies often entail nothing but the photographer’s face up close. London bridges and Eiffel towers no longer seem to be required for validation. These days, people can take a selfie sitting behind a desk, holding a Starbucks mochaccino, or simply lying on the couch. Some people take a selfie leaning over their dirty dishes, subtitled “I can do this!”, while making a pouty face. Others will take one posing behind a plate of pasta, subtitled “going Italian yo!”, while pulling up one eyebrow. Entire Instagram accounts get cluttered up this way. But even though it’s only reasonable to think of this behaviour as narcissistic at first sight, the contrary may proof itself to be true. When taking a closer look, it is often shy people, in need of a bit more emotional support, who turn to selfie mode.

Try to think of a selfie as if it were a conversation. People normally engage in conversations for the sole purpose of benefiting themselves. For instance, it is common behaviour to forcefully use words in an attempt to impress others. People literally try to talk their way up, hoping that big words will make others think differently of them, more positively. They will tell you that their diet starts tomorrow, while licking the carrot cake frosting off the corners of their mouth. They also exercise a lot, and hardly go out anymore, people commonly say, while hiding their eye bags behind cheap foundation. People might also tell you that their alcohol consumption is completely under control, while trying to suppress the hiccups after downing yet another dry martini. And they’ve been very productive at work, extremely productive. But no one asked, and no one cares.

Similarly, people hardly ever ask what you’ve been up to lately, what you look like these days, or what outfit you’re wearing at the moment. They don’t ask because they don’t care. But you care, which is why you show them anyway. You want people to see that you’re happy, successful, and didn’t turn out to be ugly. Because if you can convince them, you might just start believing it yourself. This is where selfies come in handy. When we post photos strategically, we can be whoever we portray ourselves to be. We can be adventurous, thoughtful, creative, charitable, even a bit crazy. It allows the opportunity to stand out among the masses. “This is who I am, this is what I have achieved!”, is what the selfie says. The online profile that we create of ourselves can help us get through the day, particularly when we’re feeling a bit low about who we are and what we have achieved.

People often try to look silly in selfies. Whether it’s a duck face, a pouty face, or a drunk face: as long as it’s silly. Truth is, we don’t really want to look silly: we just can’t stand our own face. It allows us to laugh at a selfie and say “oh my, how silly do I look!”, in an attempt to justify our oddly shaped face. When a photo was taken too spontaneously, leaving no time to pull a funny face, we will laugh nonetheless and claim that we “just aren’t photogenic.” A weird thing to say, not photogenic, as if cameras have some sort of magical power. I could agree that most photos aren’t very flattering, but don’t go blame the smartphone dear.

The reason that we don’t like our face in photos is because it’s a copy-paste image of reality. We normally only get to see our face in the mirror, which is a slight alteration of reality. Humans naturally find comfort in things that are familiar to us. Whether it’s food, a local bar, a favourite sweater, or a person’s face. It’s been proven that we rank our liking of faces higher if we know them very well. People literally become prettier over time when we see them often enough, and our own face is no exception to that rule. So after we’ve finally gotten used to our face in the mirror, sometime after puberty, a picture of ourselves seems odd, a bit skew somehow. Because it’s different, we don’t like it. And because we don’t like it, we pull a funny face the second a smartphone appears from a purse.

But we don’t always want to look silly on Instagram. After all, we want to show the world that we aren’t an ugly duck face, but that we’ve become very successful and attractive. This is where filters enter the scene. Filters can stretch reality as far as we want to stretch it. There are apps that can give us bigger eyes, higher cheek bones, or thicker hair. In one selfie, we can lose twenty pounds, grow kitten ears, and remove all the wrinkles from our face. There’s also an app that can make us look 50 years older. Insecure people will take a selfie and turn themselves into a grandma or grandpa, subtitled “LOL”. It’s to confirm that they luckily don’t look like that in real life. Right? They will show the selfie to their friends and laugh. “Guys?” When the response isn’t confirmative, their laughter will soon turn into self-loathing. But did you see the other selfie I just posted, with the watery eyes and gigantic eyelashes, I’m pretty right??

We actually all look so goddamn pretty on Instagram, and so happy, and so godforsaken successful. It’s a miracle we even find the time to post all these selfies. But we do, whereas others don’t. We don’t know whether some people are pretty or successful, because they don’t post anything online. Not even one holiday photo… as if they only go on holiday for their own leisure. No of course not, I just heard how ridiculous that sounds. Maybe they got ugly after high-school, so ugly that even ten filters can’t fix it? Or they got so fat that they don’t fit in a selfie no more? But they don’t even have a Twitter-account… maybe it’s drugs? We’re desperate to know. Hopefully they’ll show up at the high-school reunion. When they do, we’re secretly hoping that they did turn out to be ugly, fat and addicted. It may distract our old mates from wondering why we act so strangely shy, and look so oddly different from our Instagram selfies.