Do you enjoy taking selfies?
I mean, it’s a common enough pastime now. You might take multiple selfies every day and post them all over social media, focusing on your face or your outfit or your cute butt. You might take a selfie every once in a while, just when you’re feeling particularly cute that day. Or maybe taking selfies just isn’t your cup of tea. Maybe the thought never occurs to you, or you have just never felt the need.
And yet, regardless of where you fall on the spectrum of selfie-takers, I’m sure we’ve all heard extensive debates about what the taking of selfies means about people. Is it a sign of the end of the world? A pastime enjoyed only by narcissists and monsters? Is the duckface the universal sign of a stupid, vapid person?
We as a culture have been absolutely baffled by the existence of selfies, and confused about what it means. We’ve written articles about it, we’ve put money into researching it, and chances are, regardless of what you think about selfies, you can probably find a study that backs up your opinion. Because we are so obsessed with finding out what this means about us, about people, about society.
But let’s change our focus, just for a little bit. Let’s talk about music. Do you like music? I like music. In particular, I like a lot of retro music – 70’s and 80’s rock or pop has always been my thing. I’m into Pat Benatar, Bon Jovi, a little bit of Guns & Roses – it depends on my mood, really. And pretty much all my life, I’ve hung out with people who also enjoyed retro music. People who will waste hours complimenting Queen as though they were made of solid gold (okay, they kind of were), but in the same breath, they would dismiss the latest chart-topper as talentless and vapid and unnecessary. They would refer to us as the group that had taste, the ones who knew real music, while all those who listened to the most recent popular music were stupid sheep who just enjoyed what they were told to enjoy.
Do you enjoy movies? Superhero movies are popular lately, aren’t they? But have you ever actually picked up a real comic book? Can you name off every character who ever served as Batman? Or Robin? Because if you can’t, then there are some who would argue that you aren’t a “real” fan of superheroes. You’re just a lame poser, with no respect for the history of these characters.
We could even move away from media for a little bit, couldn’t we? Let’s talk about fashion, because the way that we enjoy dressing might communicate a lot about who we are as well. If you’re a woman who keeps herself covered from head to toe, then you’re assumed to be a prude, or you’re stuck-up, or you’re enslaved by the patriarchy. If you’re a woman who shows her cleavage, then you’re assumed to be a stupid slut with no self-respect and deserving of no respect from others. If you’re a man dressed in a feminine manner, then you’re assumed to be frivolous or weird or confused. If you’re an older person dressed in an alternative fashion, then people will tell you that you are too old for that, and you should start acting your age. If you’re a lesbian wearing a dress, then you aren’t “gay enough”, or you “don’t look gay”.
Heck, we could even talk about simple lifestyle, because even the choices that we make are full of assumptions. The people we date, the jobs we pursue, the places we live, the friends that we make – all of these are full of stereotypes and insults that try to tell us what the ‘proper way’ to be is.
These messages are everywhere, and, quite frankly, they’re confusing. They bounce you around from one place to another, telling you how you should act, what you should pursue, whether or not you’re allowed to enjoy this thing, who you’re better than. And, trust me: a lot of these judgements hinge on a hierarchy. They are based on the idea that one person (usually the once making the judgement) is automatically better than another person, based solely on the fact that they do or don’t do something.
And do you want to know who you’re better than? Nobody. Nobody at all.
You are not more emotionally stable than someone else just because you don’t take selfies.
You do not have better taste than someone else just because you listen to different music.
You are not more deserving of respect than someone just because you dress a certain way.
All of these, everything that I have been discussing, is just the difference between people. Some people like taking selfies. Some don’t. Some people like comic books, or superhero movies, or wearing jeans, or walking around naked, or sushi, or steak and potatoes, or rats or dogs or cats. Some don’t. And whether or not you like superficial things like these has nothing to do with your character, and more to do with how you enjoy filling your time.
And, really, you should feel free to fill your time with whatever makes you happy.
So long as what you enjoy doing doesn’t hurt anyone, there’s nothing wrong with it. And yet, we’re constantly trying to find new ways to shame people for enjoying things, whether it be scoffing at a girl drinking a pumpkin spice latte and calling her a “basic bitch”, or shaking our heads at a girl casually playing video games and labelling her a “fake gamer girl”.
And why do we do this? Why aren’t people allowed to enjoy things? Why must we make people feel ashamed for who they are, or what they enjoy?
And, more importantly: why do we feel the need to imply in this way that we are better than someone else?
Because it won’t make us any better people. It won’t make us smarter to call someone else stupid. It won’t make us more deserving of respect if we disrespect another. It won’t accomplish anything – nothing good, at least. The things that we say reflect nothing about them, and everything about us, and the way that we judge and belittle others. The things that we say are nothing more than reflections of our desire to prove that we are different and, therefore, better than them. The things that we say are evidence of our insecurities, not their failings.
And trust me when I say: it is more constructive to look at yourself. To truly and deeply try to figure out who we are as people, what makes us happy, and then strive to become comfortable with that, by reminding ourselves that there is nothing wrong with who we are, that we are valid and good and strong. At least, doing that is much more constructive than constantly looking down on other people.
So the next time that you see someone enjoying something that you don’t, let them. They aren’t wrong; they’re just different. And different is okay. Difference is what makes us the whole world, and we should be allowed to explore and enjoy our difference. We should be allowed to be ourselves, and enjoy who we are as people, while simultaneously allowing others the same right.
As the old idiom goes, “live and let live”.