Always let your freak flag fly.
Selfie trends change more frequently than Kylie Jenner changes her hair color. A few months ago, it was all about T-Rex hands, you know, flexing your hand like a claw and placing it on or near your face. Then, it was fingermouthing, which sounds v sexual but literally just involves resting your fingers on your mouth. Next, it’ll be something ridiculous like tongue-wagging. I mean, it’s about time for tongues to come back into style?—?right, Miley?
Once we move away from binary thinking and stop seeing our self and our selfie as different beings, we can recognize that they are both important facets of who we are.
My friends will be the first to tell you that I’m a selfie-aholic and so will my Twitter bio. I have no shame that I’m like your average fourteen-year-old girl trapped inside a 24-year-old’s body, snapping everything from my OOTDs to double chins. As someone who knows way too much about what the Kardashians are wearing and Selena Gomez’s Cheetos selfies, I wanted to get to the root of why (and how) these A-listers make huge trends happen all the GD time. If Selena poses a certain way on Instagram or Kim decides “#flawless” is the coolest thing ever, what exactly makes people want to follow their trend? I specifically wanted to explore the psychological root of how a selfie trend starts. Did Kylie just wake up one day and think I’m going to put my hand on my giant lips and then expect everyone to copy her?
Welp, I decided to wake up one day and start a trend of my own called the “You’re Welcome Selfie.” To celebrate confidence and body-positivity, you take a mirror selfie each day and caption it “you’re welcome.” It started out as an inside joke between coworkers and friends, where everyday, we’d take mirror selfies (oftentimes, very ridiculous ones) and send them to one another. But I had my sights set on making our silly game the next big thing on the internet.
The first thing I did was create a separate Instagram account called “yourewelcomeselfie,” which as you can see, brought in a whole bunch of followers.
My plan of action was to post several mirror selfies each night for two weeks straight and hashtag them with “#yourewelcomeselfie.” I would also use a bunch of selfie hashtags like “#shareyoureselfie” and “#shamelessselfie” to make my posts seen and get followers. To get started, I posted a mixture of serious and goofy selfies.
After a few days of selfies, they weren’t exactly the most popular posts in terms of likes, so I decided it was time to step up my game. I searched selfie hashtags on Instagram and began commenting on (OK, spamming) random people’s selfies, asking if I could regram them. I even made this cool dude I met on the Internet a star, racking up a total of 18 likes!
I got coworkers, friends and friends of friends to take You’re Welcome selfies, and even my own mother to snap one in the Target dressing room?—?but it was finally time for me to admit that my selfie hashtag was failing?—?I still had 20 followers and averaged 15 likes per post. Yiiiikes.
So, I turned to Instagram life and style blogger Dani McGowan of Mermaid Waves for some expert selfie advice.
Dani knows how to take a good selfie?—?but she’s also great at cultivating a loyal following from her brunch pictures and stylish outfits. When it comes to starting trends, Dani believes that the first thing you need to consider is how you’re going to connect to your audience. “I think trends begin when an audience feels some kind of a connection or a need toward a topic to be brought forward,” Dani tells us. “Think body positivity like #AerieReal. I am always drawn to things that I can see parts of myself in, with anything from clothing to a cause.” Since my selfies were a joke between my friends as a way to connect, perhaps I had failed to bridge the gap to my followers.
“To get something to spread beyond your friends I think you have to just go for it with all the confidence and belief that you have the ‘next big thing,’” Dani continues. “If people get that impression they will want to have a part in it too.” Since I knew my selfie trend was failing, I decided to just embrace it and have fun with it during the last days of my experiment. Dani agrees that she gets the most likes when she’s being “authentic and silly” by bringing her personality into photos. So I decided to do the same and have my friends do it with me.
So, I might not have invented the Internet’s next big trend like I wanted to?—?but I did learn that it’s more fun to show your weird side usually reserved for Snapchats to your best friends, on Instagram. TBH, I probably would post a mirror selfie everyday on my personal Instagram, but I don’t for fear that my followers would think I’m vapid and self-obsessed. Having the freedom to post some good booty selfies I’ve been saving in my camera roll, and ones where my friends look fly AF was liberating. It was a way for me to express myself and show the people I love being effing awesome.
The thing people get wrong about selfies is that it’s not just a matter of saying “Here’s how hot I look, please like me.” Selfies, and social media as a whole, are an outlet for creative and self-expression. You can tell so much about a person from the way they selfie, because it’s an earnest projection of how they see themselves. Since selfies are arguably the most vulnerable social media content, they tend to be carefully crafted: perfect light, flawless hair and a little pout thrown with a filter over it that makes you look like an angel. A lot of times, we’re afraid to be our true selves on social media because we think we have to be a certain way: perfect. Once we move past this notion, perhaps we’ll have more confidence to post selfies that embrace our imperfections that make us human.
“Once we move away from binary thinking and stop seeing our self and our selfie as different beings, we can recognize that they are both important facets of who we are,” Dani says. “There is something aspirational about the moments we choose to share and they can become the sketch for how we shape ourselves.”
I can’t tell you the last time I had more fun on Instagram than I did with You’re Welcome selfie. Sure, I didn’t get a lot of likes, but I gave zero fucks about it. I didn’t have to fit into a neat little box with carefully edited pictures?—?I could post those weird elevator selfies and be happy with it. I got to be more spur of the moment and 100% myself, even if no one else understood it.
So when it comes to starting a trend, I may not be an expert?—?but I do know that if you stop caring and start doing what you want, you’ll have way more fun and, if you’re lucky, gain a follower or two in the process.