4 reasons why taking pictures of yourself (even 25,000 of them) isn't as silly as it sounds.

What could you do with 54 hours?

Go ahead. I'll give you a minute to think.



GIF via "New Girl."

OK. Time's up. Here's what I bet you didn't say: Take pictures of yourself.

But a new survey estimates that's how exactly how much time a young adult will spend taking selfies in one year.

The report by Luster Premium White, a tooth whitening brand (because who else?), revealed that its participants took an average of nine selfies a week, investing seven minutes of their time per photo.

If that number doesn't shock you, maybe this one will: It's estimated that these young adults will take more than 25,000 pictures of themselves in their lifetime.

25,700 to be exact.

To be fair, the survey only included responses from 1,000 young adults, so broader assumptions about all millennials should be made cautiously. But stats like that are probably one of the reasons that millennials have such a bad rep when it comes to the iPhone self-portraits.

The truth is, parents — or anyone who doesn't take that many pictures of themselves — just don't understand.

GIF via "Parents Just Don't Understand"

But are selfies really a sign of unprecedented narcissism? Or are they no more than a harmless — or even potentially positive — photography trend?

We actually don't know.


GIF via "The Office."

The truth is that there isn't a lot of research on selfies and narcissism. A few studies hint at a slight correlation, but there are way too many variables and not enough research to be sure.

So, because the verdict is out, I choose to be a selfie optimist. And here's why.

First of all, there's nothing new about us wanting to take pictures of ourselves. Since the first human scratched a self-portrait on a cave wall, we've been infatuated with how we look.

And secondly, there are actually a few positive benefits of the "almighty selfie."

Here are four legitimate things that you can say to yourself the next time you scroll past 20 duck face pics:

1. Selfies can provide self-affirmation and identity.

Selfies can help construct our sense of self, particularly during crucial ages (aka the teen years) or during crucial times in our lives (major life changes, major body changes, etc.). So it makes sense that 65% of the teenage girls surveyed in the TODAY/AOL Ideal to Real Body Image Survey said that seeing their selfies on social media actually boosts their confidence.

Being able to look at yourself and say "This is who I am and this is what I look like and that's OK" is an incredibly helpful part of building an identity that is secure and self-defined.


Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty.

2. Selfies give people a chance to feel in control of the way they present themselves to the world.

Back in the day, your ability to take a "beautiful picture" (as in, a picture in which you, as the subject, feel beautiful) was often in someone else's hands, like that Olan Mills school photographer, who clearly didn't care about finding your best angle.

Today, the stakes are even higher. In a world where anyone can whip out a camera and take a cell phone picture of any one of us without our awareness (let alone our consent) and broadcast it to thousands of people on the Internet, selfies let us decide when, where, and most importantly how we want to be seen.

40% of the teens in the Today/AOL Body Image Survey said social media helps them "present [their] best face to the world." Psychologists call this power self-efficacy — the idea that we have control over our own world. That's incredibly important for any human, but especially for growing teens.

3. Selfies can be an empowering and accessible way to showcase a wide diversity of beauty.

Where once upon a time, we had to rely on what the mainstream media determined to be beautiful or acceptable for thousands of people to see, thanks to selfies and social media, we can now find beautiful images of people in all shapes, ages, colors, and sizes at our fingertips.

Now every single one of us with a smartphone has the power to show the world what makes us feel beautiful and gives us all a chance to be seen that way in a world that has historically reserved that adjective only for people who look a certain way.

Photo via iStock.

4. Selfies can help with human connection. Yes, really.

So much human connection happens digitally nowadays. What better way to share yourself with the people who you usually only communicate with through a keyboard than with a picture of your face?

In fact, people sharing selfies of themselves in real time during major world and cultural events (like what happened recently using Snapchat during Ramadan in Mecca) is changing how we learn about and experience the world around us. For an American teenager sitting in his or her bedroom to be able to see firsthand what teenagers in Mecca are seeing and to see how similar those teenagers are to themselves is a hugely profound connection that we wouldn't have without selfie culture.

Even if those reasons don't encourage you to run outside right now, find the best lighting you can, and stage an impromptu photo shoot, they should at the very least allow you to look at the selfie-trend with a bit of balance and moderation. Selfies became a global phenomenon for a reason: our very human, very normal desire to see ourselves as others might see us. 54 hours of that may not be the end of the world.

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Disney has come under fire for problematic portrayals of non-white and non-western cultures in many of its older movies. They aren't the only one, of course, but since their movies are an iconic part of most American kids' childhoods, Disney's messaging holds a lot of power.

Fortunately, that power can be used for good, and Disney can serve as an example to other companies if they learn from their mistakes, account for their misdeeds, and do the right thing going forward. Without getting too many hopes up, it appears that the entertainment giant may have actually done just that with the new Frozen II film.

According to NOW Toronto, the producers of Frozen II have entered into a contract with the Sámi people—the Indigenous people of the Scandinavian regions—to ensure that they portray the culture with respect.

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Though there was not a direct portrayal of the Sámi in the first Frozen movie, the choral chant that opens the film was inspired by an ancient Sámi vocal tradition. In addition, the clothing worn by Kristoff closely resembled what a Sámi reindeer herder would wear. The inclusion of these elements of Sámi culture with no context or acknowledgement sparked conversations about cultural appropriation and erasure on social media.

Frozen II features Indigenous culture much more directly, and even addressed the issue of Indigenous erasure. Filmmakers Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, along with producer Peter Del Vecho, consulted with experts on how to do that respectfully—the experts, of course, being the Sámi people themselves.

Sámi leaders met with Disney producer Peter Del Vecho in September 2019.Sámediggi Sametinget/Flickr

The Sámi parliaments of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and the non-governmental Saami Council reached out to the filmmakers when they found out their culture would be highlighted in the film. They formed a Sámi expert advisory group, called Verddet, to assist filmmakers in with how to accurately and respectfully portray Sámi culture, history, and society.

In a contract signed by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Sámi leaders, the Sámi stated their position that "their collective and individual culture, including aesthetic elements, music, language, stories, histories, and other traditional cultural expressions are property that belong to the Sámi," and "that to adequately respect the rights that the Sámi have to and in their culture, it is necessary to ensure sensitivity, allow for free, prior, and informed consent, and ensure that adequate benefit sharing is employed."

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Disney agreed to work with the advisory group, to produce a version of Frozen II in one Sámi language, as well as to "pursue cross-learning opportunities" and "arrange for contributions back to the Sámi society."

Anne Lájla Utsi, managing director at the International Sámi Film Institute, was part of the Verddet advisory group. She told NOW, "This is a good example of how a big, international company like Disney acknowledges the fact that we own our own culture and stories. It hasn't happened before."

"Disney's team really wanted to make it right," said Utsi. "They didn't want to make any mistakes or hurt anybody. We felt that they took it seriously. And the film shows that. We in Verddet are truly proud of this collaboration."

Sounds like you've done well this time, Disney. Let's hope such cultural sensitivity and collaboration continues, and that other filmmakers and production companies will follow suit.

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