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.

Since his first hit single "Keep Your Head Up" in 2011, award-winning multi-platinum recording artist Andy Grammer has made a name for himself as the king of the feel-good anthem. From "Good to Be Alive (Hallelujah)" to "Honey, I'm Good" to "Back Home" and more, his positive, upbeat songs have blared on beaches and at backyard barbecues every summer.

So what does a singer who loves to perform in front of live audiences and is known for uplifting music do during an unexpectedly challenging year of global pandemic lockdown?

He goes inward.

Grammer told Upworthy that losing the ability to perform during the pandemic forced him to look at where his self-worth came from. "I thought I would have scored better, to be honest," he says. "Like, 'Oh, I get it from all the important, right places!' And then it's taken all away in one moment, and you're like, 'Oh, nope, I was getting a lot from that.'

"It's kind of cool to break all the way down and then hopefully put myself back together in a way that's a little more solid," he says.

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Since his first hit single "Keep Your Head Up" in 2011, award-winning multi-platinum recording artist Andy Grammer has made a name for himself as the king of the feel-good anthem. From "Good to Be Alive (Hallelujah)" to "Honey, I'm Good" to "Back Home" and more, his positive, upbeat songs have blared on beaches and at backyard barbecues every summer.

So what does a singer who loves to perform in front of live audiences and is known for uplifting music do during an unexpectedly challenging year of global pandemic lockdown?

He goes inward.

Grammer told Upworthy that losing the ability to perform during the pandemic forced him to look at where his self-worth came from. "I thought I would have scored better, to be honest," he says. "Like, 'Oh, I get it from all the important, right places!' And then it's taken all away in one moment, and you're like, 'Oh, nope, I was getting a lot from that.'

"It's kind of cool to break all the way down and then hopefully put myself back together in a way that's a little more solid," he says.

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Each year, an estimated 1.8 million people in the United States are affected by cancer — most commonly cancers of the breast, lung, prostate, and blood cancers such as leukemia. While not everyone overcomes the disease, thanks to science, more people are surviving — and for longer — than ever before in history.

We asked three people whose lives have been impacted by cancer to share their stories – how their lives were changed by the disease, and how they're using that experience to change the future of cancer treatments with the hope that ultimately, in the fight against cancer, science will win. Here's what they had to say.

Celine Ryan, 55, engineer database programmer and mother of five from Detroit, MI

Photo courtesy of Celine Ryan

In September 2013, Celine Ryan woke up from a colonoscopy to some traumatic news. Her gastroenterologist showed her a picture of the cancerous mass they found during the procedure.

Ryan and her husband, Patrick, had scheduled a colonoscopy after discovering some unusual bleeding, so the suspicion she could have cancer was already there. Neither of them, however, were quite prepared for the results to be positive -- or for the treatment to begin so soon. Just two days after learning the news, Ryan had surgery to remove the tumor, part of her bladder, and 17 cancerous lymph nodes. Chemotherapy and radiation soon followed.

Ryan's treatment was rigorous – but in December 2014, she got the devastating news that the cancer, once confined to her colon, had spread to her lungs. Her prognosis, they said, was likely terminal.

But rather than give up hope, Ryan sought support from online research, fellow cancer patients and survivors, and her medical team. When she brought up immunotherapy to her oncologist, he quickly agreed it was the best course of action. Ryan's cancer, like a majority of colon and pancreatic cancers, had been caused by a defect on the gene KRAS, which can result in a very aggressive cancer that is virtually "undruggable." According to the medical literature, the relatively smooth protein structure of the KRAS gene meant that designing inhibitors to bind to surface grooves and treat the cancer has been historically difficult. Through her support systems, Ryan discovered an experimental immunotherapy trial at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD., and called them immediately to see if she was eligible. After months of trying to determine whether she was a suitable candidate for the experimental treatment, Ryan was finally accepted.

The treatment, known as tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte therapy, or TIL, is a testament to how far modern science has evolved. With this therapy, doctors remove a tumor and harvest special immune cells that are found naturally in the tumor. Doctors then grow the cells in a lab over the next several weeks with a protein that promotes rapid TIL growth – and once the cells number into the billions, they are infused back into the patient's body to fight the cancer. On April 1, 2015, Ryan had her tumor removed at the NIH. Two months later, she went inpatient for four weeks to have the team "wash out" her immune system with chemotherapy and infuse the cells – all 148 billion of them – back into her body.

Six weeks after the infusion, Ryan and Patrick went back for a follow-up appointment – and the news they got was stunning: Not only had no new tumors developed, but the six existing tumors in her lungs had shrunk significantly. Less than a year after her cell infusion, in April 2016, the doctors told Ryan news that would have been impossible just a decade earlier: Thanks to the cell infusion, Ryan was now considered NED – no evaluable disease. Her body was cancer-free.

Ryan is still NED today and continuing annual follow-up appointments at the NIH, experiencing things she never dreamed she'd be able to live to see, such as her children's high school and college graduations. She's also donating her blood and cells to the NIH to help them research other potential cancer treatments. "It was an honor to do so," Ryan said of her experience. "I'm just thrilled, and I hope my experience can help a lot more people."

Patrice Lee, PhD, VP of Pharmacology, Toxicology and Exploratory Development at Pfizer

Photo courtesy of Patrice Lee

Patrice Lee got into scientific research in an unconventional way – through the late ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau.

Lee never met Cousteau but her dreams of working with him one day led her to pursue a career in science. Initially, Lee completed an undergraduate degree in marine biology; eventually, her interests changed and she decided to get a dual doctoral degree in physiology and toxicology at Duke University. She now works at Pfizer's R&D site in Boulder, CO (formerly Array BioPharma), leading a group of scientists who determine the safety and efficacy of new oncology drugs.

"Scientists focused on drug discovery and development in the pharmaceutical industry are deeply committed to inventing new therapies to meet unmet needs," Lee says, describing her field of work. "We're driven to achieve new medicines and vaccines as quickly as possible without sacrificing safety."

Among the drugs Lee has helped develop during her career, including cancer therapies, she says around a dozen are currently in development, while nine have received FDA approval — an incredible accomplishment as many scientists spend their careers without seeing their drug make it to market. Lee's team is particularly interested in therapies for brain metastases — something that Lee says is a largely unmet need in cancer research, and something her team is working on from a variety of angles. "Now that we've had rapid success with mRNA vaccine technology, we hope to explore what the future holds when applying this technology to cancers," Lee says.

But while evaluating potential cancer therapies is a professional passion of Lee's, it's also a mission that's deeply personal. "I'm also a breast cancer survivor," she says. "So I've been on the other side of things and have participated in a clinical trial."

However, seeing how melanoma therapies that she helped develop have affected other real-life cancer patients, she says, has been a highlight of her career. "We had one therapy that was approved for patients with BRAF-mutant metastatic melanoma," Lee recalls. "Our team in Boulder was graced by a visit from a patient that had benefited from these drugs that we developed. It was a very special moment for the entire team."

None of these therapies would be available, Lee says without rigorous science behind it: "Facts come from good science. Facts will drive the development of new drugs, and that's what will help patients."

Chiuying "Cynthia" Kuk (they/them) MS, 34, third-year medical student at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine

Photo courtesy of Cynthia Kuk

Cynthia Kuk was just 10 years old when they had a conversation that would change their life forever.

"My mother, who worked as a translator for the government at the time, had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and after her chemotherapy treatments she would get really sick," Kuk, who uses they/them pronouns, recalls. "When I asked my dad why mom was puking so much, he said it was because of the medicine she was taking that would help her get better."

Kuk's response was immediate: "That's so stupid! Why would a medicine make you feel worse instead of better? When I'm older, I want to create medicine that won't make people sick like that."

Nine years later, Kuk traveled from their native Hong Kong to the United States to do exactly that. Kuk enrolled in a small, liberal arts college for their Bachelor's degree, and then four years later started a PhD program in cancer research. Although Kuk's mother was in remission from her cancer at the time, Kuk's goal was the same as it had been as a 10-year-old watching her suffer through chemotherapy: to design a better cancer treatment, and change the landscape of cancer research forever.

Since then, Kuk's mission has changed slightly.

"My mom's cancer relapsed in 2008, and she ended up passing away about five years after that," Kuk says. "After my mom died, I started having this sense of urgency. Cancer research is such that you work for twenty years, and at the end of it you might have a fancy medication that could help people, but I wanted to help people now." With their mother still at the forefront of their mind, Kuk decided to quit their PhD program and enter medical school.

Now, Kuk plans to pursue a career in emergency medicine – not only because they are drawn to the excitement of the emergency room, but because the ER is a place where the most marginalized people tend to seek care.

"I have a special interest in the LGBTQ+ population, as I identify as queer and nonbinary," says Kuk. "A lot of people in this community and other marginalized communities access care through the ER and also tend to avoid medical care since there is a history of mistreatment and judgement from healthcare workers. How you carry yourself as a doctor, your compassion, that can make a huge difference in someone's care."

In addition to making a difference in the lives of LGBTQ+ patients, Kuk wants to make a difference in the lives of patients with cancer as well, like their mother had.

"We've diagnosed patients in the Emergency Department with cancer before," Kuk says. "I can't make cancer good news but how you deliver bad news and the compassion you show could make a world of difference to that patient and their family."

During their training, Kuk advocates for patients by delivering compassionate and inclusive care, whether they happen to have cancer or not. In addition to emphasizing their patient's pronouns and chosen names, they ask for inclusive social and sexual histories as well as using gender neutral language. In doing this, they hope to make medicine as a whole more accessible for people who have been historically pushed aside.

"I'm just one person, and I can't force everyone to respect you, if you're marginalized," Kuk says. "But I do want to push for a culture where people appreciate others who are different from them."