Maverick Notes

Patricia Torvalds“Patricia!” my dad will snap at me as I purse my lips or widen my eyes or maybe even genuinely smile at my phone, held an arm’s length away. “Your friends know what you look like. Stop taking selfies!”

“Dad,” I’ll start, in my patient teenager voice. “We’re having a conversation. I’m updating Sydney on my day. Every eight seconds. It’s like texting!”

My dad will inevitably roll his eyes. Sometimes he will threaten to take my phone away if I keep taking selfies. It’s a risk I’m willing to take: I love Snapchat. I love selfies with my cat, my boyfriend, my friends, confused adults. “I’ll take it,” I’ll huff at my camera-illiterate mother as she attempts to get the lighting right in pictures before I grab her phone and turn on the front camera. “Come here, Minky,” I’ll call to my cat, phone at the ready. “Vanity, definitely my favorite sin,” Al Pacino famously said at the end of “The Devil’s Advocate.”by: SUBMITTED PHOTO: PATRICIA TORVALDS - Patricia Torvalds takes a selfie while driving with her dad, Linus Torvalds.

Even more, I love the idea of selfies. I love the power that comes with wielding the camera. In a society where social media and representation is spiraling out of control, the ability to choose exactly how you look in a picture is more valuable than it ever has been, and maybe ever will be. And in a time when I rarely receive the body autonomy I deserve, where catcalling, casual unwarranted touches and even rape are disgustingly and constantly normalized, selfies allow me to choose how I am perceived, and when and why.

When I take a selfie — or 200 — I am permitting myself to love myself. The self-confidence and pride in myself that girls are often told to ignore or to hide with demurity or modesty is front and center. I like how I look. And I’m not afraid to document it. The normalization of selfies is beginning to normalize self-love. Maybe not a lot. But a little bit.

Also, I adore the “selfie culture”: all the excitement about selfies, from #SelfieSunday to casual and constant self-portraits for no real reason at all. “Love your selfie before you love anyone elsie” will probably be my senior quote. And I’m definitely not alone in my appreciation. Riverdale once blacklisted Snapchat on the school WiFi. After a school-wide rebellion, complete with posters and an incredibly offensive Twitter account, Snapchat was reinstated just three days later.

Selfies are vapid. Selfies are dumb and a perpetuation of teenage self-obsession. But that’s the whole point! We’re all the centers of our own worlds. Selfies, too, are thoughtful and funny and proud. They’re narcissistic and a little silly. They’re weird and techy and parents sometimes don’t really get them. Selfies are the high-school experience. Personally, I can’t wait for another Ferris Bueller-style movie that glorifies us dumb teens ... and our selfies.

Patricia Torvalds is a junior at Riverdale High School, and she writes a monthly column for the Review. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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