Live and let live.
Taking selfies is a common pastime now. We might take multiple selfies every day and post them on social media, showing our face, our outfit, or our cute butt. But maybe taking selfies isn’t our cup of tea, and the thought never occurs to us.
Yet, regardless of where we fall on the spectrum of selfie-takers, 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? Is it a pastime enjoyed only by narcissists and monsters? Is the universal sign of a stupid, vapid person?
In our culture, we have been baffled by the existence of selfies. We’ve written articles about it, we’ve put money into researching it, and the chances are, regardless of what we think about selfies, we can probably find a study that backs up our opinion. We are so obsessed with finding out what it means about us, about people, and about our society.
But let’s change our focus for a bit. Let’s talk about music.
Do we like music? I like music. Retro music like 70s and 80s rock or pop has always been my thing. I’m into Pat Benatar, Bon Jovi, and Guns N’ Roses. It depends on my mood. Pretty much all my life, I’ve hung out with people who also enjoyed retro music, people who will waste hours complimenting Queen as 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 who had taste, the one who knew real music, while those who listened to the most recent popular music were stupid sheep who just enjoyed what they were told to enjoy.
How about movies? Superhero movies are popular lately, aren’t they? But have we ever actually picked up a real comic book? Can we name off every character who ever served as Batman? Or Robin? If we can’t, some would argue that we aren’t “real” fans of superheroes. We’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. The way we enjoy dressing up communicate a lot about who we are. If a woman is covered from head to toe, she is assumed to be a prude, or stuck-up, or enslaved by the patriarchy. If a woman shows her cleavage, she is assumed to be a stupid slut with no self-respect and deserving of no respect from others. If a man dressed in a feminine manner, he is assumed to be frivolous or weird or confused. If an older person is dressed in an alternative fashion, people will tell that he is too old and that he should start acting his age. If a lesbian is wearing a dress, she is assumed to be not “gay enough.”
We could even talk about simple lifestyle. 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 is the proper way to be.
These messages are everywhere, and, quite frankly, they’re confusing. They bounce around us from one place to another, telling us how we should act and what we should pursue, and whether or not we’re allowed to enjoy this thing. And, trust me: a lot of these judgments hinge on a hierarchy. They are based on the idea that one person (usually the one making the judgment) is automatically better than another person, based solely on the fact that they do or don’t do something.
Let’s ask ourselves: are we better than someone else? Who? The answer is nobody. Nobody at all.
We are not more emotionally stable than someone else because we don’t take selfies.
We do not have better taste than someone else because we listen to different music.
We are not more deserving of respect than someone because we dress a certain way.
What we have discussed just shows 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. Whether or not we like superficial things like these has nothing to do with our character. It has something to do with how we enjoy filling our time.
We should feel free to fill our time with whatever makes us happy.
As long as what we enjoy the things we like without hurting anyone, there’s nothing wrong with it. 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 labeling her a “fake gamer girl.”
Why do we do this? Why aren’t people allowed to enjoy things? Why must we make people feel ashamed of who they are, or what they enjoy?
More importantly: why do we feel the need to imply in this way that we are better than someone else?
It won’t make us 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 good. 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 the 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.
Trust me when I say, “It is more constructive to look at ourselves to figure out who we are as people, and to find 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.” Doing that is more constructive than constantly looking down on other people.
Next time we see someone enjoying something we don’t, let them. They aren’t wrong; they’re just different. And different is okay. Difference is what makes the whole world. We should be allowed to explore and enjoy our difference.
As the old idiom goes: “live and let live.”
Author: Ciara Hall
Image: Allef Vinicius /Unsplash
Editor: Angel Lebailly
Copy editor: Sara Kärpänen