Women's studies class sparks 'selfie' website launch

By Danielle LeBlanc
On April 18, 2014

The concept of a "selfie" is not new. With selfies plaguing Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, senior Olivia Whitton got the idea for her own personal project: ForYourSelfie.com.

Whitton is an English major with a minor in American studies. However, she plans to go to grad school for gender studies. This year during her women's studies class she got the idea for her project For-YourSelfie.com, which is a website where people can post and view selfies.

"I started it in the middle of February after being in a women's studies class," Whitton said. "Our assignment was to bring in a selfie."

According to Whitton the class was not told what they were doing with the selfies. However, after they brought them in and shared, the class talked about how it felt to take a selfie.

"Most people had a really negative experience with it, which I found interesting," Whitton said. "They either felt weird taking a selfie or they weren't comfortable with themselves or whatever."

Upon learning this, Whitton became inspired to do something about it. Next, Whitton did research about which blogging site would be the best platform. According to Whitton, it was pretty easy from there.

"I just told my friends and my family, and they just started giving me all their selfies," Whitton said. "Then it's just people telling people."

According to Whitton, the goal of her project is to take back the power of the selfie, and to break through the stigmas surrounding them. Whether someone just feels good about their self and wants to document it, they're trying to improve their self-esteem or they simply want to remember a specific moment, there are many reasons for taking a selfie.

Whitton claimed that whatever the reason is, a person should be able to do so without the fear of shame or stigmatization.

Professor Peter Welch is the one that taught the women's studies class where Whitton got the idea for the project. Welch said that he is very proud of Whitton and thinks highly of her project.

"I am so proud of Olivia for putting her idea into action, and for the reclaiming of selfies as a healthy and useful form of self-expression in creating positive self-media," Welch said.

Welch said that he also thinks Whitton's project has had a positive impact on anyone who has participated or seen her website.

According to Whitton, Welch has been extremely helpful and supportive. Whitton claimed that during class she told him that she wanted to start this project. Whitton said that once she set the website up, she emailed him and he then sent her a few of his selfies.

"He's been great," Whitton said. "He's just been really supportive."

To post a selfie up on the website people can just submit it through the website on the "add yours" page, and then upload the picture. However, according to Whitton, that's not the only way someone can submit his or her selfie. Submissions can also be made through Twitter or Instagram by adding a #ForYourSelfie on the tweet or Instagram.

"It's mostly just this huge collection that people look at and can just browse through," Whitton said. "You can scroll infinitely until you get to the bottom."

Although most people just look at the pictures, Whitton said it is possible to reblog the selfies as well. People can also comment on the selfies and follow them as well. Whitton even said that her website is kind of like Instagram just for selfies.

"People get pretty creative with the selfies themselves," Whitton said.

Whitton recalled one taken from Libby's on St. Patrick's Day night. "This girl took a selfie and all kinds of people that were standing in line waiting for drinks were in the background," Whitton said.

Whitton claimed that the website has grown really fast. In just a little over two months, Whitton has acquired approximately 500 selfies. However, she assumes that some of those selfies are of the same person of course. According to Whitton, people just started spreading and sharing the site on Facebook and telling their friends and family.

"The next thing I knew, I would log into the site and there would be just mass submissions of selfies," Whitton said.

According to Whitton, it's mostly girls submitting to the site. However, there are a lot of guys that submit their selfies as well. Whitton claimed that is part of the point; anyone can take a selfie that wants to.

During the average week, Whitton can get anywhere from 30 to 50 submissions. However, she claimed it definitely depends on the day. On the weekends and during events, people tend to send in a lot more submissions.

"People are taking selfies when they're out with their friends," Whitton said. "But there can be days when I'll have 15 submissions when days I don't have any."

However, some people have had mixed reactions to Whitton's ForYourSelfie.com. While many people praise the site, there are those that dislike it as well. Whitton was recently published on Thought Catalog and The Huffington Post, and some negative comments about her project quickly followed.

"There was one that called me a vapid narcissist or something along those lines," Whitton said.

Whitton said she believes that many people of these negative commenters are misinterpreting the point of her project and aren't seeing the good she is trying to do.

"I wish that they would realize that I'm trying to spread positivity," Whitton said.

Freshman Alex Modigliani agrees that selfies should be a positive thing. She feels that someone should be able to confidently post a selfie without being afraid of being judged. "I think people shouldn't be worried about sharing their picture," Modigliani said. "People should be able to feel pretty in a selfie and want to share that with others."

Junior Margret McGovern said she feels that selfies are a beautiful thing. Even though she admits she doesn't take many herself, she agrees that it is a good form of self-expression.

"I think it's beautiful, a close up of your face like that," McGovern said. "Even if it's silly ... if people want to take one, more power to them."

Whitton claimed she doesn't know when or if there will be an end to her site. For now she said that as long as the submissions continue, she'll keep posting them.

"For now I'm just taking them as they come," Whitton said. "People are still submitting a lot, so I guess as long as the selfies are coming in, I will have the site."

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