Dear Wayne and Wanda,
My friend recently got divorced, and in going through that transition, she shifted gears, got healthy, and lost a lot of weight. I know she feels really good about it, she worked very hard to do it, and we were all supportive and proud of her. But now that she's this skinnier, hotter version of herself and single, she's completely driving me crazy with her social media.
She used to just post photos of beautiful Alaska landscapes, maybe some cat memes, inspirational quotes — the usual girl stuff. Now it's just one selfie after another, usually with her posing provocatively, barely dressed. Sometimes her face isn't even in it, it's just her flat stomach and chest, or her legs stretched out on a lawn chair. Or it's her face but it's half covered by her hair, she's pouting or biting her lip and staring seductively into the camera. These photos are ridiculously captioned with things like "Tuesday!" or "Doing things my way!" I mean, it's obvious there's no reason to put these photos up except that she wants the positive feedback.
And man does she get feedback. Tons of likes and hearts and guys telling her how hot she is. This drives me crazy for two reasons. One, I just feel like she's debasing herself and pandering, selling some cheap Kardashian version of herself when really she's this smart, complex person. She's better than this! But second, I've had a crush on her a long time, and when her marriage ended I thought eventually, when the dust settled, I might have a chance. Now I just see her getting more and more superficial with these stupid sexy posts and not only am I jealous of the dudes who are flirting with her via her social media, but I'm worried the sweet, caring girl I always liked is changing into something superficial.
I want to say something to her, but what? Help!
By 2013, "selfie" was so frequently uttered that the Oxford English Dictionary named it the word of the year. Intellectuals everywhere groaned, but the regular Joes and Josephines took photos of themselves flashing a thumbs-up — because, let's face it, selfies are now a massive part of our culture and even essential to how many people communicate. Millennials are expected to take 25,700 selfies in their lifetime, 75 percent of Snapchat posts are selfies, and on Instagram, a staggering 1,000 selfies post every second. What gives?
Already countless studies have launched, dissecting why we take selfies, and the research is interesting. Take, for example, this study in Psychology Today. It categorized selfie-takers into three groups: basically "borderline" people who take them but don't post them, those labeled "acute," who take them and post a few a day, and then the chronic folks, who take selfies all day long and post nearly all of them. Interestingly, the borderline group who barely or never posted pics reported higher marks for self-confidence, while the most extreme chronic group felt driven by social competition and the need for validation. In other words, people who posted more needed more input from their audience to feel better about themselves.
What could this possible tell us about your friend? Consider this: Perhaps her daily deluge of flesh-bearing self-portraits isn't driven by ego, but by the lack of it. Quite possibly, she isn't oversharing images because she feels so sexy, but because she doesn't feel that way at all and is hungry for feedback that will help elevate her confidence.
So before you jump to conclusions or judge her too harshly, take a step back and perhaps reframe this photographic phase she's going through as a step in her transition from life as a married woman toward rediscovering who she is in this slimmed down body, and single. Sideline your crush, and be there for her as a friend.
Maybe she is trying super-hard for some thumbs-ups, hearts, comments and ego-boosting acknowledgment. Or maybe she's just really damn proud of all of the work she's put in and she's stoked to show it all off!
So many people struggle through breakups and body image issues, and many never get out of those ruts. She's not only survived both, she used them all as fuel to thrive, improve and even reinvent herself. You should be congratulating, not selfie-hating.
But this isn't about her — this is about you and your feelings for her. And I bet you're suddenly pretty concerned that since your friend's body is banging and her selfies are fire emoji, that you're going to have some serious competition for her affection and attention. Well, it isn't going to help your cause if you're posting frowning faces–– with emoticons and in real life.
I'm sure one day her feed/timeline will be a balance of her body and her brilliance, but right now she's basking in the glow of being and feeling awesome. So you can either jump onboard this viral sensation and start making your move, or stand on the sideline and get the heck out of her way.
Want to respond to a recent column, point out a dating trend, or ask Wanda and Wayne for wisdom regarding your love life? Give them a shout at firstname.lastname@example.org.