Selfies: Honesty, insecurity and community shown at campus event


By Jessi Haish

Zachery Cramer wakes up every morning and looks in the mirror to see bags under his eyes.

The freshman business management major says he sleeps and takes care of himself, but the bags are still there.

“I’ve had these bags for, like, 12 years,” Cramer said. “I’ll take pictures of myself in a lot of light hoping it will help.”

Cramer is just one student who has a feature that gets to him on a daily basis; however, he’s recently been told people don’t notice the bags because of his other features, and that changed his perspective.

An event will be held 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday in Neptune Central to help those like Cramer receive positive feedback about their image. Hundreds of selfies taken by students, including Cramer, will be posted on the walls and on tables. Attendees will receive Post-it notes and markers to write compliments to post to the photos. Neptune Hall Director Adam Riegle will give presentations on body image throughout the event.

Kalenna Kaske, a friend of Cramer’s, shared a video that discusses “redefining beauty.” The video was made by Dove, which manufactures personal care products.

In the video, people talk about how their features irk them and how they try to hide it when they take selfies. A photo gallery event is also shown, which inspired Wednesday’s campus event.

Kaske had started to think about how the video could be applied to NIU when Cramer sent her a message saying he had the same idea.

“When I saw the Dove video, I thought of all my friends and myself,” Cramer said. “When we take a picture, we’re always like, ‘Can we redo that?’ or ‘Oh, I’m wearing my glasses,’ stuff like that. I thought about it and I thought this project would be really good to get people out of their shells and realize it’s OK to just look like you rather than having to pose as something else.”

The two began talking about bringing the selfie event to campus and worked with their residential halls to do so. Kaske from Neptune and Cramer from Douglas combined forces to create a similar event. They created a Facebook page Feb. 24 to solicit photos and started putting together an event so the photos could be displayed.

“We made a Facebook [event] asking people to post a selfie explaining what bothered them,” Kaske said. “In the next few days, it blew up.”

By noon Friday — the deadline for submissions — more than 350 photos were submitted, Riegle said. Photos have continued to be posted even though they may not appear at the event.

“Even if no one showed up [to] the actual event, the amazing feedback and people showing Huskie heart has been overpowering,” Riegle said.

Some posters explain their personal struggles with their facial structures, curly hair, crooked teeth and more.

Freshman French major Rachel LeSage posted a selfie and was surprised people were still leaving kind comments days later, even though she feels self-conscious about her smile and hair.

“It’s funny to see the way people see themselves versus how the world actually sees them,” LeSage said.

Cramer said he can’t believe the event has taken off the way it did. He said he has seen some high school seniors posting on the Facebook page, saying they will be attending NIU in the fall and are “excited to see that you guys do stuff like this.”

Kaske said she gets tears in her eyes as she scrolls the page because she can relate to those she doesn’t know.

“It’s nice to know that there’s still that faith in humanity,” Cramer said. “We think this event will be eye-opening for people. We want this to impact as big a group as possible.”