03/11/2014 04:30 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Your Hot Selfie Reveals All

What's your default? What's your favorite go-to expression? Don't be coy; you know you have one.

Sweet smirk? Goofy grin? Smoochy duck-face? Maybe you're more of a bored hipster sneer, a coy Mona Lisa or a sultry come-hither, like you just had sex with a giant chocolate Jesus and someone took God's name in sweet, sticky vain. I like that one, too.


Wait, let me be more specific: What's your default selfie expression, the specific look you toss off when you hold your smartphone out at arm's length and click a self pic, adding your favorite little preen, maybe a head tilt, a little whatchoo-lookin'-at sex bomb, and then post it to InstaFaceGramChat. Got one of those? Of course you do.

Selfies! The thing to do. The place to be. 2013's word of the year, after all, which means they're not just for self-obsessed Millennials named Dylan and Mylie and Katniss. The pope does it, big-name celebs do it, models and porn stars and politicians, too. It's now the Internet of Everything: posting a selfie is the new cogito ergo sum.

It's true. Unless you're over 60 or under a rock, odds are fantastically good that you've already shot a selfie or ten, maybe a thousand, maybe enough to have one of your smoochy duck-faces counted among the over 650,000 selfies that the kids over at SelfieCity recently gathered from a half-dozen countries, culling them down to a few thousand ideal examples before running them all through a facial analysis measuring software algorithm thing.

And why? Because it's 2014, silly. This is what we do now. This is what we deem important. Because life is nothing if not futile, ridiculous and wonderful, all at once. Haven't you heard?

Gauged by their selfies, Russians seem pretty miserable. Brazilians and Thais, on the other hand, seem pretty happy, smiling a lot and not taking it all so damn seriously.

Also: women take more selfies than men, and they like to pose more dramatically when they do it. Overall, humans take fewer selfies than you might have been led to believe. Except for young people, who take them all. The damn. Time.

Fascinating! Sort of! But does any of it matter? Do your selfies actually reveal anything worthwhile about you, anything emotionally or psychologically interesting? Sure they do. Maybe. Why not?

It can be quite a curious practice, after all, to examine your own habits, your own persona, your go-to presentation of self. But even more importantly, it's revealing to delve into why - what, exactly, is driving that leer or grin or smooch? What desires and fears, doubts and longings go into the faces you show the world? Has it changed over time? Do you smile more or less than you used to? Are you angrier? More shy? Scared? Whiny? Doomed?


In other words, while it's true that selfies can seem entirely vain and absurd, we're also in an era that fetishizes rabid individuality and demands everyone be their own micro-brand. A selfie can reveal more than just your ego's twee posturing - they can speak to the tone and timber of a nation's attitudes, gender stereotypes and afflictions. They're another piece of the grand human puzzle that will never be complete, because it's not really a puzzle at all and more of a swirling kaleidoscope made of love and blood and whisky and death. I mean, obviously.

The popularity of selfies might also be related to another tragic condition I've read about recently, an absolutely terrible disorder suffered largely by otherwise completely innocent, unsuspecting women.

Have you heard of it? It is called RBF - Resting Bitch Face (or Bitchy Resting Face, depending).

Exactly what it sounds like, really: RBF is when your relaxed, unpremeditated, I'm-just-sitting-here-reading-a-magazine expression just so happens to looks exactly like how someone looks when they want to disembowel a large ham with a chainsaw. Or they just smelled something really bad. Or they just got stabbed in the kidney by an angry elf.

"What's wrong?" "Are you OK?" "Did you just get stabbed in the kidney?" These are questions RBF sufferers regularly endure, given their endlessly sour-looking expressions. Of course, most often, nothing is wrong. Most often, they have no idea they look that way, until someone tells them. Poor things.

The question, then, is the same for RBF sufferers and selfie addicts alike: How did that face get there? What forces, events and attitudes conspired to slowly, inexorably turn your face into a sexy love doll, a soft beacon of light or a nasty rictus of "meh"? More importantly, what can be done about it?

(By the way: Plenty of men suffer an equivalent of RBF, hereby defined as RJF - Resting Jerk Face. It's a lazy, flaccid sneer or perhaps a macho, shameless leer, completely unbecoming of real men. Problem is, RJF is still more expected of the male of the species, and therefore more accepted, at least among the desperate and the lost. Just look at the GOP).

Recently, a depressed RBF sufferer wrote in to a advice columnist asking what to do about her sour countenance....

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Mark Morford is the author of The Daring Spectacle: Adventures in Deviant Journalism, a mega-collection of his finest columns for the San Francisco Chronicle and SFGate, and the creator of the Apothecary iOS app. He's also a well-known ERYT yoga instructor in San Francisco and the creator of the Yoga for Writers series of workshops and retreats. Join him on Facebook, or email him. Not to mention...