My teenage daughter, the selfie junkie

“Knock, knock.” “Who’s there?”

It’s my daughter Karabo in the bathroom, again. She has just turned 14 and seems to spend an increasing amount of time behind that door.

No one knows for sure what she does in that little room. If that long, narrow, hanging mirror could talk, it might solve the mystery. Maybe she wants to lose weight or change her complexion, or for her hair to be longer or shorter.

A lot has changed in her life – and ours – since she became a teenager.

On her first day of high school she stopped carrying her lunchbox. Wearing her school dress is now problematic; she prefers long pants.

But her teenage self-obsession is forever getting her into trouble. And it’s even worse now that she has a cellphone. Karabo is constantly on her phone. If she’s not texting back and forth with friends, she’s taking selfies and posting them on WhatsApp or Facebook.

When she got her phone I know now that I should have explained to her how important it is to consider carefully what she posts or says on social media. I suppose she thought it was a private platform; a place just for friends. I learned the hard way what my daughter did not know: not long ago I found a photo of her on WhatsApp wearing only her pink bra and looking into the camera as if she was seeing her prince charming. I was livid. I felt as if my world was coming crashing down fast.

Lost for words
I knew right then that I should have sat her down and talked to her. But out of sheer anger and utter dismay – I didn’t know what to say and felt whatever I did say would come out in a garbled fury – I just took away her phone for a month as punishment. Which, for a teenager, was like slicing off an appendage. I thought she got the message.

But the other day we were waiting in a car at a shopping mall while her mother was running errands. I was deep in thought when all of a sudden a soft click-click came from the back. Karabo was taking selfies again.

She’s snapping all the time: while eating, playing, relaxing, in a school taxi, with friends, sightseeing. Maybe even in her sleep. When I asked her why she does it, she told me she wants to capture memories. “Sometimes it’s just for the sake of taking them. And sometimes to complement my posts. I get likes from my friends if I am the best dressed that day.”

Her poses are usually hilarious and all are taken from the same angle and the same side, and with the same facial expression. She pouts, sometimes with a bit of tongue hanging out like a lizard, while one ear is occupied with earphones blasting music. Most nights, before going to bed, she chats to friends, which usually results in her going to sleep late and then battling to wake up the next morning.

But even with her teenage shenanigans, she is still my baby girl. I just wish she would keep her #selfies to herself.

Oupa Nkosi is a staff photographer who writes frequently for the Mail & Guardian.

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Oupa Nkosi
Oupa Nkosi

Oupa Nkosi began taking photos in 1998 with a pawnshop camera, before enrolling at the Market Photography Workshop. He began freelancing after graduating and has since run community projects, won a Bonani Africa award, had his work selected for exhibitions in Zimbabwe and Japan, and been invited to international workshops. He began at the M&G as an intern and is now chief photographer. He also writes features for the paper and lectures at his alma mater.

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