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Who takes more selfies: Women or men?

By Kelly Wallace, CNN
updated 12:06 PM EDT, Tue October 7, 2014
Television personalities Kim Kardashian and Willie Geist take a selfie during "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno." Television personalities Kim Kardashian and Willie Geist take a selfie during "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno."
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • More women than men, on average, take selfies, according to a new research project
  • But after age 40, more men than women take and post selfies
  • Women over 40 may not take selfies because of insecurities about how they look
  • Another theory: Men over 40 are looking for more external reassurance than women

Editor's note: Kelly Wallace is CNN's digital correspondent and editor-at-large covering family, career and life. She is a mom of two. Read her other columns and follow her reports at CNN Parents and on Twitter.

(CNN) -- When it comes to aging, I know I am lucky, at least so far, because usually when I tell people how old I am (47!), they're surprised.

On the one hand they're saying they don't think I look my age, which could be considered a compliment. But on the other hand, they are clearly thinking, "Wow, I didn't realize she's so old."

"Hey, 47 isn't ancient!" I want to say, but never do.

But who am I to criticize? I had the same preconceptions around age when I was younger.

Will our attitudes about aging -- especially the differences in how aging men and women are viewed -- ever change?

READ: Selfie named word of the year for 2013

A new research project about, of all things, the "selfie," shows we women may have a long way to go.

CNN\'s Kelly Wallace on why she doesn\'t take too many selfies: \
CNN's Kelly Wallace on why she doesn't take too many selfies: "Who wants to see my laugh lines -- that's what I call them! -- up close and personal?"

The project called Selfiecity, backed by the City University of New York, California Institute of Telecommunication and Information, and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, is exploring the impact of the selfie on our society. Researchers looked at selfies shared on Instagram in five major international cities, Bangkok, Berlin, Moscow, New York and Sao Paulo, over six months.

While they found that women, on average, take more selfies than men, the situation reverses itself after age 40.

READ: Obama selfie: Danes surprised by global attention

Men are more likely than women after hitting the big 4-0 to take and post selfies on Instagram than women.

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Ladies, why is this so? I am only half-seriously asking the question because I think I know the answer. It's the reason I don't love taking selfies myself. Who wants to see my laugh lines -- that's what I call them! -- up close and personal, or the big bags under my eyes? I know I'm aging and I'm generally OK with it, but why do I need a reminder of it on my iPhone?

"Women over 40 are probably more insecure about how they look (over 40) than men are," said Jenny Dean Schmidt, host of "The Channelmom Show" in Denver, on Facebook. "I'm over 40, so I know. I'd probably be snapping away if I was 22."

"Obviously guys are looking better over 40. Or at least that's what they think," said Lela Davidson, award-winning author of "Blacklisted from the PTA" and "Who Peed on My Yoga Mat?"

But Amanda Rodriguez, who hasn't reached the 40 milestone just yet, had another take. She believes selfies might be more about getting external reassurance, and that men over 40 might need it more than women.

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Selfies "are something people do to garner attention of others, so people who desire or require that maybe post them more?" suggested Rogriguez, host of the blog Dude Mom.

"Maybe guys over 40 are having a mid life crisis and use the selfie to see if women are still interested in them?" said Kelly Glover of the plus size blog Big Curvy Love.

"As for women dropping back in the selfie stakes after 40, maybe they've just grown out of it and the men haven't," said Glover.

READ: Michelle Obama 'fabulous' at 50: Has the big birthday changed?

I have to admit I never thought about it that way.

I'm still thinking one of the bigger reasons more men than women take selfies is because women are less welcoming of the aging process. Just consider the impact it could have on all of us if we aging women made ourselves much more visible in this world -- and yes, took more selfies.

NBC's "Today" show gathered a group of women in their 40s and above this week as part of a series called "Love Your Selfie." The women talked about the body parts they despised, how they feel invisible in this world and how they don't love the way they look in selfies.

But then, as part of the shoot, they took selfies and unbeknownst to them, "Today" showcased their selfies on a large billboard in midtown Manhattan directly across from where the interview was taking place. Their reactions were priceless. They were first freaked, but then they laughed and cheered each other on.

They looked beautiful. Each and every one of them.

READ: For women over 50: Bikinis, botox and bling?

Diane Smith, an Emmy Award winning television journalist, radio talk show host, author and speaker, told me via e-mail that after age 50 and a career on television, she rarely takes selfies.

"I need good lighting, hair and makeup to see myself the way I imagine myself," said Smith, who co-authored the New York Times bestseller "Obsessed-America's Food Addiction and My Own" with Mika Brzezinski of MSNBC.

Asked what it will take for women in their 40s, 50s and beyond to love the way they look, she said that'll happen when society "stops holding up women in their 20s and 30s as the only ones with sex appeal, and beauty."

"I think we need to accept that women are beautiful at all ages, and that the wrinkles, laugh lines etc. that are on my face are telling the story of a life well lived ... not a life with no value left."

I couldn't agree more.

So how about us 40 and above women start a movement of sorts? Let's take more selfies than our male contemporaries and post them, embracing the laugh lines, bags and age spots, knowing we really do get more beautiful with age.

Will differences in how aging men and women are viewed in society ever change? Chime in below in comments or tell Kelly Wallace on Twitter and CNN Living on Facebook.

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