Love yourself-ie: New Kearny Mesa bar is all about you

A man in a room with gold walls and a disco ball
Columnist Ryan Bradford at Selfie Social
(Ryan Bradford)

Selfie Social is a new bar where taking photos of yourself is encouraged


As an aging millennial, I’m facing some harsh realities these days.

I don’t understand TikTok, NFTs confuse me, and Gen Z frightens me. Nobody cares that I remember life without the internet — I might as well be Grandpa Simpson yelling at clouds. We used to be the internet’s golden children (or
scapegoats, according to every columnist for any major publication during the 2010s) but now we’re just fading into obscurity.

This malaise has even crept into the foundational aspect of what makes Millennials, well, Millennials: the selfie.

Despite growing up in the generation that coined the term, I’m no longer inspired to take — let alone post — photos of myself. I mean, I still do it because it’s baked into my attention-thirsty blood, but I’m increasingly upset by what the camera captures. My chance of being an attractive influencer are long gone. All I see is a guy who’s grayer, more tired, fatter, and more disheveled than the day before. I don’t even test all the Instagram filters, just head straight to “Rise” because it’s the best at diminishing the bags under my eyes.

So, when I heard about the selfie-themed bar Selfie Social (4411 Mercury Street) that opened up in Kearny Mesa, my first thought was: No way in hell. The last thing I need is to visit some sadomasochistic torture chamber where all my
insecurities are yelled back at me.

I had to admit, though, I was curious.

Themed bars are such a rarity in San Diego, and that’s a shame. In places like Portland or New York, you’ll find goth bars, bars for sci-fi nerds, even bars for Elvis fanatics. But in San Diego, we have bars for ... IPA drinkers. What fun is that?

Curiosity won out and I headed up to Selfie Social on a Friday afternoon during its soft opening, which, turns out, is not the prime party hour for young influencers. The place was empty except for the bartender, who was cooking jackfruit in Crock Pots behind the bar (the menu consists of plant-based comfort food). The bar also had yet to secure its alcohol license, so my choice of beverages were Coke or La Croix — not an ideal situation for someone in need of the liquid confidence to shed some self-consciousness. I ordered a tangerine La Croix because I got it in my head that that’s what a famous influencer would order.

A man sitting on a bed in a pink room
(Ryan Bradford)

Artfully curated booths line the wall opposite the bar — each about the size of a walk-in closet. It’s like looking at life-sized dioramas. In one compartment, a “BE HAPPY” neon sign hangs from a bright yellow wall, and the floor is covered with plastic balls. In another room, a giant pink teddy bear rests on a pink bed. I was almost certain that I’d be entered into some national database just for posing in there. There’s also a room with a stripper pole, and I tried not to think about how many people have slid up and down that pole. Suffice it to say, I was very stoked for Selfie Social’s abundance of hand sanitizer.

At the entrance to each room, there’s a professional grade ring light and stand where people can set up their phones. It’s my understanding that influencers travel in packs, but Selfie Social is great for the solo selfie-er, and I’m not sure if there’s been a sadder recommendation but it’s the truth.

After about an hour, I looked at the photos. Hey, not bad, I thought. I was definitely not the aged monster that I had previously thought. In fact, I looked good in some of them! I still think my chances of becoming an influencer are slim, but I left Selfie Social feeling better about myself, and that was better than anything Instagram has done for me lately.

A man smiling
(Ryan Bradford)
A man laying face down in a room full of plastic balls with a sign above that says be happy
(Ryan Bradford)