When a friend of mine recently returned home with his youth group from a short-term missions-trip to Mexico, he was surprised to discover that over half of the photos taken by the youth were "selfies".
A "selfie", in case you have somehow missed the craze— or happen to be an altruistic photographer, is when you turn your camera on yourself especially to post on social media (e.g. Instagram, Facebook, Etc.). Selfies can involve friends in the close-up poses, but the focus is still the inclusion of "self". So rather than taking a photo of the landscape, for instance, a selfie takes a photo of your self in front of the landscape.
As a kid I often wondered why my Dad was rarely in our family photos even though he was usually with us on the family vacations and gatherings. The answer was, of course, that he was the one with the camera taking the pictures. Things have changed! My Twitter profile pic for the last year has been a selfie with my nephews joining in (I love that photo!). My Facebook banner is a picture of me with my daughter and my Facebook profile is currently of me holding a BigFace of… you guessed it… me.
That's ironically a lot of my "self" on so-called "social" media. But today's version of community requires that we promote our "self" to the world in order that we might interact with one another. The social formula is simple… and ultimately self-serving: I project my "self" (at least the "self" I want you to see) out there for you… almost urging you to creep on me. Likewise, you project your "self" (at least the "self" you want me to see) out there for me… urging me to creep on you. In this manner we supposedly have established the 21st century version of postmodern "community."
A recent poll in Britain showed that 30% of all pictures taken by 18-24 year-olds were selfies. The third most popular hashtag on Instragram is #me, coupled with millions of self-turned photos. Selfies are now considered the most popular genre of photography. One website jokingly begs young people to scale down to a 1:8 selfie to pictures-of-other-stuff ratio.
Because we are increasingly Selfie People (— and don't you dare leave me out! I am including my self in central focus of this, of-course!), I want to ask: Do selfies enhance or harm community?
My quick reflection (or is it introspection?): In small doses, selfies are somewhat of a harmless fad. They can be a fun way to document a special time with a friend or a meaningful visit to a unique location, for instance. But in continued large quantity selfies are like social nicotine. They are a quick fix for our fragile egos– and you know we'll need packs of more selfies soon. Selfies eventually produce a socially malignant growth that could fatally impact our ability to breathe in true community. Selfies prop our selves up in such a way that altruistic acts or community-wide events must be focused around our image… or else they risk becoming irrelavant to us, in our myopic frame of perspective. In other words, selfies entice narcissitic and self-aggrandizing behavior… all in the clouded name of social community.
Ultimately, selfies teach us to measure our "social" world according to how much "me" is included.
What's wrong with this picture?
Enough hypocrisy from me. I'd love to hear from you on this topic. What do you think are the implications of "selfies" upon our sense of community?