Selfies & Community

 

2012-08-18 14.59.46

A selfie of me just for you

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?

 

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Ken Castor

Ken Castor is a husband, dad, pastor, writer and teacher. He serves as a professor at Crown College, Minnesota, where he equips students to pursue Jesus-Centered Faith and Next Generation Ministry. For 20+ years he's focused on equipping the next generations in places like the U.S., Canada, and Northern Ireland. He's the author of Grow Down (Simply Youth Ministry, 2014), Make a Difference (Broadstreet, 2016), the Blue-Letters Editor of the Jesus-Centered Bible (Group, 2015) and numerous other articles and Bible Study guides. But, whenever possible, he gets down on the floor and builds Lego with his kids. Connect with him @kencastor.

5 thoughts on “Selfies & Community

  1. “We are thirsty for approval, for love, for recognition.” – great observation, Keri. It is sad that selfies actually help us avoid much of the true approval, love and recognition that God gives us— and that we can find in a true community of the church.

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  2. “Our true gratification needs to come from our Creator.” – great comment, Ben. It’s as if we turn the focus to ourselves even in relationship with God. So many of our prayers and thoughts about God are actually “selfies” too…

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  3. I have been waiting for people to start realizing the, honestly, ridiculousness of selfies. I take a picture of me at the beach or the Grand Canyon, but all you can really see is me. You have to take my word for it that I was actually there, because my face is too busy blocking the amazing scenery. I go to Starbucks, and I take a picture of me with my coffee… EVERY TIME. And if you go through people’s phones (especially girls), you’ll see 10 or 15 of the SAME selfie, but they wanted their face to look just right, flawless, beautiful…before posting it. It’s a vanity shot. Every time we get another “like” or “lookin good” comment, we get a momentary ego trip that lasts about 2 seconds. If we don’t get our normal number of “likes” we look at the picture and wonder what is wrong with our face that people aren’t liking so much… and how will I improve next time? It is nothing new, just a new way of going about it: we are thirsty for approval, for love, for recognition. And the selfie is a simple, quick way of getting a tiny bit of satisfaction. It’s sad.
    So, thanks for speaking up on the matter. Hope to see this changed as my generation begins to realize there is more in this world than “me”. Hopefully this fad begins and ends with the 20-somethings of this generation.

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  4. Great post Ken! A great word and encouragement to all of us on social media. I don’t think I would classify a photo of you and your daughter as a “selfie” or a photo of you and your wife out and about enjoying a date night together as a “selfie”. I do think that when social media users take photos of JUST themselves than we can classify that as a “selfie.”
    Isn’t social media really more about promoting our agenda, our vision, our experience, our purpose…etc. It really is self promotion at its finest. Heck, I want my tweets to be funny so they get favorited or I want likes on my pics or posts on FB. Unfortunately, there is self gratification in all of it. Our true gratification needs to come from our Creator. We were given life so that we could give Him the glory, not ourselves the glory. We tend to be glory seeking individuals and to me (and I’m just as guilty) that epitomizes sin. Turning our backs on God so that we are in charge/control.
    Thanks for challenging me this morning.

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