What “Selfies” Reveal About Ourselves

December 17, 2013 — Leave a comment

It was recently chosen by Oxford Dictionary as the “Word of the Year 2013.”

President Obama has been hammered in the media for taking one last week at Nelson Mandela’s Memorial Service.

They are abundant on Facebook and Twitter feeds.

Every self-respecting weight-loss supplement advertisement on the internet includes a “before” and “after” one.

I’ve taken a lot of them. In fact, I took one last week and posted it in cyberspace as a statement and a bit of a social experiment. Here it is:

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It’s an international phenomenon and it’s called a “selfie.”

According to the aforementioned Oxford Dictionary, here’s the official definition of “selfie”:

a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website

I’ve seen countless “selfies” and have decided that “selfies” reveal a lot about ourselves.

What “Selfies” Reveal About Ourselves:

“Selfies” reveal that we all can be a bit insecure.

As I reflect on the “selfies” I’ve taken, I have to honestly admit that they are often an attempt to say to the world, “I want you to like/respect/admire/look up to/and want to follow me and be my social media friend because…I am fit, I am cool, I am loved (when taken with my wife), I am successful (when taken while at a business event or vacation destination), I am a good Dad (when taken with my children), I am able to lose weight, I am funny, I am adventurous, I am holy (when taken at a religious event), I am a snappy dresser, and I have nice hair.”

Privately, we all can be a bit insecure. But, it’s never on display more than in some of the “selfies” we post on social media.

Serving as our own PR agents, through “selfies,” we project very intentional images to the world. We don’t put unflattering images of ourselves out there for all too see, unless the image serves somehow to our benefit.  “Selfies” are an opportunity to project a controlled image to the world and, all too often, it’s an image designed to stand guard in front of our deepest insecurities. “Selfies” can also be only slightly veiled attempts to elicit praise.

Too often we put those images out there to get a response and…more specifically, we too often put those images out there to prompt other people to say nice things about us, which only serves to say more about our insecurities.

“Selfies” reveal that we are all too often alone.

Back in my day…people had their pictures taken by someone else!

Why are “selfies” so prevalent now? I know more of us have cameras now through our smartphones–with digital imaging and no film to take to Walgreens for development in the next few days–so we’ve grown accustomed to being able to immediately take pictures of each and every experience and to being able to share those images immediately with the world at large.

But, could it also be that we’ve given into self-absorption and allowed it to walk us into corners, bathrooms, bedrooms, and countless other “backdrops” where we find ourselves alone in our desire to appreciate and capture the moment?

One group where I see this more than any other is in teens. Think of how many pictures you’ve seen on your Facebook news feed of teen-aged boys and girls standing by themselves in front of mirrors? The more I think about it, the more it troubles me.

Firstly, it’s troubling that so many teens are looking for fulfillment in sharing private moments so publicly.

And secondly, it’s troubling that so many teens seem to be all by themselves a lot.

I don’t know, maybe I’m seeing something in “selfies” that’s not there, or maybe I am not seeing something in “selfies” that should be there…like another person.

“Selfies” reveal that our personal lives are sometimes a mess.

I once took a “selfie” in the bathroom mirror to show the world my new haircut, only to end up being a little bit embarrassed when a friend pointed out that–in the reflection in the mirror–you could clearly see some of my undergarments drying on the shower rod in the background.

Think about some of the “selfies” you’ve seen and tell me that you haven’t sometimes been more fascinated by the mess in the background than on the person in the foreground? I often find myself thinking, “You were so focused on yourself in this picture that you didn’t notice that you’ve just communicated to the world that you are what some of us call…a slob!”

Truth is, we’re all a little bit of a mess. I just find it interesting how many times a “selfie” staged to show how “put together” we are, all too often reveals just the opposite.

“Selfies” reveal that we too often think of ourselves too much.

Social media has birthed a generation who thinks it’s all about us.

Social media has hooked an entire generation on the drug called “fame” and led us to believe that something only matters if it gets a lot of “likes.”

Social media has turned the eyes of an entire generation off of others and onto ourselves–not constantly, but–in my opinion–too much.

I’m included in this.

As I write this I keep picturing Jesus taking a “selfie” and that picture in my mind keeps revealing things in me that I don’t like seeing.

Pride.

Self-centerdness.

Boasting.

Superficiality.

Addiction to fame and attention.

I can see Jesus taking pictures of the people he loved–his disciples, his friends, and his family.

I can see Jesus taking pictures of the less-fortunate–not to exploit them, but to honor them or share their plight with the world for their benefit.

I can see Jesus taking pictures of us–for display in just the right frame in just the right position on his chest of drawers, because he cherishes us.

I may be mistaken, but I just can’t picture him taking a bunch of “selfies.” It just seems out of character for him.

That being said, most “selfies” are not evil or wrong in any way–they’re just innocent and fun. I’ll continue to take the periodic “selfie” when I find myself in a funny or unique situation, when I lose the 20 lbs I want to lose, when I finish my first Ironman race, the next time I get a really good haircut, or the next time President Obama attends the memorial service for a selfless world leader!  jk

I will just reflect a little more before I snap the picture, realizing that “selfies” reveal more than we think.

©2013 Arron Chambers

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