Selfishness and #Selfies

I was walking through the kitchen the other day, carrying a mug of my favorite hot beverage, and my son brought my phone to me. “Mom, I want to take a picture of myself! Turn it on selfie, please.” I was so surprised I stopped, and sloshed hot liquid onto my toes!  Although I rarely talk about or take “selfies,” somehow my 5-year-old son, full of innocence and honesty, has gotten the notion to take his own selfie. How did this happen? It seems that all the days of his life that I’ve found at least one moment to point my phone’s camera in his face, he has gotten the idea that he’s important! Of course he’s important, but we are all important. I feel the need to teach him of the fine line that lies between self-confidence and self-absorption.

Every #Selfie Under the Sun

Look at each face next time you walk through the mall or down the street. For every kind of face you see #IRL (in real life), you will see those same faces represented as selfies, somewhere across cyberspace. It is a cultural representation of people, of faces. Perhaps the reason everyone loves taking selfies is the ability to represent exactly what you want. If you look great, no problem. If you look like you just rolled out of bed, you can add a #nomakeupselfie and smiley face emoticon. If you don’t like the way your lips, eyes, hair, or cheeks look, you can always delete and try again. Even after you post a selfie, you can delete it. In the same way, my sons can take 32 pictures of the same adorable face, and I can pick my favorite and delete the other 31.

If It Ain’t Broke…

Some don’t see a problem with this #selfiecraze, and may not care if their 5-year-old may be on the path to this specific social media existence. There’s nothing wrong with self-awareness, right? Just look at Pablo Picasso, whose famous self portraits, never looked the same, but represented exactly what he wanted at that time.

Picasso drew portraits over several months, and represented how he felt at the time. With a smart phone we can take a “self portrait” in a matter of seconds, edit with filters and features, and it exists in cyber space forever to represent who we are. Not much thought is put into it. It doesn’t take much effort to accomplish, and we are the boss.

Alternatives to the #Selfie

I’ve noticed that although Facebook users post selfies by the dozen, they often have a problem when others take and post their photo. This is why Facebook has features to add and remove tags. You can decide whether or not someone can tag your picture. If you don’t like it you can even report it. I feel like this speaks volumes about our self-awareness. We are okay with selfies because we have the control, we look our best, or have the ability to #hashtag it until we are comfortable. Somehow our #badhairdayselfie is more bearable when linked with the hundreds of others with that hashtag.

As I look at my son’s selfie on my smart phone I brainstorm ways to teach him positive self awareness in the age of selfies and avatars. Challenge yourself to make positive changes to your #selfies.

  1. Print out a selfie and hang it on your refrigerator. With a selfie on your refrigerator, looking at you every time you open the door or walk through your kitchen, you may realize how you’d like to see some other photos up there. Maybe pictures of nieces and nephews, family gatherings, nature, etc.
  2. Ask a stranger to take your picture, and make sure to wish them a good day. When you ask someone else to take your picture, you get what you get. They are going to walk away, and you will not have a chance to redo the photo. By asking a stranger to take the picture, you could possibly make a friend, and get a glimpse of yourself through someone else’s eyes.
  3. Volunteer in your community and ask someone you’re serving to take a picture with you. Whether spooning food at a soup kitchen, doing laundry at a shelter, or shoveling stalls at an animal hospital, it is rewarding to serve others. Take advantage of what my son calls “selfie mode” and turn the camera on yourself with someone else. Make sure you both smile!
  4. Take a picture of someone doing something impressive and print it out to send them, send via message, or tag them on social media. You can tell someone that they did a great job, but if you take a picture for them, and then tell them why you took it, they will most likely remember that about themselves.
  5. Next time you see a selfie in your newsfeed, leave a positive note on the friend’s profile. Selfies are so prevalent, that we overlook them as we scroll through to find other stuff. Take a moment and leave an uplifting note on the profile or wall. Don’t just leave it on the selfie.

Above all, remember that we serve a God Who is bigger than ourselves. He deserves all the honor and praise we can offer, and more. So everything we do should reflect our devotion to Him. It is not about boycotting the selfie; it’s about finding something greater–something we can be proud of. Remember Philippians 4:8, which says, “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.”

If ever you are unsure about what is “Facebook suitable,” look to God’s Word. You can also seek out advice from mentors and teachers. Make sure all of your selfies are something to smile about!