Who would have thought that taking a picture of oneself and posting it online would become a global pastime? Who could have imagined that the word “selfie” – a self-portrait taken with a digital camera – would be added in 2013 to the Oxford English Dictionary?
While we might think that the selfie trend is limited to preteens or millennials, you just have to look around to see that’s not true. Everybody and their dogs, from political leaders to grandmas, are taking pictures of themselves and then sharing them with the world. I’ll admit up front I have never taken a selfie – which probably has more to do with not being able to figure out how to angle the camera correctly than any other reason. I’ll also admit there is a part of me that doesn’t quite get the appeal.
This whole selfie phenomenon might just be a passing fad. Kind of like streaking and pet rocks. But I don’t think so. I think its representative of the me-focused society that we have become.
There is nothing that screams “Look at me” louder than a selfie posted to various social media sites. That statement might make selfie loving people bristle a bit. But other than because everyone else is doing it, what motivates you to jump on the band wagon?
Perhaps this is the most important question to ask yourself:
What is my intention behind this selfie?
There are lots of defenders of the selfie, describing them as “journalistic moments” or “expressions of feelings that words can’t capture”. Perhaps, but not all of them meet that criteria. I’d venture to say that they have simply become a social habit without much conscious intention.
The pushback on selfies might already be starting. I heard a suggestion that to make our photos less me-centered we should capture ourselves doing something kind for someone else. That still sounds a lot like “look at me doing this nice thing”.
Maybe instead it’s time to take some unselfies to share with the world.
A real unselfie might look like this:
- a picture of someone else doing something kind
- a picture of something beautiful in nature
- a picture of something inspiring
The common element here is that “me” is only important as the photographer – not as the subject. Unselfies let us take the spotlight off of ourselves and shine it somewhere else. I’m sure in some part selfies are about trying to let the world see who you are. Without being mindful when we point-snap-post though, we overlook the impression each picture creates. Every day our actions communicate what is important to us. Even when we are taking a selfie.
What’s your take on the selfie?