Some of you saw my recent WAFB interview on “The Dangers of Selfies.” How could any of us have predicted that only days afterward, a young woman in North Carolina would actually die while taking selfies and posting to Facebook while driving?!? While I am not going to dwell on this extreme example in this post, sadly, I do not believe this will be the last such incident. I thought it would be worthwhile to write out my concerns about the growing obsession of taking and posting “selfies.”
If you are reading this post, and you don’t know what a “selfie” is, I would be curious who logged you onto the internet and helped you navigate to my site. Let’s face it, selfies are happening, and they are happening constantly – everywhere! Now, let’s get something straight. I do not believe taking (and sharing) selfies here and there is a terrible thing, in and of itself. I do believe they can be both useful and fun. However, they can also contribute to some serious problems – my two biggest concerns being self-centeredness and personal insecurity. And it does occur to me, even as I write this, that this is certainly one of those chicken-and-egg scenarios where it is really difficult to say which is cause and which is effect.
One of the general dynamics that is greatly magnified by our social media usage is a growing mindset that people are or should be thinking about me all the time. As seductive as this can be for me, and for so many of us these days, it is pure rubbish! I’d say God addresses this whole issue rather nicely right here:
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. (Romans 12:1-3 NIV)
When I live with the increasing mindset that people should be thinking about ME, I grow less and less likely to be mindful of how I can be of service to OTHERS. Once again, I believe God makes His will for our lives rather plain in this wonderful narrative:
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:1-11 NIV)
Life is truly so much better for all of us when you and I live with a daily mindfulness to show consideration and compassion and service to others. Much more could be written on this matter, to be sure. But I’ll go ahead and move on to my second selfie-centered concern…
I generally stay away from using the term “self-esteem,” either pro or con. So I’ll stick with discussing how the frequent taking and mass sharing of selfies can do so much to increase an individual’s struggle with personal insecurity. The problem here is not so much wanting to share a fun pic of what you’re doing at the moment. As I said, that can really be a postive thing at times. The problem is what happens when you combine the constant possibilities of taking selfies (given that we all have a handy camera with us all the time now) with the forces and culture of social media. Suddenly my fun moment becomes part of a tidal wave of competition at who gets the most likes and comments, what kind of comments are posted, and “Oh, my goodness, did someone just SHARE my selfie?!!” The joy of the moment I just experienced is now sacrificed on the fires of the Instagram/Facebook/Twitter/Tumblr idol.
Here’s my point. By all means, have fun taking selfies when the inspiration strikes you (just not while driving or perched in precarious positions). And share them with your family and friends, if you like. But don’t miss out on the joy of an experience in the here and now moment because you are consumed with posing the best selfie. What a tragedy. The only life we have available to us is what we get in the here and now moments. Be fully present. Live life to the full. And don’t miss out on the wonderful life purpose and transformation that comes through responding in love and service to others because you are so consumed with what others may be thinking about you. This only leads to greater emptiness and loneliness. Live well. Live fully. Live large. Live for Him. And be richly blessed.
In His Grace,
p.s. – I was going to end by sharing my all-time favorite selfie with you. It is a picture of my closest circle of college buddies where we actually stood in a circle in my dorm room, placed the camera on the floor facing up in the middle of us, and two of us managed to snap the picture with our feet. Of course, we had to wait on the film to be processed before we could be amazed and thrilled with this snapshot of a lifelong memory. But it will have to remain simply my memory, as I am no longer on Facebook, and that’s the only place I could think to be able to quickly access and pass on the photo to you. What a great moment, though. I’m enjoying the picture in my mind right now, and I don’t really need your input on that, anyway. : )
p.p.s. – After thinking about that selfie of my buddies and me in college, it occurred to me that there is often something qualitatively and psychologically different about taking group selfies vs solo selfies. Hmmm…