Turn the Camera Around

Posted By on Dec 14, 2013 | 5 comments

In the year 2013, the world was introduced to a new word. It’s a word I hear on the radio, on television, and I see plastered all over the internet.

The word selfie is short for taking a self portrait of one’s self, typically with a smart phone of some kind, and it is a word that has become common in most people’s vernacular.

It seems harmless enough. We simply took a phrase and shortened it to one word to better express something we were doing. It’s short, makes sense, and gets the point across.

But there is something at work behind the selfie that is somewhat troubling to me.

I was talking with a friend about this the other day. We discussed how the culture of the world has become so ego-centric, far more than ever in Earth’s history.

We are wrapped up in the self. And it seems we can’t help our…selves…in being so. It seems that human beings have become starved for attention, love, a fleeting fifteen minutes of fame.

Wherever I look, I see new stories of people performing ridiculous, and potentially harmful stunts just to get a few thousand views on YouTube. They cross their fingers and hope the video goes viral. They post a picture on Twitter or Facebook saying to the world, “Hey, look at what I am doing! Look! Someone! Anyone?”

I can’t judge anyone. I am guilty of it as well. I’ve taken several selfies over the last year to share with friends or even post in some of my social media outlets.

Maybe for some, it isn’t so bad. We simply want to share with others the memories we are making or the fun times we’re experiencing. That, in itself, is innocent enough. But the constant posting of self-portraits all over the Internet is reaching an epidemic. It has become a global nuclear war of ME ME ME.

I was reminded by a friend of the old days, those glorious times of yesteryear when people turned the camera outward to take pictures of the things they were seeing. He asked me if I thought Ansel Adams would ever take a selfie. Or what about Eve Arnold?

Those photographers focused on the world around them. They took pictures of its beauty, its pain, its struggle, its horror, and its majesty. They documented these things because they wanted to share them with the rest of humanity, so that the people of Earth could experience something from a distance.

The driving force behind the selfie is a direct contrast to that idea. It screams GIMME GIMME GIMME and does nothing to make the world more informed, more beautiful, more peaceful. It simply begs for attention in drunken, shirtless, revelrous desperation.

As a society, we have become the selfie. We no longer look to the beauty of the world around us and simply appreciate it. We are too caught up in our own little worlds and what we can get in this life to notice the magnificent snow-capped mountains, the lush green of the trees in the summer, the striking browns and reds of the deserts, and the faces we walk by in the halls or on the sidewalk. Moreover, we fail to notice those who are sick, wrecked with sadness, or in the depths of despair.

Recently, even President Barack Obama took what has now become an infamous selfie at Nelson Mandela’s funeral. The great irony of his action is that the man who’s life he was there to celebrate spent most of his days looking outward. Mandela did everything he could to make the lives of others better, constantly peering into the world to find places of beauty, and places that could be improved.

I challenge you (and myself) the next time we get our phones or cameras out of our pockets to do something differently. Turn the camera round, and capture the world as you see it so you can share it with others. There is so much for us to see. And we all need to see it.


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  1. I had this similar thought yesterday! I was out walking in the woods on a beautiful sunny winter day and my first thought was I want to take a selfie to remember this day but stopped myself. Instead I did turn my camera around and took photos of my boyfriend and his dog. The photos were beautiful and I have now wonderful pics and memories of that day with the my boys.

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  2. Hello Ern, first of all thank you for sharing a lovely post! As much as I empathise with what you’ve expressed here (something I myself may have written a few months ago) I have also come to realise that in some sense one needs a balance of both. It becomes a ‘problem’ when we use one to escape the other- When we look out because we do not want to look in OR when we look in because we do not want to look out. It becomes an issue when we rigidly stick in one place or the other. Yet, both the inner and the outer realities do exist and the most beautiful thing to do would be to see patterns. Perhaps there are some awesome things in you, that you would like to see in the world- that becomes the work you do out there. And then perhaps there are some awesome things you see out there in the world, that you would like to incorporate in your being- that becomes the work you do in there. All in all, life can be an adventurous journey of mutual inspiration innit?!
    I shall rest my blabberings right here. Thank you so much for inspiring this churn~
    Namaskaram _ /|\ _

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  3. I do agree with this post. I do occasionally take selfie to share with family and friends. but actually there are lots of happening around us that we can and should appreciate more. Quiet afternoon in the park, neighbourhood kids playing around, small kid walking happily to school in early cold winter morning, etc. All of these look insignificant but when even the simplest thing can bring smile to your face, I think it is a very wonderful.

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  4. Hi, great story. My husband and I were lucky enough to do some travelling late last year. Two different trips to two very different places and different experiences. We took loads of photos with our iPhones, capturing different views from our daily sightseeing and events, and even just simple things like the hotel we were in, food stalls, sporting games, cars etc. each night we would post some of our snapshots to Facebook, to share with our friends. We received such positive responses we felt bad if we didn’t add something each day, as our friends were having the chance to see another place, through our eyes and have a little holiday of their own. We have enjoyed our friends pix also when they have travelled. You are so right when you say capture the world as you see it and share it with others…we did and we are grateful for the chance to have been able to so.

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  5. Taking a selfie and taking photos of beautiful views or other meaningful things, I think, are not mutually exclusive. Personally, I don’t believe that “selfie” is getting in the way of people looking to beauty and appriciate it. Me, for instance, I take some selfies occasionally and I also take pictures of beautiful things around me and I love seeing beautiful things and appriciate them as well. The problem is just that some people are so obsessed with taking selfies and ignore other beautiful things in their lives. We may all them narcissists then. Everything will be spoiled when it goes extreme.

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