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.
My newest novel The Last Chamber is available on Amazon! For the week of December 16-20 I will be donating all royalties from the week’s sales to charity. In addition, all my Kindle books will be on sale for .99 cents on Amazon for five days to make them affordable to more readers. Help a great cause and get something fun to read in the process. For more information on the charity you can check it out here: http://bit.ly/1bwNkCQ