All of us have been there. We just took a selfie and we didn’t like how we looked. So we took a picture again. And again. And again. Finally, when we are satisfied with how we look, we post it on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Now, if you have never heard of the word, “selfie,” welcome to the 21st century. Selfies have become so ingrained in our culture that The Oxford Dictionaries announced that the 2013 Word of the Year was “selfie.” What is a selfie? The word, “selfie,” refers to a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically with a smartphone or a webcam and then has uploaded it to a social media website.
Selfies have become a fixture in today’s culture. Celebrities are taking selfies all the time. Celebrities use selfies as a way to create more publicity for their image. For example, this past Oscar Awards made headlines because Ellen took a selfie with many celebrities and that became one of the most retweeted pictures of all time. As a result, people were talking about the Oscars more than usual. But celebrities are not the only ones obsessed with selfies. We have become obsessed with selfies.
Do you want to know how obsessed we are with selfies? There is a website that collects selfies taken at funerals. Yes, you read that right. People are taking selfies at funerals. There was a girl who took a selfie with the caption: “Love my hair today. Hate why I’m dressed up today. #funeral.” Even during a funeral, people feel a need to take a selfie. Why? Why are we obsessed with selfies?
Selfies are about control. I remember before the dawn of digital camera, we would take a picture of ourselves and would have to wait a week before we ever knew how we turned out. If we blinked, or had a piece of food in our teeth, or had a double chin, we lived with the results. We could not redo the picture since that moment passed a week ago. It was out of our control. But now, that is not the case. The power of how you look is in your hands. Now we can immediately see how we look when we take a picture. If we have a double chin, then we angle the camera higher. If we blink, then take a picture without flash. If we look like a dork, then we strike a different pose. This is why we are obsessed with selfies. We have the final say over how we look. One of the differences between selfies and candid photos is our ability to change our look and also therefore mask our identity. When a person posts a photo of you on social media, you can untag, delete, or modify the photo to keep your social presence more consistent with the self-image you want others to see. With Instagram filters, photoshop, and camera angles, we are able to make ourselves look skinnier, buffer, and hotter than ever before.
This is why you rarely see a “bad” photo on Facebook. Unless you are trying to be funny, people will untag a picture that is not consistent with their cleaned up image. An extreme example of this obsession with control is Beyoncé. An unflattering photograph of Beyoncé performing at the Super Bowl went viral. After this happened, she banned press photographers from shooting photos during her tour concerts. We are trying to present a cleaned up image of ourselves. We are not trying to present who we really are, warts and all, with selfies. We are presenting who we want to be seen as. In a sense, we are selling ourselves.
Selfies are about our loneliness. The reason why we are selling an image of ourselves is because we are lonely. Comedian Chelsea Peretti jokes about what makes a good selfie. She writes, “loneliness and desperation for attention are crucial ingredients.” What Peretti is commenting on is the reason why people publicly publish a photo. It is one thing to take a selfie and edit it for your personal self-esteem. But it is a whole other thing to publish it publicly. Why do people show their selfies publicly? They want to see positive feedback. They want to hear affirmations from people. They want to read comments from others saying how beautiful, cute, buff, or handsome they are. We publish our selfies because we want to feel a connection. We want to feel loved.
Here is the problem with our selfie culture. People can’t have a connection with an image. People can’t become friends with an image. If you want a genuine connection with others, it can’t be based on an illusion. Relationships are based on knowing a person, warts and all. And until you let go of that obsession of controlling your image, you will always feel lonely and you will never feel loved. This is why walking in community is so important. Walking in community is where people will see who we are and not an image of what we present. Walking in community is where people will encourage us rather than flatter us with Facebook likes. The disease of our selfie culture is cured only when we walk in community.
At The Bridge we are about to start home groups. This is an opportunity for you to put down your camera and form some true connections. Let’s not settle for Facebook comments, Instagram followers, or retweets. Let’s do the hard work of walking in community. And when you finally let go of your control about your image, you will be liberated to be content with who you are in Christ.