The selfie is not a fad. It’s a phenomenon that is not going away because the selfie is one way our deepest longings to be loved by someone can be satisfied.
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The selfie is the technological version of a person standing in their bathroom staring in the mirror. In the bathroom, you can stare at yourself as you make judgments about what you see. The selfie takes it a step further. You can show the world what you see in the mirror.
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I have not figured out the redemptive other-centered purpose of the selfie. Paul said that whatever you do should be done to glorify God (1 Corinthians 10:31). I’m sure there is a way to glorify God with a selfie. I just have not solved the riddle of the God-glorifying selfie.
Paul also said we should esteem others more than ourselves, which is another obstacle for the selfie to hurdle (Philippians 2:3). Jesus pushed the photograph further by saying loving God and others more than ourselves is the only way to live well in the Lord’s world (Matthew 22:36-40).
I understand showing your friends and family your pictures. I understand showing your latest couple shots to your network of friends…with moderation. To let them in on your cyber “photobook” does not have to be a bad idea.
But the selfie? I’m not talking about the occasional selfie. It’s the endless pictures of you. Maybe I’m just old but I honestly don’t get it. The serial selfie person I’m talking about.
Hey, Watch Us!
It is usually considered a bad vibe to invite people over to you home to show your latest five hundred vacation shots. Years ago a family invited us over to their home. At some point, they talked about their latest vacation trip. Within a few minutes, we all were gathered around their computer looking at every shot of their vacation from every possible angle.
This is us looking for seashells. This is us finding a seashell. Here we are picking up a seashell. This is us holding up a seashell. This is with our entire seashell collection. Now we’re off looking for starfish. Watch this…”
Finally, after thirty minutes of picture viewing it dawn on the wife what was happening, and to her credit, she said, “Oh no. We have become that couple. I’m so sorry.” And with that, we all nervously laughed and stopped looking at the bottomless stack of vacation pictures.
With the expansion of the Internet and the power of Facebook, the serial selfie person can drop an endless amount of selfies into your stream of consciousness, which is just one more reason I spend little time in the medium…though on occasion I’ve clicked some people’s pages only to be perplexed about the point of the endless selfies.
Selfies are worse than the bathroom vanity mirror. The selfie is vanity on steroids because it’s not just the selfie person looking at herself (himself) in the mirror. The selfie person wants you to see what they see.
Like It, Like Me?
This is where you’ll find the hidden meaning of the selfie. The selfie is asking you a question. The photo is not a neutral, innocuous picture. It’s begging you for a response. The selfie is appealing to you to answer the question inside the selfie person’s heart. It’s really a twofold question: Will you like my picture; will you like me?
If you like the picture, you like me. If you don’t like the picture, maybe you don’t like me. The more likes I get, the more I am appreciated.
It’s a bold move. It’s taking the vanity mirror from the bathroom and putting it in the public domain, and asks you for a “like” response.
If the selfie person is not putting their selfie in cyberspace to illicit a response, what is the purpose? What are you asking the people you’re putting your picture in front of to do? Pictures are placed in cyberspace for a purpose. Here are three options:
- Draw attention to God.
- Draw attention to a greater purpose or cause.
- Draw attention to yourself.
“He must increase, but I must decrease.” – John 3:30 (ESV)
John talked about being a “signpost” in the wilderness whose sole purpose was to point people to Jesus. He was clear that his ongoing purpose in life was to decrease while doing all he could to increase the person and work of Jesus. Do your selfies accomplish that kind of purpose?
When people look at your Facebook page, are they drawn more to Jesus or your latest hairstyle, clothing choice, or some other thing about you? Do your pictures increase the person and work of Christ or do they increase you?
Does your Facebook activity feed your desires to be approved, accepted, significant, or loved?
Also published on Medium.