A whole new take on “selfies”
Although the Oxford Dictionary officially made “selfie” a real word in 2013, the truth is that selfies are nothing new.
Tina Issa wrote in the Huffington Post that “this selfie revolution is annoying. It has made people selfish and narcissistic.”
Not so, Tina; selfies merely reveal something about human nature that is as old as time.
As you know, the Greeks gave us the first formally recorded example of a selfie in the story of Narcissus. The beautiful young hunter died of starvation because he could not tear himself away from his reflection in a pool of water.
The myth gave us the term “narcissism,” meaning an obsession on oneself.
There is a deep irony with narcissism: for all their obsession on themselves, narcissists never gain any real insight into themselves.
The real problem with narcissism and selfies isn’t the mere obsession on self, but rather the level of obsession.
The ditzy duck-faces and preposterous provocative poses reflect an embarrassingly shallow perspective. Selfies portray less what shows in the mirror than they betray a lack of depth beneath what the eyes can see.
In truth, a deep obsession with self can be a good thing — if the purpose is self-improvement and self-honesty.
What the world needs is less selfies and more self-evaluation. Or shall we say, “selfievaluation”?
We need fewer people obsessed with flashing external appearances and more people consumed with developing internal character.
“And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
“Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?
“Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.”
A modern-day version could be,
“Why do you gaze at yourself in the mirror so often and so intensely without ever looking deeper?
“Will you flaunt your superficial beauty before the world, while veiling your ugly character flaws?
“Focus first on developing your inner beauty, and your light will shine from within.”
The purpose of selfies is to scream to the world, “Look at me! Look at how beautiful, glamorous, and cool I am!”
The purpose of selfievaluation is to look at oneself in the eyes and say, “How can I improve myself? Am I being honest with myself? How can I serve others better?”
Selfies grab the spotlight and point them at oneself; external light is necessary when one’s internal light has been dimmed by selfishness. Selfievaluations kindle a light from within.
Provocative selfies objectify the person taking them. Humble selfievaluations make a person more truly human.
Selfies cheapen the subject; selfievaluations exalt.
As Narcissus died physically, today’s narcissistic selfie-takers wither away spiritually.
Longfellow’s classic poem, “A Psalm of Life,” opens with the stanza,
“Tell me not, in mournful numbers, Life is but an empty dream, For the soul is dead that slumbers, And things are not what they seem.”
All that glitters is not gold; the people we look up to and the goals we aspire to are not always worthy of our veneration, time, and attention; impulsive pleasures can be followed by agonizing pain; pretty faces and perfect bodies often conceal empty heads and rotten souls; slick talkers and fancy dressers often mask ill intent and an utter lack of substance.
And incessant, egotistical selfies display not physical beauty, but rather mental shallowness and spiritual poverty.
The world will change when we stop taking silly selfies, and instead take sensible selfievaluations.