Engaging Culture

The Dark Side of Selfies

We tend of think of “selfies” as overdone, or ego trips, but for the most part, harmless.  I’ve traveled all over the world, and you’ll see people taking selfies in the African plains, throughout Asia, and the most remote parts of India.  In some tourist spots “selfie sticks” have been outlawed.  But according to CBS News, it gets worse.  There’s actually a dark side of selfies and here’s what they report:

Last year, more people died from selfies than shark attacks. And many more have been injured by taking their own picture.  Deaths have been caused by distracted photo-takers falling off cliffs, crashing cars, being hit by trains and shooting themselves while posing with guns. Apparently, guns don’t kill people — selfies do.  Things have gotten so bad that Mumbai has outlawed selfies after 19 deaths in India. Pamplona officials have banned them during the annual Running of the Bulls.  And New York just became the first state to ix-nay “tiger selfies,” for obvious reasons.”  

There have also been headlines like this:

Man may lose hand after attempting to take selfie with rattlesnake 
Endangered baby dolphin dies after being pulled out of water for selfies

And for the record, while women take more selfies than men, 75% of selfie victims are male.

Reporter Faith Salie makes a significant statement about it all:  “We’re obsessed with proving that we HAD experiences, rather than appreciating them as they occur. We cannot admire a breathtaking mountain without inserting ourselves into the scenery. We’re not living in the moment; we’re making sure we can demonstrate we HAD the moment to everyone we know (and don’t know). Not only are we killing our experiences this way, we’re also dispatching our memories. I recently interviewed a doctor who works with memory who told me she thinks we’re outsourcing it to technology. We rely on a “cloud” to capture what’s happened to us rather than absorbing it into our souls. We aren’t allowing ourselves to have an experience we can hold in our mind and turn into stories we can share. Not by Instagram, but by mouth.

We’re losing the art of telling someone a story.

What do you think?  Harmless?  What are the deeper things it says about us?

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  1. love this post. considered taking selfie w this post in the background, then reconsidered. 😉 keep up the great work, Phil! ee

  2. Phil, as a New Yorker for the past 12+ years, it’s one of the few things that really tests my levels of neighborly love and patience. Just this morning, as I went running along the river, there’s a dude running toward me in full speed with an iPhone on a selfie-stick. I mean… really?! It’s just a disease that won’t stop. Last week at an event at the UN I was so happy to witness the security people explaining to a tourist that there’s no sticks aloud in the building, and after having produced a film last fall shot almost entirely in the middle of Times Square, you can only imagine how many times I had to restrain myself from beating people into submission with their sticks. But it all makes sense when the scriptures talk about “and they will be lovers of themselves”. Sharing is no longer caring, it’s curating a digital persona to distract and compensate oneself from real identity issues. I’m not saying every selfie is evil, but the amount of time people spend staring at themselves on any screen (especially Christian leaders with celebrities…) does remind me of some guy called Narcissus, and it didn’t work out so well for him, either. But people in general are blissfully (?) ignorant to their own behavior, so I don’t expect it to get better. Transformational change only happens by the renewal of our mind, and then our actions will follow.

    1. Very well said Fredrick. My wife and I had lunch at a shopping mall recently, and sat next to a 20-something girl who spent the 45 minutes we were there taking an untold number of selfies. Changing the angle, changing her expression, she was absolutely absorbed at getting the right shot – all while sitting at a mall food court.

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