Engaging Culture

The Selfie Culture and the End of Civilization?

Kathleen and I are filming in Germany for a Museum of the Bible exhibit honoring the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. We arrived a few days early to do some sightseeing around Berlin, and noticed that “selfie culture” is as big in Europe as it is in the United States.

I’ve been thinking a lot about selfie’s lately because I was on a plane recently sitting next to a twenty-something woman who literally took selfie’s the entire 3 hour flight. She sat next to the window and experimented with lighting by raising and lowering the shade, then fixed her hair different ways, and tried multiple angles. I kid you not – by the end of the flight she must have taken 400 shots of herself on her phone.

Back to Berlin, I saw a man almost hit by a car, a woman nearly fall into a canal, and a couple trip over a sidewalk guardrail – all while taking selfies.

While seeing people taking selfies in front of museum art works, I also read that museum curators are reporting that people are more interested in capturing themselves in front of great works of art, than viewing the art itself.

Teen Vogue magazine reports the average millennial focuses about one hour of every week to selfies. (Shooting them, editing them, retouching them.)

Writer Matt LaBash reports that, “In 2015, the social scientists at Luster Premium White, a teeth-whitening brand, calculated that at their current selfie rate, your average millennial will take up to 25,700 selfies in a lifetime. Considering that the average lifespan is only around 27,375 days, that amounts to taking nearly one selfie per day, no small feat when subtracting all the years that people are too young or too old to operate a camera phone.”

But there’s so much more. The advertising magazine Adweek, indicates:
– 74% of all photos on Snapchat are selfies
– 1,000 selfies are posted to Instagram every 10 seconds
– More people died taking selfies in 2015 than they did from shark attacks.

I’m not sure what to make of all this, except that there’s a pretty powerful relationship between technology and narcissism. Or maybe narcissism has always been around, and now we have new tools for expressing it.

So what do you think about the selfie phenomenon? It appears people have lost the ability to appreciate the world around them without inserting themselves in it.

Have the idols we worship become ourselves?

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  1. Interesting fact, the new kids on the block also are so fascinated by their cell phone/tablet that they have no concept of where they are in relation to the rest of the world. I watched as a young boy literally walked right into a tree and disappeared from sight because he was so focused on his phone. Maybe they will start to pay attention when they have lost a few teeth. The anticipation is so much fun when you realize someone is about to give you that perfect Youtube video. I just never have my phone camera going at the right time.

  2. Recently at the Louvre we were in the gallery where the Mona Lisa is displayed. Maybe 75-100 people were there but almost no one was looking at the painting. They were all trying to get a selfie with the Mona Lisa which is of course pretty small and 25 feet away. So basically it will be a bad picture of themselves with a postage stamp sized Leonardo da Vinci painting. All over this amazing museum, with some of the greatest art in the world, people were tripping all over themselves trying to get selfies with the art instead of experiencing the beauty and history. Years ago I coined a phrase for this phenomena: “Nobody is where they are anymore”.

  3. That last line is spot on. Perhaps a new movement is needed? A selfie ‘sabbath’ – one day a week everybody takes a rest from taking selfies. Can you imagine?!

  4. “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves…but they will progress no further, for their folly will be manifest to all, as theirs also was.” (2 Timothy 3:1-9)

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