In Defense of the Selfie

Great to see you, how are you?
Oh, on second thought, I don't actually care.

As a pastor, public speaker person, and one who loves engaging in community building, I love talking to people. I enjoy hearing about their experiences, finding out what brings them joy, and learning about the little things that make them tick. As most people know the best questions to ask someone to get the ball rolling is some version of, "So what about you?"

  • "Where did you grow up?
  • "What makes you laugh?
  • "What brings your spirit joy?
  • "What pisses you off?
  • "What makes you feel good about yourself?
  • "What do you think about . . .?"
  • "What's that thing you are shoving in your pie hole?"

In these conversations, we find out where we have common interests and passions, we are exposed to new perspectives and experiences, and most importantly, we are given permission to tell our own stories with someone who genuinely want to hear them. After all, we all like to share about things that interest us and what gives us life.

So why do people get so aggravated when people share these things on their social networks?  Why do we stand on our metaphorical porches screaming, "You shallow kids and your selfie machines! You are so self-centered! Get off my lawn!" as if the "me" generation was just a figment of our sociological imagination or that many of us not are making a living off of and via the very platforms that are enabling the "kids" to share a selfie or two or ten.

I think it's because we have forgotten how to actually care about people.

Just like when we ask someone "So how are you doing?" there are times when actually don't want to know or don't even care, but we ask anyway. We then get frustrated when someone gives us anything more than, "Life is amazing and I have been farting rainbows all week." or "Thanks for asking, this week has been hard." -- how dare that person take up my time by answering the very question that I asked them to answer.

Why ask, if we don't really want to know?

Rather shallow and self-centered I think.

Remember connecting with someone on a social network is just another way of asking the question that we all want people to ask us, "So what about you?" -- but it just happens to be on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, etc. Somehow, in this medium we have found fault in others for doing the exact thing that these platforms are made to do. By following or friending other people, we have given permission to share their lives with us and, if followed or friended in return, they have done likewise. But unlike during in-person interactions where are willing to politely feign interest until we can make a graceful exit, we lambast an entire generation of technology users for simply sharing what's happening in their world.

You see when folks share on their networks, pretty much everything is a version of a selfie and an answer to the question, "So what about you?"

  • This is what I/we believe.
  • This is who brings my/our soul joy.
  • There is where I/we are standing.
  • This is who I/we love.
  • This is what makes me/us cry.
  • This is what I/we support.
  • This is what nourishes me/us.
  • This is my/our dog.
  • This is my/child.
  • This is a picture of my coffee.
  • This is me. Right now. Making duck lips.

Yes people can get carried away, but I have always maintained that we get carried away in "real life" too, we've just bought into the idea that seeing someone overshare, be an insensitive asshat, or create false self-imagery is somehow worse when done through the lens of social networks. And like the very thing we are critiquing, with a lack of self-awareness, self-control, and common courtesy, we make condescending pronouncements about a generation who are taking selfies and sharing their lives.

As my kids say, "Rue!"

So the next time you find yourself grumping about people sharing a selfie, a cheesy image quote, a picture of their dog, a sunset, their coffee, or any other life event -- consider that maybe it's not about them being too "me" focused, but about how much you really care about hearing about them at that particular moment in time. Rather than judge them, simply walk away from your Facebook machine until you are in the mood to hear how people's days are going and are in a place where you really do what to hear the answers to, "So, what about you?"