The Ugly Truth About Our Obsession With Selfies

If smartphones were ponds, a large portion of our population would have already drowned.

I have run into at least 10 people recently who have stopped on fast-moving, heavily-populated sidewalks to take a #selfie. There is no historical building behind them, no beautiful landscape, no real reason to take a picture of themselves other than the fact that they can reverse the camera on the phone, gaze at their own visage, and then share it on social media so the rest of the world can gaze upon it as well.

Narcissus lived in the wrong time -- mythical or not. The poor guy could only see his reflection in the water. Can you imagine how happy he would have been with a selfie? I imagine he would have developed tendinitis in his elbow from holding the phone in front of his face, but he would have been a happy mythological man. Like the Spike Jonze movie "Her," he could have fallen in love with himself, taken himself dancing, and met his own varied needs.

And after seeing at least 10 Narcissus selfies a day posted on Facebook, maybe Echo could have seen what a loser Narcissus was and dumped him before she became a mere echo of herself.

Then again, maybe selfies are a sign of self-esteem. Perhaps we should all love ourselves as much as Kim Kardashian does. According to her photos, she loves her eyes, her lips, her breasts and her ass. She loves how she looks making love. The woman makes Narcissus look others-oriented. But I have to admit if I looked like her I might be inclined to take more selfies.

Let's face it, I'm 53-years-old and never looked like a Kardashian to start with. I peaked at the age of 16 and have had nothing pulled or tucked or plumped or removed or stapled or bound to improve my aging skin. So having a camera in my hand that is looming one terrifying foot away from my face feels more like a direct threat than a happy moment.

I have to admit that I tried to join the #selfie crowd because it seems that we baby boomers are incapable of letting young people just be young while we look disgusted by their antics. That's their right, to make fun of the "out-of-it" old people, but we just can't seem to let that happen. So I attempted a couple of selfies... and my phone refused to take the picture. I think that means that my relationship with me is not working out. My phone rejected me.

What happened to Glamour Shots®, where we could hide our necks with feather boas and filter our images so we could look like Barbara Stanwyck in "Big Valley." That self in the blue cowboy hat with a fuzzy face and pink feather boa is a self I could court. I would definitely take that self to a movie or two, and share some laughs about that the glittery jacket I was wearing. But a 53-year-old face with no filter is not something upon which I want to gaze on a regular basis.

So, am I worried about the state of a world where people look into their personal ponds every single day and post their reflections on social media? Or am I just jealous that I wouldn't date my own #selfie?

Maybe a little of both. I fear that we humans are at our worst when we are self-obsessed. We spend so much time with us that we fail to allow others to be different. It's the safest of all worlds -- we don't have to stretch and grow because our mirror says we are the fairest of them all.

I'm pretty sure that's why so many kids now think that the world has to be made for them. As parents, we have joined the selfie in telling them that they are the center of the universe, and that's a burdensome place to be.

I worry about the self-esteem of those who aren't given beauty as the world defines it, nor have the money to create it in a world of selfies. Many of our most brilliant minds and change leaders were not particularly gorgeous people... they knew they had more to give.

Can you imagine Joan of Arc telling her army to wait while she takes a picture of herself to post before her army moves forward? Can you imagine Mother Teresa asking a leper in Calcutta to wait for her care because she needs to snap a sexy shot of herself first? Or Julia Child letting her soufflé fall while she snaps a smiling shot of herself?

I know that selfies don't always mean we're self-obsessed, but let's say that in most cases it does. So what happens when we all fall in love with ourselves? Maybe we start judging others more harshly. Perhaps we stumble over the homeless man as we take a picture of our newest hairdo.

Maybe we could try looking to another source of reflection. Perhaps we work to see ourselves in the expressions of others, like when I cut that woman off in traffic and saw her furious face and realized she had an elderly parent in the car. Or the smile on that man's face when I opened a door for him and helped him with his package (not that kind of package). Or the look on my dog's sweet face when I come home and drop whatever I have in my arms so I can give him a hug.

Maybe tomorrow we try taking mental pictures of other people's faces, and be glad that none of us were members of Noah's family. Because when that arc was surrounded by nothing but water, a lot of us would have fallen in.

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