The Selfie

Some of the major English dictionaries select a “Word of the Year.”  The word is selected basically on its frequency of use in the past year.  Selfie was the Oxford Dictionary word of the year in 2013, because Oxford research noticed a 17,000% increase in its use since the previous year.

So popular the word, people began playing with the word and gave birth to welfie which is a workout selfie, drelfie, a drunken selfie, and bookshelfie which is a selfie in front of your bookshelves.  All linguistic good fun.  

Still, selfie seems to be more than just a word in vogue, unlike vape in 2014, carbon neutral in 2006, and podcast in 2005.  Selfie was iconic or metaphoric in the way it summed up a universal mindset or preoccupation.  Selfie is huge in its implications, and it says a lot about the western orientation towards self. 

I saw this self-orientation once as a young woman in front of me on the bike path preened, played with her hair, and took multiple pics of herself with duck lips on the path with no one and nothing around her.  But selfies are not the only manifestation of this behavior.  So also is the billionaire who think s/he is worthy of all their money and doesn’t have any responsibility to share it, an economic selfie.

Selfie-ness also can be found in the person who will not consider whether s/he knows the full truth about a matter as seen so much lately in the fraught political debates of our nation. This selfie refuses to admit that there are other people who need love, attention, compassion, and generosity. The Old Testament prophet, Amos, wrote strong words of condemnation to the people of Judah when he said (my paraphrase of the text), “Woe to those who sleep on the finest beds, eat the best cuts of meat, spend time in trivial, meaningless activity, and drink your abundant wine by the bowlful, but who also don’t give a flip about the political and social ruin of your nation.” Amos 6:1-6.

If there is an opposite of selfie it is something like team player. This is the person who doesn’t have a whole gallery of self-pictures in every possible pose and locale. Rather, this person gathers people, listens to people, and works for the good of people. Rather than self.

This person can’t imagine putting a child in a cage or denying financial relief to those less fortunate. The problem with the selfie is that it destroys one’s ability to see and empathize with others. After a while, selfies become uninteresting and shallow.

Oh yeah. I’m not saying “don’t take selfies.” I am saying “don’t become so self absorbed that you lose your humanity and compassion.