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The Selfie by Noreen Heffernan

The Selfie: How do we teach our children to treat their “self” with worth and love, but without self-entitlement and ego? And to what end does a selfie conspire to create, advance, embellish or improve one’s self worth?

My husband, who isn’t on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, made me laugh so hard the other day. He was like, “I don’t get the selfie. So people turn their phone around and take a picture of their face and then put it online? Without the Eiffel Tower behind them?” I couldn’t stop laughing. He is so against the selfie. I guess he is old school that way, if you can be in your 30’s, old school that is. I responded, “This is what people do now. Do you want me to send you a selfie of me tomorrow…with the background being my pots and pans cupboard?” Because that is where we are at.

He was like, “no thanks.” I laughed again.

Look, I am not against the selfie. I will never take a selfie of just me and upload it anywhere online. I’ll always throw a kid in there or a friend or 2. More power to the people who can, I just can’t. I’ll take a selfie if I just got my makeup done and send it to my friend with the caption, “I look like a clown.” This did happen. But truthfully, the selfie represents something more in our world, changes. Shifts. Our world, us, our youth; we are all changing. Do I sound like an over the hill weirdo? What has happened to our youth? But truthfully, is the weakness of the youth now nothing more than a tortured fragility of narcissistic survival? What is it in a selfie that makes one happy? Is it the image? Is it the idea of the image? Or the drive to produce “Likes?” Or the constant feedback loop of self-indulgence? I am at a loss to understand. And the scary thing about it is; what if they don’t get those “likes,” they so need? Does it cause depression? Is that what might be driving up the teen suicide rates or the homicidal behavior? I don’t know. It all stems from the morphing values of our society; they are less important, more trivial. And those things can be captured with one image, one snap, one flash; the selfie. Click.

1. self

self; plural noun:

A person's essential being that distinguishes them from others,

synonyms: ego, I, oneself, persona, person, identity, character, personality, psyche, soul, spirit, mind, (inner) being

I thought it was interesting that the first synonym of the word “self” is “ego.” We all have egos, yes? We all don’t want to fall behind. We all want to be a part of something. We all want to show our best selves. Social media gives us that option. But there is a point when all of this stuff becomes disingenuous; when moments become less real and more for show. We don’t want that. I saw 3 young girls at the movie theater putting their heads together to take a selfie before the movie started. They spent the next 5 minutes uploading the picture and waiting for responses. They all stared at their phones and didn’t talk to each other. As I said before, to me, the whole scene looked disingenuous. Fake. Phony. All for show.

I am not trying to take anything away from anyone. I’m just trying to think about things as a whole. I’m thinking about my children too. I’m thinking of all the young children. How we can steer our children the right way, away from the self-indulgent society we live in now. It shouldn’t all be about us, me. It should be about something more than that. I’m not saying we need to live for others. Of course, we have to live for ourselves and grow ourselves, absolutely. I’m growing every day and trying to learn from mistakes, etc. But, I am trying to do it in a genuine way. Trying! I don’t think I’ll take a selfie and say, “Look at me learning from my mistakes.” Cheese! Click. Upload. Wait.

But, I guess we need to teach our children to think outside themselves. How? By leading the way. I don’t know; by steering them away from things like the selfie, the check-ins, the waiting for validation. “A person’s essential being that distinguishes them from others,” should be shown in ways that actually distinguishes from others. That is one’s self. Make a real impact. That should be shared and valued. And I’m telling you, I know it can’t be shown by a selfie on a random Tuesday that was taken 25 times to get it right. Pictures should capture essence; a family photo; a little girl giving someone a flower; a husband and wife on their anniversary; real genuine laughter; a mother holding her son. Moments captured. Those are pictures to be shared and valued as well.

Let’s think outside of ourselves. Let us influence others through the way we live everyday not in what we show in an uploaded instant. Let us make our “self” better by doing more for others. Maybe it is time to get away from the useless self-indulgent "wants" and look at the real "needs" of the present. Maybe, just maybe, it is time to look within oneself rather than of your exterior smiling selfie looking back at you.

A special thanks to my dad and husband for helping me get my thoughts clear about the “selfie.”

~Noreen Heffernan,Writer, MA in Public and Corporate Communications, Certified in PR Writer, Growing Ladies


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