5 Minutes Read
5 Minutes Read
Here I am in Peru—see the Machu Picchu ruins in the background? This is me again, rocking out at a concert. And here I am, about to tuck into a huge roasted pork knuckle. And here, fresh out of the salon chair—check out my new hairdo. The truth stares me in the face from my many profile pages: I’m a selfie junkie. And I’m not alone.
To be sure, self-portraits aren’t new. For centuries, artists have recorded their own likenesses for posterity. But in recent years, the smartphone with a front-facing camera has made snapping your own photo unprecedentedly easy. You don’t have to be a Van Gogh to make your impression on a mass audience; everyone is just a click away from Instagram stardom or a gazillion Facebook “likes.” And we’re not just busy taking selfies: we’ve also been busy talking about them. After becoming the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year in 2013, the word “selfie” made it into the Oxford English Dictionary in June 2014. Love it or hate it, the selfie is here to stay.
And what’s not to love about it? Gone are the days of setting up a timed shot and racing to take your position ahead of the blinking red light. Gone are all the blurred or thumb-in-frame shots, taken when you couldn’t see exactly what you were doing. Also gone is the hassle of dragging yourself to the photo studio for a mugshot. Now there are phone apps with guides showing you how to position your head and shoulders, so that you can take your official-purpose photo yourself . . . and retake it until your smile is perfect. Because—let’s be honest—you’re the best judge of the face you project to the world.
Which gets me wondering: sure, snapping a selfie is a fun way to capture a moment or show our friends what we’re doing, but is there more to this trend than meets the eye? Could our obsession with selfies reveal something deeper about our motivations, our attitudes, and what we think about ourselves?
In an April 2014 article for the UK’s Telegraph, Radhika Sanghani notes that we seem to find a kind of assurance in being simultaneously in front of and behind the camera: “When I speak to my most prolific selfie-snapping friends, they all agree that it’s about being in control of their image. ‘It’s much easier to edit and control a selfie than a picture taken by someone else,’ a friend tells me. ‘You can make it look better.’”
It’s natural to want to look our best, of course. Who attends an event or job interview without grooming and dressing up to make a good impression? But social media seems to have raised the stakes by ramping up our visibility. When we post our selfies, the world can see more of us than ever before, and we can see what other people think of us. As Ms. Sanghani’s article suggests, selfie-taking is “about being noticed and accepted in society.” This acceptance is often measured by the number of “likes” that we get—which may prompt many hours of pondering over why a certain photo got more “likes” than another. Without realizing it, we may be allowing society to determine our value and define who we are.
When our self-worth is based on the approval of others, however, it’s hard to feel secure. So we update our profile pages relentlessly. With the click of a button, we delete anything that doesn’t fit the image we want to project. We edit, save, and post only our most flattering images or the coolest things we do each week. We worry that “the real me” doesn’t match up to our careful poses and fancy filters.
Not surprising, then, that a 2014 study conducted in the UK linked selfie addiction to self-esteem. The study, involving more than 2,000 men and women aged from 18 to 30, found that many regular selfie-takers have low self-worth. But why is our self-esteem so fragile? Is it because we are always asking ourselves: What am I really worth? Who would like and accept me?
What if there was a better way to measure our self-worth than other people’s opinions? What if there was someone who could see through all the filters and still like and accept us for who we are—warts and all? And what if that someone’s opinion was the only one that truly mattered?
The good news is that such a person does exist. The Bible tells us that this person knew us thoroughly even before we were born, because he made us:
You made all the delicate, inner parts of
my body and knit me together in
my mother’s womb.
Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.
You see, each of us is wonderfully created. And we can know this for a fact, without having to post a selfie and count the “likes.” Why? Because the one who created us is the authority on all things, and he has said so! And who is this person? He is our Creator. He values us for who we are and does not judge us by outward appearances.
In fact, this Creator proved how much he values and loves us by coming in person to connect with us. His name is Jesus Christ. How about that for a friend! Forget about “likes” on social media—what could possibly be worth more than being the Creator’s friend?
What, then, should we make of selfies? Sure, they remain a great way to capture a moment for posterity.
But if we have a full understanding of who we are as Jesus’ creations, then we will no longer worry about what other people think of us or our selfies. They will no longer define who we are because Jesus has already established our worth.
Would you like to find out more about this Jesus who sees and values you as you really are, and about his invitation to friendship? Wouldn’t it be great to see yourself through his eyes and know who you really are?
If you feel challenged to discover your real identity and worth, we hope you’ll investigate Jesus’ invitation to friendship. We encourage you to speak with a friend or the staff at a nearby church to find out more.