Life in a selfie-free zone

“The self is something that can be seen more accurately from a distance than from close up.”–David Brooks

Imagine if Ansel Adams arrived here in a time machine.

He would encounter a world that turned everything he knew about his art inside out. We’ve turned the power of capturing beauty through a lens of exquisite composition and clarity back onto the one thing that seems to matter more: ourselves.

Selfies make me feel old. From the start, they seemed a touch banal. But hey, they are fun. You huddle up and squeeze into the photo and usually look weird, but it’s OK. It’s a moment to remember. I tried a few here and there, and they all looked bad. My son told me I had to step up my selfie game.

Now they have sticks to hold the camera to a better length. The selfie game is serious. Occasionally, I wander around Facebook–a neighborhood I liken to a crime-riddled war zone where the danger of mental beatings lurk around every corner–and I see people are EFFin serious about their selfies. And why not? Everyone is now the star of their own reality show. Jay Z and Jay T aren’t the only ones looking to elevate their “brand.” Screw that, I’m a brand too mutherf….

Only most of us are not. We are human, not brand. We can be truth, not pose. We can live real lives that are messy and real, not staged for social media viral approval. We can touch a human being, not text one.

Here’s the twist: We are fearfully and wonderfully made, yet that secret concoction that makes us us, isn’t often captured in a selfie.

If we understood our created/evolved/miraculous beauty a bit more, our need to have it reinforced, moment-by-moment with poses and quips and selfie art and like counts and a whole bunch of other chores in a calculated hope to affirm the beauty within, wouldn’t be so compulsive.

We live in a time of epidemic self-focus. Only the lens is not focused inward toward capturing a picture of a true self, but in search of a photo to be dispensed outward for approval of a pretend self. Psychologically this leans toward narcissism, which is rampant in our culture these days. But holistically it is more simple than that. We’ve lost our focus because we are viewing our lives backward. We are Kim Kardashian, not Ansel Adams. As such, we are missing most of the beauty that gives life purpose, both out there and our own, because a selfie is no way to view either.

I felt myself turning the camera of my life around recently. I looked for validation from the other. I saw instead a side of me that needs more work. Focus blurred. My son was right, I need more work in my selfie game, so I turned the camera back around and pointed it out. My moments of suffocation let up, and air came back in. Sad air. But air. Air is good.

New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote, “The question is: How do you succeed in being introspective without being self-absorbed?”

Turn the lens around and try life for a while in a selfie-free zone.

 

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