Long ago, when the Internet was relatively young and social media was still in its infancy, I used to frequent this website called Asian Avenue. It was essentially a community where you could create a profile page for yourself, upload pictures, and chat with other users. I suppose it was kind of like how dating sites are today, though I didn’t really use it for that purpose. (Okay, maybe I did sorta kinda meet my ex there, but that’s not important…) Webcams and digital cameras weren’t common electronic devices back then, so getting pictures of yourself uploaded onto the web was somewhat of a task. You either had to have a webcam or a scanner. I didn’t have a webcam at the time, but I did have a scanner. Unfortunately, I had a very limited selection of pictures of myself to scan and the ones I did have were quite dated at the time. Obtaining pictures of myself was mostly limited to those taken during special events like weddings or school portraits. Instead of waiting for the next of those to occur, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I turned off the lights in my room, placed a towel behind me to block out external light sources, and opened up the lid on the scanner. I pressed the scan button and tried to remain as still as I could while the light of the scanner slowly worked its way across the surface. I probably pulled 2 decent images of myself with that little endeavor. I remember also having a lot of fun manipulating the images by moving with or against the image sensor. As embarrassed as I am to admit to doing this back then, I suppose you could call that my first selfie.
The word “selfie” wasn’t just selected as one of the Oxford dictionary’s top words of 2013 for nothing. Setting aside my slight distaste for the word (nowhere near as high as the disgust I have for the words “swag” and “yolo”), it’s quite evident how much it has become a part of our internet culture with social networking, the abundance of smartphones, and the convenience of having a camera that is both available and connected (to the Internet). After reading a recent post about selfies at funerals along with some commentary about selfies in general, it got me analyzing myself with regards to my own selfies. Sure, I haven’t gone as far as to take a selfie at a funeral, nor anything on this list for that matter (well, I may have done a driving selfie… okay, yep, I did), but it still got me thinking. In looking at the photo album on my phone, I came to realize just how many selfies I actually take.
So I began to ask myself: “why do I take selfies?” Even though this video may be on a somewhat unrelated subject and a bit exaggerated, I started to feel guilty. Though I take most my selfies away from the public, I wondered if I appeared the same as the people in the video or those people in the Huffington article when I took them.
I don’t know if I could necessarily speak for everyone else who takes selfies, but here are some of my thoughts as I worked through answering the question.
I take selfies…
…because I’m alone.
There’s no doubt about it. I don’t really hang out with anyone nowadays. I know people often seek company when they go out, but for the most part I go it alone. My close friends all live relatively far away. Couple that with a working adult’s life, families, and conflicting schedules, it’s hard to find free time that overlaps with others. Though my siblings mostly live in town, it’s pretty much all the same conditions I just mentioned for them. When I do go out, it’s on a whim. Most of my adventures are unscripted. Since nobody is there with me to capture my outings, I often times just snap quick little pictures of my surroundings and of myself as I go out and about my daily life. I may not be capable of capturing full body shots of myself next to any awesome landmarks or anything like that, but I guess that’s okay. I don’t think I’d be comfortable enough to ask a complete stranger to take my picture anyway.
I don’t mind going out alone. I do it without giving it a second thought. I’ve been doing it for years. Heck, I’ll do it right now! (/goes out to lunch)
Don’t get me wrong though, I don’t mind having company with me either. I would gladly accept if anyone wanted to tag along. Really though, going out, whether I go with or without people, is just not that big a deal to me.
Now, would I say “I’m lonely?”
That I can’t say for sure… and yet I can’t say I’m not, either…
…because I want to be noticed.
I remember looking for some images I snapped on my phone for some work related issues. I was trying to show my boss an image of a particular tech problem and had to scroll past quite a few of my selfies before getting there. I think it was around that time when I realized just how many selfies I take. I remember specifically going through and deleting a ton of them because I felt a little embarrassed after seeing the amount of images I had of myself.
I wouldn’t say I’m narcissistic or vain as some of those articles may suggest of people who take selfies. What I will acknowledge is that I am greatly concerned with how I look to others. I try to do my best to at least look presentable. I walked into the DMV just last week to try to change the photo for my driver’s license. It is out of date with regards to my hair style (as I was basically shaving it with clippers at the time), and it also has the wrong address printed on it. Legitimate reasons aside, I admit that I’ve been longing to get that picture retaken and those reasons were the very excuses I needed to go in. I truly detest that picture. However, despite my desires to change it, I decided to follow the clerk’s advice and just wait until my license renewal next year when I would have to take a new picture anyway.
I suppose it’s only human to have this desire. Just like birds puff up their feathers, you could say I’m kind of doing the same. Given that I’m a single guy again, I guess it makes sense. I can’t help but sometimes feel that longing to catch someone’s eye and appear as an acceptable “candidate” for them. Maybe that’s why I do so many takes for my selfies. Yet it seems the more I see of my own pictures, whether it be on my driver’s license, or set as my profile photo for whatever social network, the more I get sick of it. I start to pick away at the many flaws of my appearance and how I can change it. This leads into the next reason…
…because I’m not happy with how I look.
As I mentioned above, I do want to look good. However, I often feel like I’m simply incapable of doing so. I know I’m not someone who hit the genetic jackpot for good looks or anything like that. I don’t think there exists a single image of me that I’ve actually been content with. That’s part of the reason why I prefer to take selfies. I get to choose the picture that looks the least repulsive to me. Okay, maybe that’s a bit strong of a word, but let’s just simply say I don’t like a majority of my pictures. Any time there’s a family portrait or random candid shot or whatever occasion that involves a picture, I’m lucky if they capture an image that I’m not bothered by. I don’t quite understand how there are people out there that just seem to always look good in all their photos. Where it doesn’t matter what angle, emotion, or expression they may be showing, or even who takes the picture. They always look perfect. With me, I’m like “Did I blink? Did I smile? Is my hair okay? Is my gut sticking out? Are my nostrils flaring? Do I have a double chin? Does my neck look fat? Are my eyelids crooked?”
I can be pretty meticulous about how I look. I try to style my hair a certain way and have experimented with several different hair styles in the last year. I have been expanding my wardrobe quite a bit, even importing clothes to change things up. I recently started working out again in hopes of getting back into the shape I was during my early college years. Not just for looks of course, but the health benefits as well. Even so, I sometimes wonder if I’m doing these things in vain, because I still tend to find flaws with myself despite my best efforts.
I wouldn’t go as far as to say that I hate how I look. Unhappy? Yes. I will acknowledge that. There are things that I wish I could change like my weight (working on it) or my height (uhh… good luck with that one). I sometimes wish the bridge of my nose was more prominent.. or that one even existed for that matter.
I don’t hate myself though. At least, I don’t think I do… that’s what I keep telling myself anyway.
Hate, hate, hate, hate, hate
There was a time in the past where I definitely could say that I hated myself. This was probably sometime during the downward spiral of my divorce. I hated my appearance, I hated my personality, I hated my laziness, I pretty much hated everything that was me. I think the only thing keeping me grounded at that time was my kids. However, it was Christ who ultimately brought me out of that valley. It definitely was not a quick and easy recovery. I remember one time reading Ephesians 5:29 and thinking to myself “hey Paul, that’s just because you haven’t met me yet.” In reading Matthew 22:37-39, I remember pondering “but what if I hate myself?” I think that same verse addresses the matter though if we examine it a little. We are called to love God, but also to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. You could look at it this way: in order to love our neighbors, we have to love ourselves. Or in other words, if we do not love ourselves, we cannot love our neighbors. I don’t think I’ve ever thought of it that way before, personally. Of course in order to love, and love rightly, He had to first love us and show us what love really is. Additionally, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 states that our bodies are a temple of the Lord and that we are to glorify Him in our bodies. How would hating ourselves bring Him glory? We shouldn’t hate the very vessels He has given us to use for His glory. Like a temple, we should treat it accordingly.
I think the primary issue I was dealing with at that time was my lack of contentment. I wasn’t happy with the cards I had been dealt. I was recently studying through 1 Timothy 6:6-11 and though the context is about wealth, verse 6 in particular gave me a reminder about the attitude we should have. Count your blessings. Just as it says, godliness IS in fact a means of great gain, but it must be accompanied with contentment. Be content in Him. You wont find satisfaction in this world. In this world, we will thirst again, but in Him, we will never thirst (John 4:13-14). He will fill us up. He satisfies our soul. In His presence is fullness of joy and pleasures forever (Psalms 16: 11). When something is full, there is no room for more. God does that for us. Just look to the example of Solomon (Ecclesiastes 2:10-11). He essentially had all that the world could possibly offer, but he only came to realize in the end that it was all worthless and meaningless.
We cannot find satisfaction in this world. Let us instead be content in Him. (Philippians 4:11-13)
(By the way, I’m not speaking towards the opposite extreme, or to love yourself excessively. In Matthew 16:24, it talks about denying yourself. Though denying yourself isn’t saying to not love yourself, it most definitely is saying to live for Him and His glory, not for yourself. If you love yourself in that way, where you alone are the focus of your life, then you definitely should examine yourself and get right with Him.)
Wait, I thought we were talking about selfies?
(Yeah, I kind of took a huge tangent from my original outline in writing this. My secondary subject was actually completely different than when I started composing this post. I suppose I’ll leave that one for another time.)
I guess there may be some continuing struggles that I deal with in how I tend to view myself. I may laugh and sarcastically say some pessimistic things or may jokingly inject some Debbie Downer-like commentary at times, but maybe I really am that way to some extent. Though I wouldn’t say I’m struggling with this today, I suppose some remnants may linger. It is easy for me to think that way and to go down that familiar path of tearing myself down. However, I have a surety and confidence in my foundation now, which is in Christ. I look with eager expectation towards the continuing work He is doing within me, which I know He will bring to completion for His glory. In His time, not my time. I just need to continue to fight the good fight and pursue Him.
Though my image may not be pleasing to my own eyes, I know that through Christ, and through the washing of His blood, I am presented to the Father clean, spotless, and without blemish.
Oh, and this isn’t a cry for attention, by the way. Before you go inviting me to every social outing and calendar event in existence, maybe consider this little comic I stumbled on a while back. Trust me… I’m fine… but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to hang out with you either. Feel free to ask 😀