Selfies and the Loss of Self

Recently people were outraged by a man in Italy who took a picture of himself in front of the mutilated body of a person who had been thrown from a train onto the tracks. Apparently the man had taken a picture of himself in the foreground with a victory symbol.
Not unlike the young man who was laughing while filming dead bodies in the japanese forest, this scene attests to the fact that people are losing their connection to humanity.

What has replaced care and concern is our narcisstic concern for social validation. More and more, people are turning to the vast audience of the internet for approval, acknowledgement and validation. Because everyone is so concerned with appearing interesting, valuable, funny, they stop seeing life as actual events taking place in real time with real people. Instead they see each event, and every phenomena as tools to boost their social standing and social validation online. 

Essentially, people have become convinced that their value is based on 'likes', 'views' and 'subscribers.'
If a Rock Opera were written today, unlike the plaintive wail of Tommy to "see me, feel me, touch me, heal me" we would instead be treated to "See me, Like Me, Follow Me, Subscribe Me."

Additionally, the possiiblity of hitting the jackpot, i.e going viral, has real life rewards. There is much to be gained financially by delivering 100,00 sets of eyeballs to an advertiser on Google. By constantly focussing on gaining followers, people begin to monetize their own lives. 

So this man, photographing himself in front of a mangled human body is simply following the herd mentality that says "You aren't real until people see you and Like you. You arent valid or valuable until you shock us, tickle us, make us sit up and take notice."

Marshall McLuhan famously stated "the Medium is the Message.' And it's true. The social media takeover has changed the way people view self and others. Others are now merely tools for presenting the Self to the Public. All that matters now, is that the ever expanding tribe of followers subscribes to the Self--a curated experience of Charm, Humor, Shock, Cleverness and a curated image of Happiness and Success.

Think of our tribal ancestors. Men and women of ancient times did indeed need the group to survive. At those times, it was very important for the tribe to see the individual in a positive light. If an individual was unable to impress the group with his contributions or assistance, he or she might find themselves ostracized. In a very real way, this could be a death sentence as the individual is forced to defend themselves, hunt for themselves and survive without support.

Even though man is estimated to have been walking the earth for 200,000 years, our brains have not evolved substantially so that they are flexible enough to see that survival issues have been eliminated.  We are no longer fending off wild animals, nor hunting (beyond our neighborhood supermarket) for food. We no longer need group approval to try new behaviors or lifestyles.


We can start by gently reminding our friends and ourselves...this moment, this instant--its real. It doesnt need validation. We dont need to show everyone everything. We dont have to insert ourselves into every story, announcement, recording. 

If we arent with the people we want to share with, why arent we spending more time with them? Instead of a constant stream of 'sharing' why dont we commit to more time with people in real time not face time?

Rather than documenting every phenomenon in the external world, why not share more of our internal life--our thoughts, feelings, interpretations and meaning--above all else, what meaning do we gather out of our experiences?

Why wait for others to interpret our photographs? Why not express our own thoughts and feelings and create our own meanings? Perhaps someone will object but thats where dialogue begins...

How often do you find yourself, looking through your phone camera at the Eiffel Tower and not at the actual Tower itself?

Certainly document your life as you please so that you can share warm memories when your brain stops preserving them. But also recognize that the beauty of life is in its ephemeral, transitory, ever-changing quality. We cannot grasp onto it. Our images of life are only seconds in time and no longer exist outside of the document. In the meantime, the actual life you are living is passing you by.

Let's stop and smell the roses...before we document the scene.


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