So I’m going to jump right in and say it: I can neither understand nor appreciate the remarkable selfie craze that has taken over my Facebook and Instagram feeds these days. These self-portraits have become so popular, in fact, that hash tags containing the word “selfie” on Instagram return roughly 100 million photos collectively. The Oxford Dictionary named selfie as its 2013 Word of the Year, claiming its use increased by a mind-blowing 17,000 percent from 2012. Selfies are taken at the gym, in the driver’s seat, in the mirror, at restaurants and nightclubs, in fitting rooms, at events, and most likely everywhere in between. Spin-off words and hash tags have been coined to describe specific types of selfies. You’ve snapped them. I’ve snapped them. President Obama’s snapped them. Apparently we’re all a little self(ie)-obsessed.
I’ll be honest – my first reaction to most selfies is annoyance. I have un-followed plenty of folks who can’t stop posting these photos, complaining all the while about this narcissistic and self-absorbed habit which plagues so many. I mean, okay, beautiful-girl-with-perfect-hair – we all know you’re gorgeous. Okay, super muscular guy who likes to lift in tank tops – we all know you’re fit. Okay party girl who loves being social – we all know you’re fun and popular. But here’s the thing – I don’t think these are the real reasons these simple self-portraits have suddenly become our profile pictures, chronicling our lives and capturing the evolution of our physical appearances.
I suppose I should pause and say this: I am not photogenic. In general, I dislike photos of me. So much so that the idea of taking a selfie is not that appealing. Even on days when I’m feeling pretty fabulous, I’d rather not shatter my self-confidence with a rotten capture of my perceived good-hair-day. Perhaps I’m too insecure to share self-portraits with the world for fear of not being as pretty as the other girls. Perhaps I prefer to only post carefully selected photos taken by a “good” camera because that’s how I’d rather people see me. Perhaps my annoyance stems from jealousy of the girl who manages to capture a seemingly perfect image of herself with every simple click of her iPhone.
Regardless of why, just because I don’t struggle with the selfie-craze doesn’t mean I don’t struggle with a desire for affirmation, justification, approval and encouragement—the real reasons we post these pictures online. It doesn’t mean I don’t want to be told I’m beautiful. It doesn’t mean I’m not quick to share a photo of myself on the rare occasion I find one I like. It doesn’t mean I don’t use my social media feeds to share myself with the world in hopes of feeling like I belong, that I matter, that I’m loved.
Unlike any other time in history, social media has given us the opportunity to know and be known by infinitely more individuals than formerly possible. In many ways, this is a blessing. For me, I’ve been amazed at the incredible number of Christian women who are willing to be vulnerable and minister to me through iBelieve, blogs, Twitter and more. It’s nice to be able to read posts from women I’ve never met in person and know I’m not the only girl in the world who struggles with singleness, fear, lack of discipline, or my perception of God’s true nature. I’m not alone!
But in the same vein, I think, more than ever, the Internet and social media in particular have given us a platform on which to stand and unintentionally shout from the rooftops that we want to be known intimately and affirmed in the unfiltered version of who we are. We want friends on Facebook to know when we’re sick or hurting. We want re-tweets when we’re particular witty or clever. We want comments that say things like “gorgeous” or “I wish I had your hair” on our selfies. Because to us, all of these things say “YOU MATTER, or, YOU ARE ENOUGH.” Our poor little fingers can barely keep up with our touch screens as we fumble to sustain the stream of notifications that give us the self-worth we so desperately long for amidst an enemy that does everything in his power to tear us down.
In some ways, I think selfies are a beautiful picture of our brokenness as humans. They’re a snap of ourselves in an insignificant moment, begging to feel significant through the press of a button. I’m not going to say something cheesy like, “If Jesus had an iPhone, he would like all of your selfies,” because saying that makes me want to punch myself in the face. But here’s the thing: it’s true.
No matter how many people like or comment on your posts – selfies or otherwise – who you are in Christ is secure. He loves everything about you exactly the way He made you. The affirmation and self-assurance we all long for is not achieved after a certain number of likes or comments on your latest profile picture or link to your latest blog post. It’s hidden in the arms of the One who knows us more intimately than we even know ourselves. He doesn’t just think we’re amazing, but loved us so much that He did everything, everything possible to make us His. If we are enough in the eyes and heart of our Creator, than that is enough. We are enough.
Our desire to be known in true community is God-given. I don’t believe God dislikes selfies, or that your iPhone snap is sinful or self-absorbed. If you have a fab outfit or got a great new haircut, then by all means, share it with the world. In the same way, there’s nothing wrong with social media or celebrating our achievements, causes, interests or milestones with our online community. All of these give us the ability to expand our networks and foster new relationships. It’s just important that we examine the motives for why we’re so obsessed with putting ourselves out there and what we’re trying to accomplish in doing so. The next time you feel compelled to complain about your day or share an experience through your iPhone, perhaps take a breath to share it with your Father first. I’m quite certain the quiet peace of His presence and the whisper of His passionate love is far more satisfying than any virtual encouragement you’ll ever receive.
Chelsea Cote is a Type A twenty-something residing in Charlotte, NC. A non-profit development director by day, Chelsea loves Jesus, fashion, her family (including her giant cat Liam), decorating, art in all its forms, gummy candy, thrifting, liquid eyeliner, and watching The West Wing and Friends reruns. You can follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest and read her thoughts on faith, fashion and everything in between at www.bloomingbranchblog.com.