this selfie society

A tale as old as time. Written when Jesus was walking the dirt paths of Israel. When Greek mythology was deemed precious and prophetic. The story sculpted by a poet named Ovid, and re-told by the likes of Oscar Wilde and Paulo Coelho. A tale in which we have likely all heard, slipped in between the Oedipus complex and stories of Zeus during high school English class.

Narcissus was a man well-known for his dashing looks. The Ryan Gosling of today, one thing was true: every man wanted to be him and every woman wanted to be his beloved.

One day, though, his promising life vanished because he stooped down to look at his own reflection. Entranced, he found it impossible to turn away from his own face, until finally he died due to his vanity.

Interestingly enough this man’s name in Greek is derived from the word narke, meaning sleep or numbness. The parallel between vanity and numbness is striking, convicting: live a life seeped in the pursuit of you and you will inevitably sleep through the rest of your life.

I was recently reading an article of a woman who went to an amusement park. While on a roller coaster, a teenage boy in front of her pulled out his digital camera and took video of his reaction throughout the ride. As soon as it was over, the boy greedily clicked play to watch his own face.

Is there something wrong with this? This weird obsession we have with our self? The selfies of Instagram and facebook show this boy is no outlier. He is the norm of society, a society obsessed with creating perfect profile pictures in hopes of getting hundreds of likes and comments affirming these selfie-monsters with words of superficial, backward compliments: “I am so jealous of your legs!” “I hate you. You are too beautiful.” “You are so gorgeous it makes me sick.”   Uhhhh.. thank you?

When it comes to the issue of narcissism I come back to one thing: my purpose in life. I claim my life to be in pursuit of holiness. I know that sounds quite holier-than-thou but, in essence, what I mean by this is that because I love my maker deeply, because I adore Jesus and am grateful he has released me of my bondage, because of this yearning I have for him, I want to live a life that pleases him.

You do this to, though maybe not with Jesus. When you love someone, you want their respect. You attempt to please them in whatever way you can.

And what pleases Jesus is living a life not seeking fame, but being okay with anonymity. A life in which I put God and his command before my own desires. A life lived in rich hospitality, charity, service and selfless love.

Sounds quite opposite of the selfie society we live in, doesn’t it?

In the movie “He’s Just Not That Into You” (which by the way, if you are in need of a laugh click this link) Drew Barrymore’s character is struggling with the transition into a social media driven dating scene. Her character’s dilemma is painfully true of today: when you want to attract the opposite sex you update your profile picture. When you want to seem witty you tweet a funny comment. When you want to give the air of being kind you post a picture of the homeless man you recently gave five bucks to.

What does Narcissus, the boy on the roller coaster, million of teenagers snapping pictures of their face and this character have in common? An obsession over themselves.

My point in all of this? No, I am not saying quit taking selfies. I am not saying you should never look in the mirror. But I am saying take time to put down the camera, the mirror, the desires that benefit only you and look around to what’s going on in life. To the people hurting, the friends full of laughter, the beauty of nature. Take time to be still and simply listen to God. Have rich, life-filled moments with people and God and then DON’T share them with the cyber world, but let those encounters be inside jokes and intimate experiences.

To live a rich life in pursuit of holiness, the pursuit of self must die.

"To stare, big-eyed Narcissus, into some spring is beneath all adult dignity." –Heaney

“This joy of mine is fulfilled; [Jesus] must increase but I must decrease.” –John the Baptist