The Selfie

Easy access to mobile phones and the internet has ushered in the age of The Selfie which requires us to take a picture of ourselves and post it on social media. There are differing perspectives on the value of recording our lives through Selfies.

Ai Wei Wei, the gifted dissident chinese artist is having a major retrospective at The Royal Academy in September and he is encouraging visitors to take selfies in order to get the message out there.



“While so often selfies are denounced as exercises in narcissism, I’ve always experienced them as experiments in solipsism. A Selfie suggests that no one else in the world sees you as you truly are, that no one can be trusted with the camera but you. In the digital age, the rise of selfies parallels the rise of memoir and autobiography. Controlling one’s image has gone from unspoken desire to unapologetic profession, with everyone from your best friend to your favourite celebrity labouring to control every word, every pixel of himself or herself that enters the world. Self-portraiture is one aspect of a larger project to manage our reputations.”
– Casey N. Cep, In Praise of Selfies

“To read, we need a certain kind of silence, an ability to filter out the noise. That seems increasingly elusive in our overworked society, where every buzz and rumour is instantly blocked and tweeted, and it is not contemplation we desire but an odd sort of distraction, distraction masquerading as being in the know. In such a landscape, knowledge can’t help but fall prey to illusion, albeit an illusion that is deeply seductive, with its promise that speed can lead us to more illumination, that it is more important to react than to think deeply, that something must be attached to every bit of time. Here, we have my reading problem in a nutshell, for books insist we take the opposite position, that we immerse and slow down.”
– David L. Ulin, The Lost Art of Reading

How do you feel about these selfies?


Aki Hoshide on the Space Station.


Ellen broke Twitter at the Oscars.


Recording the event for posterity.


Emily Letts during her abortion.


England, Denmark and the USA at Nelson Mandela’s funeral.


A dangerous selfie


Probably the first selfie: Robert Cornelius circa 1894

Sociologists ask us to consider the following before taking a selfie :
Content – what the photo shows.
Audience – who would want to see it?
Recency – how recently did I share another picture?
Convenience – how easy is it for me to share right now?

Perhaps we should turn the camera through 180° towards others and God?  We propose a re-appraisal of taking pictures of others so as to provide narrative, context and meaning in the story of their lives. Such pictures could be known as The Youie.  These are some of our attempts at The Youie:


Barbara shows her commitment to social justice and Fairtrade.


Wendy unlocking the truth and meaning of the scriptures.


Jon the well travelled Artist in the Commonwealth garden.


Steve’s pocket detail: slightly eccentric traveller to Nepal.

“In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God created identity. Live generously and graciously towards others, the way God lives towards you.”
– Matthew 5:48

“Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you don’t make a performance out of it. It might be good theatre, but the God who made you won’t be applauding. When you do something for someone else, don’t call attention to yourself. You’ve seen them in action, I’m sure – ‘play actors’ I call them – treating prayer meeting and street corner alike as a stage, acting compassionate as long as someone is watching, playing to the crowds. They get applause, true, but that’s all they get. When you help someone out, don’t think about how it looks. Just do it – quietly and unobtrusively. That is the way your God, who conceived you in love, working behind the scenes, helps you out. And when you come before God, don’t turn that into a theatrical production either. All of these people making a regular show out of their prayers, hoping for stardom! Do you think God sits in a box seat? Here’s what I want you to do: find a quiet secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and as honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.”
– Matthew 6:1-6

Our closing prayer:

May we be a people whose lives are directed towards You and who live generously and graciously towards others. May our lives be authentic and lived out in simplicity before you. May we recognise your grace towards us each day.