To be fair, we plead guilty, if charged, to a measure of innate difficulty in navigating the changing cross currents and uncharted channels that episodically course through the mainstream of social interaction. For example, we have frequently expressed our concern regarding the now prevalent substitution of electronic messaging for person to person conversation. The absence of recognized identity, the result of a familiar voice, the lack of spontaneous response and of the expression of emphasis and feeling, have been sacrificed it seems, to the transmission of data-like messaging. We have been especially troubled by the impersonality and resultant distancing of the communicants by such digital expression in an era when the benefits of closeness and enlightened identification with others is so vitally wanting.
We would, in similar fashion, express serious concern regarding the apparently harmless and simple phenomenon, termed “selfies,” most specifically, the solo selfies, performed, for practical purposes, with the aid of the now popular, “selfie stick.” To be clear, it is not the mechanical act itself, that is the object of concern, but, rather, what we perceive to be its underlying and unhealthy dynamics.
In the recent past, taking snapshots was a common social activity, performed for the future recollection of people and past events. When the roll of necessary film was returned from the developer in the form of individual photos, they were reviewed for accuracy of depiction and technical skill, as well, at times, for conformity to our previous fantasies about our appearance; but, as was said back then, “A camera never lies;” we have learned since then, that it does,
With the exponential evolution of photography, methods of recording images and then rapidly recovering the results, facilitated the acceptance of desired photos, as well as the (apparently, more desirable) rejection of those, which for any reason, did not meet our approval.
Our actual self-image may be a product of several variables, a comparison with the false perspectives offered by our sales driven media (slim, glitzy and young=normal), our interactive social experiences, our perception of how we are seen by others who matter to us, and possibly, other cultural factors. For too many people, unfortunately, potential satisfaction and pleasure in the recognition of one’s unique individuation, have been replaced by an unhealthy and unnatural desire to resemble the commercial Barbie doll and Ken depictions of normalcy and acceptability. These media images may be useful in the marketing of goods and services, but to many impressionable people, pose a harmful visual standard resulting in predictable unhappiness and self-deprecation. In an earlier writing (“Vanity Fair”, blog # 32) we have, in the interest of illustration of this frailty, satirically created a caricature of resultant neurotic insecurity, caused by a dedicated aspiration to conform to such an ideal, but non-existent image. One cannot seek to attain his own life’s potential for happiness and self- fulfillment by enacting vain attempts to emulate artificially formulated and strategic (external) representations of success and acceptance.
Empirical wisdom teaches us that all profoundly important personal evaluations, derived from our life experience, are internalized phenomena, including our personal identity and self-image. The natural development of our personal self- image is factually a combined product and function of several factors, our exercise of reason and evaluation of personal experience, our internal resources and ability to confidently and wisely exercise our discretion, our talent for empathy, understanding and love, together with our personal aptitudes and meaningful accomplishments, material and intellectual; these, indeed, are the valid raw materials for an authentic self-image.
We need to intimately know ourselves, the extent of our personal capabilities and weaknesses, our realistic aspirations and goals; we need to discover for ourselves our own unique identity and personal route to achievable self- enhancement and personal growth. We should celebrate our identity and show appropriate appreciation for the many generous gifts to us by evolution, principally; our capacity to reason and evaluate what matters and what simply does not. Intrinsic value and personal worth for a mature homo sapiens do not depend upon a wasteful yearning, and witless search, for a snapshot emulation of any species of currently broadcasted artificiality.