Others Before Selfie: Learning to Look Outward

My beloved Gram would often describe me as a “slow burner”. It takes quite a bit for my interior “calm waters” to boil over. That being said, I am smoldering over our society’s current infatuation with the “selfie”. As I scroll through photos of perfectly poised perfection, I want to turn back the clock to a time when the self-esteem and confidence of the young people in our lives didn’t rest on how many “likes” our “smiley faces” received on a social media site. Maybe it’s time to simmer down and consider the benefits of turning the camera in a different direction.

Be the change
Gandhi is attributed to beautifully commanding “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Resisting and often failing to keep a sense of self in our “selfie” world, is a constant battle. I’m not deterred from joining the craze even though my “selfie” attempts could be titled, “My Left Nostril” for lack of technical skill. Last summer, a local pastor, Dr. Doug Damron, put out a Facebook and congregational challenge for people to post photos (in my case “selfies”) from visits to out-of-town places of worship. I quickly discovered that a camera continually turned on yourself, changes your perspective. I turned what was meant to be a spiritual journey of education, tolerance and acceptance into a full-blown competition of how many places I could be photographed. Refraining from posing with “duck lips” was my only saving grace. By turning the camera around, I would have captured the multitude of beautifully diverse faces and cultures from my travels.

True friendselfie shot with the galsship means more than pressing the “like” button
It’s lovely to have friends who like your latest profile photo but a true friend is the one that shows up at your door with tuna soup in your time of need. OK, so my friend isn’t much of a cook but she was there, in the flesh, imperfections and all. That is a far better image than any “selfie” could provide.

Finding yourself
Do your “selfies” truly capture the true essence of who you are? To me, my daughter’s best liked “selfies” are a total contradiction of the images I have of them when they are their best selves. I have seen the young women of this house in what they would think is their disheveled, fuzzy slipper wearing, worst but what I know is REAL. I wish the cyber world could award a “like” for every time my ICU nurse daughter helped save a life or comforted a family or when my middle girl entered her classroom to teach and motivate kids with special needs and shows them that they are capable of greatness. No hand-on-hip, purse-lipped, head tilted, “selfie” shot could ever reflect their caring spirits.

Leave a legacy
I love my family’s history and would spend hours going through our old photo albums and seeing the men and women who helped shape my parents and consequently, me. I don’t want my kids to look back to photos of their life only to find 500 pictures of themselves staring back at them. I encourage them; I encourage you, to grab your loved ones and click away remembering some of the best moments in life are unscripted and imperfect. Even though we live in a “selfie” world on a small screen, take a deep breath and absorb the big world around you before whipping out your cell phone—and every once in a while, turn it around.


Mary Helen Darah is an award-winning columnist who has appeared in numerous publications in the Toledo area and beyond. Her column, The Mother of Mayhem, publishes on ProMedica HealthConnect the first of each month.