Selfies are all the rage. Really, you can’t look at Facebook, Twitter or Instagram without hitting one. At last estimate, at least one million selfies are taken each day. However, all of those pictures have come with a price: selfies have been linked with higher levels of narcissism, addiction and mental illness. I’d go as far as saying that people who take and post too many selfies are looked down upon – indeed, if you see someone overdo it with selfies, don’t you look at them and think, “Hey, calm down?” Perhaps no greater and more current example of the controversy over selfies exists than the case of case of Breanna Mitchell, who took a smiling selfie at the Auschwitz death camps.
I’ve frequently said that elected officials need to make sure that their social media use is other-centered – information posted needs to focus on the constituent and on providing value-added information to their lives. Yet, in the past, I’ve also said that selfies can and should be a part of any social media users life – including elected officials. So, what gives? How can you marry the two?
My key point is this: At their best, the selfie shouldn’t be about the person taking the picture. It should be about everything else. Two specific points:
The selfie that focuses on everyone else
This selfie was snapped by my friend and colleague, State Representative Marty Flynn. He’s all the way on the right. All the way on the left is Representative Ryan Bizzarro, in the middle is Mary Isenhour, a political consultant who worked for the Wolf campaign. Front and center is Tom Wolf, the Democratic nominee for Governor of Pennsylvania. I’m the poor sap trying to cram my way into the photo over Tom’s shoulder.
Anyway, Marty had this selfie taken (I think Ryan’s the one actually taking the picture) and uploaded it originally to his Facebook. Is it a selfie? Sure. But no one is focusing on Marty – he’s practically in the background (well, he’s more visible than me, but that’s completely besides the point). What people are focusing on in this particularly picture is everyone else – the other Reps, the political consultant, and most importantly, Tom Wolf. This isn’t a selfie about the person taking the picture, but it’s one about everyone else. To that extent, it’s a great success.
I’ve seen a lot of my colleagues take these “other-centered” selfies too – selfies with constituents in particular. Those are great – they show that you are active and engaged in the community, and that you love being photographed by your friends and neighbors.
The selfie that focuses on what’s happening in the background
Perhaps the most famous example of this type of selfie is the one shot by Hannah Urden, an 18 year old who survived a plane crash outside of Philadelphia. The plane blew a tire on take-off and no one was seriously injured, but it was certainly a striking image.
I recently took a selfie to show myself at a cool location. That selfie, seen here, is me at the demolition of an old building in Allentown to make way for new development. I took it following a press conference at which the demolition and revitalization plans were announced. Again, it’s a selfie, but I don’t really care if anyone notices me – the point is to focus on the background and for me to be able to say that I was at this very cool event, and that I am totally supportive of the ongoing Allentown revitalization efforts.
What else do you think makes a selfie better? Or at least less narcissistic? Let us know in the comments!