We have to Dare to Be our Selfie

Thoughts on the collapse of integrity

Andrew R. French
6 min readJul 1, 2018


With the advent of powerful hand computers, which are called “smart phones” in a clever bit of marketing directed toward those who are not computer savvy, the idea of the “selfie” has reached it’s zenith. Since these small hand-computers, held by one hand and voice-activated, have powerful tiny cameras on the front and back, we are able to capture the world around us in the blink of an eye, as well as document our passage through it at any given moment, because we have all been trained to carry our “phones” with us at all times, so that we do not miss those moments or that important call.

Using the hand-computer for making calls is only the eleventh most common usage of the device. https://www.express.co.uk/life-style/science-technology/778572/Smartphone-phone-common-reason-use-call

The hand-computer evolved from the simple cell-phone that was common in the late 90’s to early 2000's. From the revolutionary act of being able to send texts to each other and it’s subsequent evolution to Snapchat and the like, to the addition of cameras and wifi capability to the cell-phone hardware to capture and connect to the outside world, cell-phones revolutionized our inter-connectivity, and the smartphone took that an exponential step farther into the realm of fast connection to the internet, which included all of the things that we use our computers for, calling the executable programs “apps”, and creating incredibly easy to use touch-based interfaces for even the most tech-clueless user.

With the advent of the hand-computer we became used to incredibly fast and easy to use applications, and our desktop programs seen ed slow and bulky. Using touchscreen technology proved to be so much more intuitive and satisfactory that the consumer wanted the same experience in their computing life, and so the tablet was born, which is a hybrid of the notebook computer and hand-computer.

Now, our hand-computers have multiple sensors and GPS units, and we can speak to them and they can speak back to us.

Our hand-computers are the primary technology we use on a daily basis, and many people under 35 are essentially cybernetic organisms, in that they would find it hard to function without this technology.

But the interesting thing to me is that the selfie still reigns supreme, even after about 2 decades of use, much like the immediacy of texting attracts us still, without the necessary but complex social interactions that make up any phone call or face to face interaction.

What we are creating is an autonomous reality, wherein any individual under 35 or so has never experienced a world without this small machine in between their experience of life and themselves, including social experience and time in nature.

We are also seeing an uptick in the frequency and prevalence of depression, anxiety, and numerous psychological issues that characterize a generation that has the ability to see the truth that underlies society, and yet does not have the ability to experience it without the incredibly distorting technological filter of a hand-computer, which they carry, powered up, in their pockets all morning, day, and night.

Your average Baby-boomer or Gen-Xer may infer that the selfie is a sign of an enlarged ego, but my preposition is that the selfie is much like the flare that a drowning shipwrecked passenger sends up into the stormy night sky in order to alert any rescuer.

Here I am, a selfie proclaims, I exist still.

Even in causal usage, we take selfies and then post them to our various social media accounts to prove that we exist, that we are still alive, that we are doing something worthwhile.

Social validation is one of the primary motivators in our human lives. We want to know where we stand within the greater herd of humanity, and we want to prove it through our carefully staged pictures of the self. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_comparison_theory

The majority of selfies are staged, i.e. they are not completely spontaneous and without guile. We create them in order to present a picture of ourselves that we desire others to believe that we are. In that case, they may contain some positive aspects, in that it is a positive thing to strive toward how we want to be and what we want to do.

But on the flip side they can cause people to spiral into an endless addiction to likes and comments, which has already led many to die needless deaths in order to “get that great selfie”, putting themselves into dangerous situations in order to gather those likes and comments.

We want the world to like us and comment on our selfies. With the internet and hand-computers, we have democratized fame, which leads those with a hunger for attention to go to great lengths to pursue it.

So what is fame? Fame is having an inordinate amount of attention applied to your activities, for positive of negative reasons.

Mass-murders gain fame as do television actors. There are varied levels of fame according to the platform from which the famous acts. Fame gives the illusion of immortality, but creates an addiction in the famous to continue to pursue the rush and perks of fame.

The uprising of the internet and the widespread availability of high bandwidth , and thus social networks, hand-computers, and selfies, created YouTube, which took the idea of selfies into the realm of home-movie making.

With YouTube, anybody can be a movie star as long as they hit on the right formula. But after years, even this seemingly perfect bliss of internet stardom is causing YouTube stars to crack under the pressure of churning out content, which is what we now call creating media, since all forms can be combined easily these days, as well as endless constant instant criticism. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/2018/05/04/creator-burnout-became-ticking-timebomb-youtube-stars/

In essence, we’ve lost the idea of creating for creation’s sake alone. If we took away the likes, the comments, the product endorsements, and so on, what do we have in the end? An endless stream of content that we consume, digest, and defecate on a daily basis?

Those under 35 have never experienced creating something without being able to broadcast it immediately and gain instant feedback, whether that be acclaim or derision.

Even something as simple as posting a picture of your dog or your rear-end can be cause to rack up social credibility and likes in the hundreds of thousands.

Those over 35 or so notice this and shake their heads. “Crazy kids these days,” they mutter as they post pictures of their breakfast croissant. Meanwhile, the “crazy kids” are creating more in a single day than an entire generation before them. Not to say that the creations contain the same integrity or artistic power, but that begs the question — what is artistic integrity or power?

It remains clear to me that this new explosion of content is all about quantity over quality. And this is because the human animal is easily addicted to something that resonates with their experience, and once addicted to a creator’s content, they want more of it, on an endless loop. But as a human, the creators of this content can become burned out and used up.

There is some kind of disconnect between the consumers and the creators of content — we don’t care about anything other than more content being created to satisfy our addiction.

This in no way is any different then a serialized story in the early 1900s or stories around the campfire. As humans we love stories and those who create them. Stories create a linear progression out of the seemingly random events of real life. Stories help us make sense out of our own lives.

So the addiction is to meaning, linear meaning to be precise. That is why we scroll through timelines in order to gather some sort of meaning from the content on our hand-computers. We like to see story progression in timelines, and we dislike stagnancy or devolution.

The problem is that our real lives do not progress in a linear fashion. They progress in circles and stutters, bumps and whorls, plunges downhill and slow churnings uphill. In other words, they are chaotic, with no discernible patterns emerging until after the fact.

In this way, perhaps, the content being created nowadays mirrors social reality more so than any others before it.



Andrew R. French

Writer at the Intersection of Ecosystem and Culture