Exploring the Social Imagination

Monday, April 28, 2014

Another Global Problem - the Selfie Culture - How it is Changing Society?

Another Global Problem is the Selfie Culture; yes, not just here in America but globally it has become not only a pastime but an indulgence in self idolatry. 


In some social discussions, sociologists are calling this phenomenon the 'rise of the selfie'.  Is this a serious determinant to society? As a sociologist and a Christian the answer to that question is Yes. It is so because firstly it is a major illustration of indulgence in self idolatry linked to the virtual reality of today's popular telecommunications platforms which is hardly the venue for healthy social interaction. Secondly, from a sociologists point of view, the later of the prior sentence says it all. Face to face interaction has been and is the healthiest means for social interaction. In this way, we are most able to put  one's self into someone else's shoes as George H. Mead  proclaimed; or the better way to experience the self is via the "looking glass self" a concept formed by Charles H. Cooley which posited that we need other people to engage with to better understand ourselves (we know who we are and are not through the interaction with someone else in a face to face situation) and to build ourselves socially, into a healthy and successful social composite. Of course, argument can be made that twitter, facebook and other platforms allow this to happen and don't have to be face to face which could lead to conflict, which could cause harm, which could hurt someone's feelings... wait a minute, those kind of 'bad' things happen using those 'nice' social platforms... So, what did Cooley mean? The looking glass self is the experience of the self that is a projection by the self onto someone else, to understand who you are and are not. What does that mean? It means that as you project who you think you are and are not onto someone else, you learn who you 'really' are and 'really' are not... not who you think you are and are not.  Of course, the locus of society is in the mind as Cooley also said but through the engagement with another person, we are better able to see our-self for what/who we are rather than a self imagined through a curtain. It is more tangible giving us a sense of either belonging or not belonging to a group as we encounter more and more other selves who are engaged in the same activity in a place, this binds us to a place and creates social 'self' stability. Cooley would in fact say this if he were alive today, that in order that even a 'selfie' makes sense to us, we need to know that other selves are out there looking at them. Again, some might say that is enough to call it social interaction. Again, I would argue that it is the threshold for social departure, disengagement with face to face interaction and the risk of greater social instability and even social decay.

This is a serious problem for not only local social environments but also for the global community. We cannot think we understand someone else implicitly from the other side of the globe just because we exchanged selfies or chatted on fb. Lost in translation still applies here. Surprisingly, I have heard that such loss does not matter, the content is the selfie and that is enough. Really? Perhaps, if we are talking about the creation of a totally new kind of society- social reality which would be a border-less low grade shallow and culturally deprived consumer driven self indulged society that does not care about anything but the present... the present self.  I think this is dangerous territory for the local and global community. And, laughably the come back to that is that national borders/boundaries don't matter. That maybe, but the self ...any self would become an island with no boundary; and thus, you would have no group to define, no culture, no society.

1 comment :

  1. This incessant technological march toward the perfect "selfie" world is also the march toward the end of humanity. We are forgetting that we are human and a part of a greater whole. While I do not subscribe to the socialist ideas of the past and I do embrace the idea that the individual should;d have a natural right to grow and create and live free, this increasing degree of separation from others into a world of self idolatry is highly dangerous. It is an extinction-level event ...albeit a slow-motion one. If you want to see how "selfies" behave with other "selfies" go on line and see the way people insult one another freely with the most foul and degrading language imaginable. They would never do this in-person. But from the safety of isolation and distance and anonymity they can be brutes. I am convinced that the world needs a huge EMP burst to destroy this technological civilization and return us to sanity!