Selfies are not new inventions created by the advent of the smartphone though smartphones have opened up that world and facilitated making public the details of our private lives. Now we can share with complete strangers our lunch choices or our bad hair day or post brags along with supporting photographic evidence that we’re still in our PJ’s at five p.m. Sometimes I wish the smartphone or at least the social media app where selfies are posted came with a discernment setting.
Taking selfies in my younger days with a manually focused 35mm film camera proved elusive. I could not master the art of holding the camera, guessing at the focus and looking at the correct spot to take a good picture. I guess that is why they were called reflux cameras—one got an upset stomach wasting a roll of film and paying for developing only to discover twenty-four or thirty-six blurry images.
As technology advanced camera companies devised point–and-click 35mm single-use (disposable) cameras. The camera, about the size of a deck of playing cards, offered twenty-seven opportunities to take a great picture. The entire box was then shipped off to a photo center (or dropped at a local store) for processing. I carried such a camera on my hiking excursions before the turn of the century. With no lens cases or pounds of extra equipment to tote I could stow the lightweight box in my pack until I saw a worthy picture possibility. Then I just pointed and clicked. What could have been easier?
I took this selfie around 1998 using a Kodak single-use camera. The site was the Appalachian Trail in southwestern Virginia, and I had just weathered a short thunder storm. I hoped the image would convey to my family that I floated away with a smile on my face in the event the follow-up storm ripping down the ridge line towards me proved more ferocious. It did. I unwisely attempted to hike forward to find shelter as the temperature plummeted, the wind increased, and the rain hit me full on. In the deluge I lost the trail, retraced my footprints in the deep mud until I located a trail marker heading in the opposite direction, and then hunkered down behind the largest rock I could find until the lightning ceased. Note that the wise designers of the AT blaze with white paint making markers easier to detect under a lightening strobe. I survived the adventure, and I have this image to jog my memory for a story which expands in ferocity with each telling.
Much has changed in our picture-taking habits now that we have digital cameras and smartphones. We can snap an image and see it seconds later. Blurry? Thumb over the camera port? Kid’s finger stuck up his nose in the family picture destined for Grandma? No problem. We take the picture again and again until we get one we like. With digital photography we have the delete option and the really astute photographers might be able to edit out unwanted pieces of an image after the shoot.
Who doesn’t like auto focus and microprocessor controlled lighting adjustments? And what about the choice of photo or video at a touch without changing equipment? Have you seen pictures taken with the portrait mode on some of the high-end smartphones? Amazing! Since I am not paying for film or developing I usually take two or three digital snaps just in case. The limit is the memory capacity of the camera or smartphone
Believe it or not selfies were around in Bible times. James, the half-brother of Jesus described a man who took a long look at himself (isn’t that what we do with selfies), saw or perhaps chose to overlook the imperfections and walked away without any adjustments or a second shot.
For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does. James 1:23-25 NASB
The selfie-taker can mentally filter out the imperfections in his snap, post the image, and await with expectation the likes from all his friends. What happens, though, when we see a friend’s image that is blurry or suffers from a terrible background? Jesus described this scenario as overlooking the log in my eye while attempting to de-speck-ify my neighbor’s eye.
“Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” Matthew 7:3-5 NASB
Do we notice when our friend’s image has a body part blocking the view?
Or when his image is blurry?
Or the confused facial expressions he makes as he tries to master the elusive selfie?
Do his struggles make us feel just a tad superior because our images are better?
Our answers to these questions may help us understand the words Jesus taught.
Several Bible writers included thoughts on self-examination and the absolute necessity of verifying that selfies are all we think they are.
Examine me, O LORD, and try me; Test my mind and my heart. Psalms 26:2 NASB
Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; Psalms 139:23 NASB
Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup.
1 Corinthians 11:27-28 NASB
Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test?
2 Corinthians 13:5 NASB
Why not take a selfie as James counseled? Look into the mirror of God’s Word. Give the image a prayerful and thorough look-see. Are any adjustments needed? Better make corrections and retake the shot until we are truly ready to post.