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#Authentic or #Selfie

February 24, 2016

written by Mike Ellsworth

A few weeks ago, Student Activities took a large group of students to Wintergreen Resort on a Saturday ski/snowboard trip. We were able to spend all day on the slopes and I loved it! The air was cold, the snow was fresh, and much to my surprise, the selfies were unceasing. I was really taken aback by the phones, cameras, tablets and GoPro’s all over the mountain. They all seemed to have one purpose: snap pictures of the shooter and upload it to the nearest social media platform. #selfie #skiing #snowboard #liveauthentic #snow #fun #cold #gooutsideandplay #adventure

But, why the selfie? We live in an age that claims to value authenticity. We have so many outlets to prove just how authentic we are. In fact, some of the most popular hashtags have to do with living “authentic”. Yet, at the same time, we post selfies and other pictures of us doing things all over the internet. My question is this: If we are living authentic lives, why do we need to incessantly post pictures depicting who we are? I would just like to propose a disheartening answer: because we are not truly living authentically.

According to an excellent podcast titled “The Art of Authenticity”, Dr. Maria Sirois explains that true authenticity involves both self-authoring and self-measuring. One must be the complete initiator of their lives and also be the tool used to measure their own progress. For example, this means that you decide to go for a hike without any influence from your friends. You don’t choose to hike to impress anyone or to gain credibility. You also decide for yourself whether and to what degree the hike was good, fun, and worth taking. Living authentic means that you don’t use anyone else’s input to decide if your hike was valuable. I see an irony in the selfie. Are we posting pictures of ourselves to live a more authentic life? Or, is there a sinful nature in us that yearns for the approval and admiration of our peers?

The danger of seeking more attention from our posts or photos is that we find our identity in that attention. If our identity is bound by the opinions of others, we will change the way we live to honor others’ expectations. At this point, we lose our own identity completely. What if we don’t find our value in the number of likes our recent post gets? Would that begin to make us more authentic? I wonder if our feeds would have fewer duck faces, selfies, or humblebrags. 

Maybe next time you are out doing an awesome thing, take the picture just for you, or maybe share it just with your closest friends. Living authentic doesn’t mean that we impose our personal feelings, actions and emotions onto others. It is simply living them out. True authenticity doesn’t come from a selfie; it certainly doesn’t come from being on a mass media platform. Instead, it can be something you carved onto the handle of a nice walking stick, scratched into the bottom of your skis, or written onto the roof of the tent you use stargazing. It should be personal and memorable. Authenticity is for YOU. Selfies are for… well, I honestly don’t know the end to that sentence…

Be the author and the measurer of your life. Take a picture of that beautiful mountain sunrise and place it on your desk, or snap that hilarious picture of your friend drooling in her sleeping bag for your private album. Take these pictures and use them to remember the moments, because YOU know they are worth remembering.

Don’t take a picture to prove who you are, live it.  

Great resources: