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September 2, 2014 / 7 Elul, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Selfie’

Selfies, Self-Image, Same-Gender Attraction

Thursday, May 15th, 2014

In recent years there have been calls to foster a more open orthodoxy that accepts same-gender attraction. But whereas there are several explicit verses in the Torah prohibiting this conduct, there is an answer past abstinence or avoidance.

Conceptually there is very little difference between same-gender attraction and selfies (e.g., recently the most popular selfie came from someone who ascribes to the former). The response we can give begins once we place same-gender attraction in its proper context.

For those who are unfamiliar, the definition of the word selfie is:

A photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website.

Selfie Disorder

A recent article suggested that taking selfies may lead to mental disorder. While people who take selfies may appear to be proud and boastful, the news suggests that these moments of extroversion are potentially cover-ups for latent insecurities.

But while the article stops there, we can take this story much further. From this seemingly innocuous tale about selfies, we can learn an important lesson about the secular culture hovering around us today.

Profile Persistence

Whether we take selfies of ourselves or not, there are many opportunities to remind us of our self-image. If we’ve uploaded profile pictures, every time we open our email, Facebook, or LinkedIn account, we are reminded of the image that the world sees of us. Even more pronounced perhaps is Twitter, where every single wit and witticism we share to the world is a restatement of that same profile picture.

Some of us modest souls get around this by posting something aside from our visage. But while modesty is a praiseworthy trait, those who have entered into the public arena don’t have the luxury of anonymity.

Those people who fashion themselves public personalities then have an obstacle to overcome. Instead of becoming enamored by the light of one’s own countenance, the challenge is to realize that any sign of pleasantness or charm is for the sake of others; so that another should be inspired to connect with the worthwhile cause or message that you promote.

From “I” to “Nothing”

What we have now said relates to the two kinds of “I.” There is the “I” of Joseph, which indicates a strength to go from a private to public personality, from hidden to revealed (the numerical value of זהוי, identification, equals strength, כח). Then there is the “I” of Pharaoh which seeks to spread his rule over as great a territory as possible.

While it is good to increase one’s circle of influence when promoting something worthwhile, the challenge is whether one has first undergone the transformation from “I” to Divine “nothingness” (by transposing letters from the I of אֲנִי to the nothing of אַיִן).

Seeing the Reflection of Others

For instance, the greatest fear is public speaking. But once a person shifts their focus from personal perfection to the betterment of others, than these anxieties fade away. So too, while the Egyptian girls would clamor on the wall to get a glimpse of Joseph, he remained pure and holy because he remained faithful to his mission and purpose in life. Even though he had an adoring public fixated on the beauty of his countenance, he was no longer fixated on his own reflection. When Joseph was thrown into a pit without water (without the possibility of seeing his reflection), instead of focusing on snakes and scorpions (i.e. bad thoughts), he focused on Divine Providence. This focus on God continued throughout his stay in Egypt.

Directing Attraction Outward

In addition to Potiphar’s wife attempting to seduce Joseph, there is an opinion that states that Potiphar himself was castrated because he also desired Joseph (Rashi, Genesis 41:45). This comes as no surprise of course as this behavior was rampant in Egyptian culture. But we would now like to add an important clarification.

Selfie

Thursday, March 13th, 2014

Official GPO photographer Avi Ohayon is seen photographing a ‘selfie’ with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu and PM Netanyahu’s wife, Sarah, at the opening of a new exhibition showing candid photographs of all of Israel’s prime ministers, at the Israeli parliament on March 12, 2014.

With all the photographers there, you would think he could have found someone to hold that phone for him.

At least it wasn’t Bibi “pulling an Obama” and taking that ‘selfie’ himself.

In Praise of the Selfie

Monday, February 17th, 2014

Here’s First Lady Michelle Obama taking a selfie with Baltimore student Lawrence Lawson’s phone at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Va., Feb. 5, 2014.

Many folks have been putting down the selfie as evidence of our ever increasing vanity. After all, in medieval literature there are hardly any references to mirrors, and then, during the Renaissance, people can’t seem to have enough of them. Having increased interest in how we look seems to go hand in hand with prosperity, scientific curiosity and a penchant for wearing colorful tights.

The selfie takes the mirror and makes it a group experience. We never had trouble with the self portrait as an artistic genre, we didn’t think they were a show of vanity on the part of the artist. On the contrary, we appreciated how hard it is to model for oneself.

Turns out it’s really easy to do with a smartphone…

Here’s one of my selfies, shot on Laguna Beach, California, on our last trip to the left coast before making Aliyah.

It was a cold and rainy day in April, and I was out, running on the beach. How cool can one man get, right?

yanover california

Selfie

Monday, December 23rd, 2013

The Oxford University Press is the nearest thing to an authoritative arbiter of the English language. English speakers, unlike the French, do not have an Academie to impose a centrally mandated straightjacket on language. Each year, however, they do decide on “Word of the Year.” This year it was “selfie” (or, as others claim, “selfy”).

The word hit the news last week when President Obama took a selfie cuddling up to the Danish premier Helle Thorning-Schmidt, with the British PM desperately trying to get into the picture. It was at the memorial service for Mandela. OMG, as local teens love to say, (Google it if you don’t know) what has the world come to? Was he so bored he had nothing better to do?

Definitions of a selfie vary slightly. The Urban Dictionary describes selfies as:

“pictures taken of oneself while holding the camera at arms length, also known as being camera raped, where one person takes many pictures of themself on anothers camera.”

(Note the grammatical mistakes.)

More comprehensively, the Macmillan Dictionary says:

“A selfie is a picture of yourself that you take using a camera on a mobile phone or other hand-held device, usually composed of no more than head and shoulders. Selfies are often taken with a pose and/or camera angle that attempts to add a little something unique – not just a conventional picture of someone looking straight at the camera. The domain of the selfie is almost always digital – they are not printed, framed and put on the mantelpiece, but circulated via mobile phones, tablets, etc., for consumption by fellow partakers of social media. Arguably this is the key to their appeal – we can use them to remind each other of what we actually look like, or to put a face to names where acquaintance is restricted to the online universe. But of course another possible reason for the emergence of the selfie is practical – in the analogue era of photography, it was awkward to take a photo of yourself, and potentially rather wasteful to use up one of your precious exposures on a roll of film for a picture that would more than likely be out of focus. Today by contrast, we can snap away, bin anything we’re not happy with, and edit and titivate to our heart’s content to get that all-important image we’re so keen to circulate.”

Experts on the media have jumped in to advise against taking selfies against a background of crime, catastrophe, or irresponsible behavior, as damaging to one’s own image. Uploading such stuff to the various social media options could have a disastrous impact on one’s social life, job, and college applications, not to mention marriage prospects. Certainly Obama’s did not do him any favors.

Other contenders for this year’s “Word of the Year” honors were “twerk” (to wiggle your bottom and other body parts provocatively in public and pretend it’s a dance) and “binge-watch” (to sit mindlessly in front of the television for long periods of time). My expert adviser assures me I am wrong and it’s specifically to watch multiple episodes (like one or more seasons) of a show in succession. Well, there you go. Perhaps we do need an Academy after all to tell us definitively who is right. Either way, they are symptomatic of our current cultural malaise.

This narcissistic preoccupation with self is a sign of our times. Humans have always killed other humans, but modern technology has multiplied the death toll exponentially. Humans have always been self-centered egoists seeking instant gratification. The digital age has allowed many more of us to indulge and exaggerate the amount of self-publicity we scatter around the place like litter (or bird droppings). It does not show humanity in its best light, any more than the embarrassingly bad reality shows or those that allow boring people their two minutes of TV fame. It all proves Rev. Jonathan Swift right. We are a race of Yahoos. Even horses come off as more attractive.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/selfie/2013/12/23/

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