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Is taking a selfie proper?

 

Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet
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While there is nothing wrong in principle with taking a selfie (indeed, it saves having to bother others to take your picture), there is a very real narcissistic component to it.

For some, it doesn’t matter where you are, whom you are with, or how many people are standing around you – when the moment is right, you need to snap a picture of yourself. And now you have 836 pictures stored on your phone taken of yourself standing in front of your bathroom mirror.

What’s worse – you then feel the need to post them on Facebook, which I’ve never really understood. Your friends already know what you look like and everyone else couldn’t care less. Worse still is when you check back every day to see if you’ve acquired more than just the two “likes” already there – one from your best friend and the other from the anonymous friend who is really your mother trolling you to see what you’re up to.

Personally, I wouldn’t call it a selfie; I’d call it a “lonely.” You are so lonely that you can’t find a friend to take a picture of you. In fact, the nearest thing you have to a friend now is a selfie-stick. No man should own a selfie-stick. It’s just embarrassing.

The fact is: If you live your life as though everything is about you, as taking selfies tend to suggest, you will be left in the end with just that – just you! If you want to truly live, you need to be able to tear yourself away from your own self-image and dedicate your life to something greater than just you.

— Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet, popular Lubavitch lecturer,
rabbi of London’s Mill Hill Synagogue

 

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Rabbi Yosef Blau

I am uncomfortable with creating new prohibitions. Nevertheless it is worthwhile to examine a phenomenon to evaluate whether it is neutral or problematic from a religious perspective.

The impression I get is that selfies reflect the need to place oneself in the center of events. If that is correct, it is inconsistent with Judaism’s requirement that we show concern for others and be less self-involved.

There may be circumstances when one takes a selfie simply to communicate to a friend or relative that one had been present at an event. A pattern of taking selfies, however, should be avoided. At the very least, there should be some reflection on why an individual needs to place himself in the center of things.

— Rabbi Yosef Blau, mashgiach ruchani at
YU’s Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary

 

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Rabbi Zev Leff

Like every issue: It depends. If the motivation of taking a selfie is self-aggrandizement or vanity, it borders on haughtiness and frivolity, which are negative traits. On the other hand, if one wants to convey a personal message through the picture, it can be okay.

There is a positive side to recognizing one’s self-worth and appreciating oneself. Rabbeinu Yonah in the first paragraph of his Shaarei Avodah writes that the foundation of all service of Hashem is recognizing one’s own self worth and stature.

If a person thinks he is worthless, he will have no incentive to serve G-d, as what would G-d want with a worthless being? He will also lack a deterrent to sin since he will reason that good-for-nothing beings do good-for-nothing deeds, as that is their nature. Furthermore, a person who loves and respects himself can better love and respect another.

The difference between recognizing one’s self-worth/having self-esteem and being haughty can be summed up as follows: Haughtiness leads a person to say, “I’m important because I made myself important and that gives me rights” whereas self-esteem leads a person to say, “I’m important because Hashem made me important and that gives me responsibility.”

— Rabbi Zev Leff, rav of Moshav
Matisyahu, popular lecturer and educator

 

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Rabbi Ben Zion Shafier

While those of us who grew up in a generation before selfies may find them egotistic and narcissistic, I don’t believe they are. I believe they have become a fine way of capturing the moment just like in our day we would ask another person to take a picture of us to capture a moment in time.

However, constantly sharing selfies, especially on social media, is fraught with danger. The two obvious problems are: 1) the need to put one’s entire life’s history and everything that happens out there for all to see; and 2) what people are seeing.

When one goes on any typical social media site, especially Facebook, one sees people always happy and living a life of great enjoyment and constant success, So no matter how good my life is, it cannot possibly compare to the illusionary world put up by everybody else. (Of course, another problem is the hours and hours of time – the most precious commodity of life – that are wasted on these sites.)

Therefore, I believe it would do most of us a tremendous service not to engage in these things at all. We’d be a lot better off, a lot happier, and a lot more productive.

— Rabbi Ben Zion Shafier,
founder of The Shmuz

 

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Rabbi Marc D. Angel

It is proper to let individuals make their own choices on this kind of personal matter. For some (including me), selfies are irrelevant and not part of one’s life. For others, selfies are a way to memorialize a special moment. And for yet others, sharing selfies is a way to maintain contact with loved ones and friends. Let each person decide for him/herself what is most suitable.

A problem arises when people find themselves taking selfies very frequently rather than on rare special occasions.

Some psychiatrists and psychologists who have done research on selfie usage have suggested that “selfitis” – an obsessive compulsive desire to take photos of one’s self and post them on social media – is a mental disorder. Chronic selfie-taking may be a sign of lack of self-esteem or exhibitionism. Even people who take selfies only several times a day may be reflecting deeper emotional and psychological issues.

Those who take selfies need to reflect on why they do so, on whether selfie-taking is beneficial or detrimental to their self-esteem, and on whether they are taking selfies too frequently.

Perhaps the most powerful selfie is: looking into a mirror! See and think about who you really are. Once you come to terms with self-identity, the selfie issue will almost resolve itself.

— Rabbi Marc D. Angel, director of
the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals

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