By Emilie Ng
BANNED on my gift list for life is the infamous selfie stick.
It was a tough call to make, myself having been seduced by the selfie craze, but I decided to cross the gadget off the “totally necessary gifts” list after a thoughtful dinner conversation with a friend.
“I had a bit of a revelation,” my friend said.
“The selfie stick takes away the need for ‘the other’.”
In other words, my friend realised that selfie sticks promote individualism, in rather obvious terms, self-centredness (“self-ie…”).
Think about it.
All you need to take a selfie is yourself.
Sure, others can join in or “photobomb” the photo, but essentially, there is no need for another person to take the photo.
You just attach gadget, point camera, click shutter, and boom, photo taken, all by yourself.
The selfie stick may not have immediate moral implications – after all it is just a gadget – but it perpetuates subtly, in a gimmicky way, an ideology inconsistent with Catholicism, particularly with Catholic social teaching.
As my friend pointed out, it tells us that other people don’t matter.
On the other hand, Catholic social teaching provides a rich foundation for which humans can create a just society.
It says that as Catholics, and therefore as humans, we must uphold life and the dignity of the human person, embrace family and community, protect the right to life for all humans, instructs us to reach out to the poor and needy, fight for the dignity of work and workers, be peacemakers and love all in human solidarity, and be stewards of creation.
These principals empower Christians to make decision not just to help themselves, but to help the greater common good in society.
It is not about yourself and your needs, but about your neighbour first.
What the selfie stick subtly teaches is you don’t need another person to have a perfect memory of your world.
It also puts the photographic focus on you and what is happening in your life, making you slowly but surely ignorant of others and their Kodak moments.
Even if you don’t have a selfie stick, have you ever denied another person’s request to take your photo for you because you desperately wanted it to be a selfie?
I know I have, and in my desperation, I’m basically ignoring a precious encounter with another human being in wanting to do it all myself.
While your selfie stick photos may not capture selfishness on camera, it’s the small, cunning and subtle messages and semantics that really do damage to your soul.
As St Augustine once said, “Do not despise venial sins because they appear trifling, but fear them because they are numerous. Small animals in large numbers can kill a man. Grains of sand are very small, yet, if accumulated, they can sink a ship. Drops of water are very small, yet how often they become a mighty river, a raging torrent, sweeping everything before them.”
This year, why not eliminate selfies and instead, take photos of the beauty and goodness found in the world around you.
You might just feel better about yourself and capture the good side of life, not just your face.
Emilie Ng is a journalist at The Catholic Leader.