On the Proliferation of Selfies


(NON Selfie) My Zen Buddhist spin on the selfie-nomenon. May my tribe increase.

(NON Selfie) My Zen Buddhist spin on the selfie-nomenon. May my tribe increase.

So today, my good friend Joey sent me the link to an article criticizing the phenomenon of the yoga selfie.* It’s the latest in a series of increasingly articulate denunciations—which I suspect will only grow more strident as members of the Yoga Selfie tribe overrun the planet.

Honestly, I don’t feel very strongly about the issue. I don’t take selfies—yoga-related or otherwise—but it’s not because I’m looking down from the peak of any moral high ground. It’s more that I’m hiding in the pit dug by my absence of pictorial qualities, so I don’t deride the habit in others who do tend to be appallingly photogenic. I do get why the proliferation of yoga selfies upsets others though, especially those who see the selfie as the antithesis of what yoga is supposed to cultivate. (Seeing the opposition requires no subtle philosophical insight. Selfies celebrate the self. Yoga is supposed to annihilate the self. Justifying the combination of both is where subtle philosophical maneuvering comes in.)

Perhaps my indifference comes from giving too much credit to the average social media consumer. I tend to assume that in our media-blitzed, marketing-savvy and camera-saturated society, people have a fairly robust notion of what’s realistic and what’s not, and more importantly, how fast shutter speeds and high light sensitivities can immortalize the serendipitous achievement of a split second into a picture of effortless stasis. And even if the photo does convey genuine power and skill, decades of exposure to genuinely rail-thin models on countless ads and billboards have, I think, led most of us to realize that the genuine article is not necessarily the predominant one.

But, but, what about the misguided aspirations and unrealistic expectations these selfies cultivate? What kind of inspiration can they possibly provide? What kinds of messages do they inculcate? To which I would answer: If you’re looking for meaning and inspiration on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest or Twitter, then you’re looking in the wrong place to begin with.

At the end of the day, everyone’s too busy looking at their own image to see anyone else’s. Let the Selfie Takers do what they will—the number of likes their photos generate have no bearing and will never have a bearing on your practice. And if it does tempt you every so often to look at pictures of perfection—unrealistic or otherwise—use their contemplation as an opportunity to practice santosha (contentment), inspire tapas (discipline) and cultivate ishvara pranidhana (surrender). In that way, everything—even the Yoga Selfie—becomes a means to wake up.

* You can view the article About Time: We Stopped the Yoga Selfie here http://www.abouttimemagazine.co.uk/think/about-time-the-yoga-selfie/.

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