“It’s an UNSELFIES Revolution Up in Here” by T Cooper
To celebrate the launch of Black Sheep, our imprint dedicated to young readers, T Cooper, coauthor of the young adult novel Changers Book One: Drew, tells us about the Unselfies project that is part of WeAreChangers.org.
In case you missed the news, “selfie” was selected as the word of the year for 2013 (according to the Oxford Dictionaries). There is, traditionally, much spirited debate over which word will be declared word of the year (WOTY), but apparently “selfie” was selected unanimously. Being curious, I looked up previous, recent WOTYs, which include “carbon-neutral” (2006), “locavore” (2007), and “podcast” (2005). Not the worst additions to our lexicon. But “selfie”? Pretty sucky for a WOTY. I mean, taking photographs of oneSELF was deemed valuable enough to be awarded the most important word of 2013?
Resoundingly. The young take selfies. The old take selfies. Pop stars and news anchors take selfies. Famous revered literary authors who are published in the New Yorker every other week take selfies. The Pope took a selfie in 2013, and President Obama snapped a selfie, too, most notably at Nelson Mandela’s funeral. Selfies are nothing if not ubiquitous, an equalizer of sorts, vanity and the urge to be seen as common as weeds. Problem is, like weeds, the invasion of selfies tends to block out healthier, more colorful growth. Especially in kids.
Unless you’re Woody Allen or Freud, the constant scrutiny of oneself never ends well. (And even with those dudes it’s debatable.) Pair that lens-gazing with the compulsion to share the images and curry public favor, and you’ve got an unrivaled recipe for sustained emptiness. Being a teenager is never a picnic. But being a teenager on blast, with no private space and a constant stream of criticism coming at you from the electronic ether can start to feel something like impossible.
Most of the time, the selfie isn’t even a selfie, but a reflection of all the things other people are (or, are cultivating their image to suggest they are), that we believe we are supposed to be too. Hence the prevalence of certain “looks,” like the duckface or the Miley, that become facial fashions. (None of these expressions, it should be noted, communicate much beyond availability.) In truth, the selfie is, by nature, exclusively about the other, a note in a bottle pleading that someone, anyone, love me. Which, I think we can all agree, isn’t the best feeling in the world and maybe something we should do less of.
As part of a larger empathy project for young adults, WeAreChangers.org has launched an UNSELFIES movement. The mission is simple: turn the camera around and focus not on how you look, but how you feel. Instead of capturing your physical self in a photo, try to capture your emotional self. Or document what somebody else is feeling or experiencing. Then, upload your UNSELFIE to the UNSELFIES gallery, and each month, one particularly moving or awesome UNSELFIE will win a free copy of our YA book, Changers—and possibly other stuff once the Pope and President Obama read this and feel moved to donate prizes as well.
Help us make UNSELFIES Word of the Year for 2014; we have 11 months to go.
Some recent UNSELFIES from our gallery:
Posted: Feb 5, 2014
Category: Akashic Insider | Tags: T Cooper, Changers Book One: Drew, Allison Glock-Cooper, Changers, We Are Changers, Justin Bieber, Unselfies, selfie, Kim Kardashian, Geraldo Rivera, Nicki Minaj, Oxford Dictionaries, Word of the Year
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