Why do people take selfies? Someone asked me not long ago. The larger question is, why do people share anything at all?
Sharing is an act of kindness. It walks along two opposites. On one side we have the ‘I,’ the ego. The beast needs to eat. We share so that others will praise and thank us. And act of kindness towards us. Our mind builds our esteem model based on such recognition. We use it as a mirror of how much should we value ourselves. It follows that the more appreciation, the more we’ll share. Such behavior can rapidly descend into narcissistic views of self and a complete distortion of your values.
At the other opposite, we have those we care about. We share because that giving act will bring joy and happiness to others. Seeing happiness spring from another soul knowing you were part of it, brings immense delight. Sharing with others also creates a cycle. A virtuous one. The more you do for others, the happier you become.
The edges between one form or the other are fuzzy. It’s easy to think you’re sharing for someone’s benefit, just to realize you do it with a reason in mind, to feed our ego. Other times, we’re in need of a kind word, but in the process, we make others happy too.
“One of the functions of art is to give people the words to know their own experience. There are always areas of vast silence in any culture, and part of an artist’s job is to go into those areas and come back from the silence with something to say. It’s one reason why we read poetry, because poets can give us the words we need. When we read good poetry, we often say, ‘Yeah, that’s it. That’s how I feel.’”
Ursula K. Le Guin (Talking on the Water)
As Le Guin brilliantly explains, the responsibility of the creative mind is to share something that illuminates our souls. Yes, there is a fair amount of ego involved, but there is also a desire to touch others, to guide them, to make them smile, nod and shine happiness on their soul.
Why do people take selfies? My choice? I share selfies because I know it makes some of my friends happy. Because I know that watching someone smile brings up memories. Because I know that looking into someone’s eyes can transport you to a magical place. Because, despite the lack of realism, it’s one way to say, I miss you.