I bring to you, the one, the only, the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2013, the selfie.
Except you have probably heard of it, because it is not 2013 anymore, and besides the fact that I do not ask every person I meet, I honestly do not think I have met a single human who does not know what a selfie is, including the children in the video above from rural India.
In case you are someone who has not heard of the selfie (aka a liar), the Oxford dictionary defines a selfie as, “a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website”.
Since the humble beginnings of the selfie being only for the narcissistic, a new trend has emerged. It is the idea of using a selfie or self-taken video, to raise awareness or funds for a charity, and it is indeed #trending.
The success of charity selfie photo and video challenges are well-documented, as shown in the images below.
The #ItsOkaytoTalk campaign (aimed predominantly at men) required participants to post a selfie doing an ‘okay’ symbol and nominate 5 of their friends to the same. The concept was presented in a positive light, despite the general moral panic that circulates around selfies and the narcissism they promote. It was said to gain “attention from UK celebrities like Ricky Gervais, but now it has gone global, trickling down under with Aussie celebrities and regular blokes continuing to raise awareness for the leading cause of death in young men.”
Lets look at the ALS Ice Bucket challenge, which saw people nominating their friends to have a bucket of ice poured on them, as shown in the video below.If they did not participate in said challenge in the set time given, they were to donate money towards Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). The challenge raised millions of dollars and reached a global scale, contributing to ALS research and patient service.
Woah, amazing, right?
While there is no doubt, these are both worthwhile causes, there are some criticisms of the ‘selfie for a cause’ campaigns.
Namely, the legitimacy of participants…
When you give money to a homeless man, do you take a selfie?
According to Canvas, a US-based political editorial, “Generally speaking, boasting about what you have donated to charity but also to post selfies of yourself is quite poor form.”
Despite this, there is no stigma for taking a selfie for charity. It is not only accepted but it is glorified, whether that be by likes, retweets or shares.
The #ItsOkayToTalk campaign’s popularity sky-rocketed in mid-2016, however it’s presence and the “conversation around suicide” it aimed to promote has been less frequent, if not disappeared, from my social media feeds since. It sadly has had its time in the spotlight and as fads do, its novelty has worn off.
Despite it’s loss of prevalence, did the campaign achieve much at its peak?
The campaign required participants to ‘copy and paste’ information (statistics that were UK-based), post it as well as a selfie doing an ‘okay’ symbol and nominate their friends. The concept of ‘copy and paste’ really irks me, I understand that advertising thrives off marketing recall and repetition, however that one can feel content in ‘doing their part’ because they highlighted some words (and either were not aware they were UK statistics, or did not care) and took a selfie, says a lot.
The most popular campaigns to hit my news feed were the #nomakeupselfie, #ItsOkayToTalk and the ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’. After seeing countless selfies for these campaigns on my social media, I do not feel like I know anything more than I did before they were trending.
In reference to the ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’, Will Oremus remarks, “As for ‘raising awareness,’ few of the videos I’ve seen contain any substantive information about the disease, why the money is needed, or how it will be used. More than anything else, the ice bucket videos feel like an exercise in raising awareness of one’s own zaniness, altruism, and/or attractiveness in a wet T-shirt.”
The sad thing is, “the motivational aspect of charity is switching from compassion and silent kindness towards showing off and boosting your ego in a spectacular way and, within that, something is lost,” Canvas writes.
My parents and I have a conundrum. I believe they shouldn’t donate to charities with religious affiliations, whereas they believe any help is better than no help. In a sense, the ‘selfie for a cause’ is similar, if you think uploading a selfie is better than what you would’ve done (nothing), then good on you. In the case of my heart-of-gold parents, I think they should still donate to charities, just ones that are not religiously affiliated, and that is is what I think about the ‘selfie for a cause’.
Donate to that charity, find out about it and what it does, and who it helps, because the gratification shouldn’t come from other’s glorification, it should come from passion for a cause.
There is so much information out there which might make your think before uploading that next selfie. If you would like to know more about selfies used for charities, check out the below links.