Every Thursday in LOL Interwebz, Luke T. Harrington explores the quirks and foibles of Internet culture from a Gospel perspective.

We’ve all been there: you’re in a trendy place, with trendy people, and you’re fabulously good-looking, so you get the irresistible urge to take a selfie. Why wouldn’t you? And you even brought your selfie stick with you, because you’re the sort of narcissist who comes prepared! Except…

It’s, y’know, kind of embarrassing.It’s the great democratizer, the face. We all have one, and as long as we can look into each other’s eyes, we’re in some sense on the same level.

I mean, it shouldn’t be. You’re famous. You have thousands of social media followers who are almost as obsessed with you as you are (or else they wouldn’t be following you, right?), and they demand selfies. But…see…there are tons of other people around you right now, and none of them realizes that you’re famous. They might think you’re, like, conceited. They might get the impression that you’re the sort of person who takes selfies.

You don’t want them to think you’re one of those people.

So, what’s the solution? You can’t lose the selfie stick—the world must never know of your triple chin—and you can’t just not take selfies, like you’re some sort of un-Internet-famous plebe. If it were the 1980s (like, ancient times, ugh), you could maybe ask a stranger to take a picture for you. But, y’know, it’s not. Ugh, it’s so hard being an Internet personality.

But, wait. I just had a thought: what if your arms were eight feet long?

Okay, okay, I know that sounds a little weird, but bear with me: if you had Bigfoot-like arms, you could raise your phone high above your head and successfully conceal your vast acne neckbeard (that secret dies with you), while still getting all the goats behind you in the frame, and no one would notice you were engaged in the embarrassing act of taking a selfie. Or, at the very least, they’d be far too distracted by your freakishly long arms to notice your photographic pursuits.

So goes the thinking behind the Selfie Arm, a one-of-a-kind creation from Japanese inventor and Internet personality Mansooon. The ingenious (?) device consists of a selfie stick with a rubber hand at the end, plus a custom-tailored shirt with really, really long sleeves to conceal the apparatus. Taken together, the whole thing saves you the shame of visibly using a selfie stick, while adding the shame of making you look like a starved Neanderthal, plus rendering your hands useless for anything other than selfie-taking. But we all have to make sacrifices for our Internet fame.

All of which makes me wonder: why are we all so embarrassed to take selfies in the first place?

Obviously, the joke of the selfie arm wouldn’t work if most of us weren’t embarrassed of our selfies. But selfie-taking is like looking at our phones on the toilet: we’re all embarrassed by it, but we all still do it. (Although, maybe we should be embarrassed of looking at our phones on the toilet. Because I am definitely not doing that exact thing I just said right now.)

I’m gonna float a thought here: maybe if we keep taking selfies despite our embarrassment, there’s a reason for them beyond sheer narcissism? I mean, if one of my Internet friends posted incessantly about how awesome he was, I’d eventually start ignoring him. But I still look at my friends’ selfies, because, honestly, I like to see their faces. The human brain is pretty much hard-wired to respond to faces, which is something generally missing from online interaction in the absence of a selfie or two.

Being able to see each other face-to-face fosters empathy on an instinctual level. It’s why Storm Troopers wear helmets and Luke Skywalker doesn’t. Particularly with my online-only friends (who are pretty much my only friends in these days of stay-at-home parenting purgatory), it means the world to me to be able to look them in the eye when I’m communicating with them online. I know a lot of the people who post something other than their face as their Facebook or Twitter avatar think they’re being humble, but I just find it annoying. I want to see who I’m talking to.

And maybe I’m kind of reaching here (okay, yeah, I’m really reaching here), but this sort of thing is always on my mind during Advent. God could have brought about the redemption of Creation any way He saw fit, but He chose to do it by taking on a body—and a face. By giving us someone we could look in the eye.

I’m not saying that Jesus is God’s selfie, because that’s stupid, and I only occasionally say stupid things; but I am saying there are reasons for sharing your face beyond self-absorption. It’s the great democratizer, the face. We all have one, and as long as we can look into each other’s eyes, we’re in some sense on the same level. As long as we can look into each other’s eyes, we can see the image of God in one another. So take those selfies with gusto, friends.

And now I have to flush and wash my hands.

Image by Mansooon at omocoro.jp.


3 Comments

  1. Thanks so much for your article! It’s always so much easier to mock than to analyze and seek to understand, so I really appreciate this attempt to revitalize the selfie. You completely nailed our embarrassment of selfies, and made a good case for the fact that sharing your face doesn’t have to be completely narcissistic. In fact, sometimes our attempts to call attention to the fact that we are not partaking in the latest cultural trend can be far more arrogant than just making a selfie our profile picture in the first place. I’d be curious to see if there are other often-dismissed trends that are worth a second glance, and an examination of their underlying values… Emojis? Starbucks? Toms?

  2. Is Bigfoot known for having scrawny, 8-foot long arms? Personally I would have gone with Slender Man-like.

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