It seems ironic that in a year when Pope Francis has exhorted us to look beyond ourselves, the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2013 is “selfie.” For those not in the know, selfie is short for self-portrait, usually one that’s taken on a smartphone and posted on a social media platform.
The Guardian reported Nov. 18 that usage of the word has increased by 17,000 percent over the past year. Indeed, anyone on social media has likely seen seemingly endless variations of selfies, taken in all sorts of locales.
There is nothing inherently wrong with selfies. Pope Francis even posed for one with young faithful in St. Peter’s Basilica. However, the risk exists for the focus to be too much on ourselves, and not on the rest of the world. While we’re busy showing off that we’ve been to the Grand Canyon or Times Square, do we lose touch with what is happening around us?
This self-absorption is what the pope spoke against in a September Mass for catechists: “How do some people, perhaps ourselves included, end up becoming self-absorbed and finding security in material things which ultimately rob us of our face, our human face? This is what happens when we no longer remember God. If we don’t think about God, everything ends up being about ‘me.’ When we no longer remember God, we too become unreal, we too become empty; like the rich man in the Gospel, we no longer have a face.”
Sarah Hayes is executive editor of OSV Newsweekly.