Creating an "Unselfie" Generation
Have you watched the below youtube clip? It is an interesting 90 seconds which really is a sign of the times; sort of a cultural and generational moment that represents some of the influence of modern communication technology.
It all started approximately 15 years ago, about the time that digital photography became mainstream, and is now a distinct part of the millenials' make-up. The biggest difference between digital verses negative film photography is not so much the quality of photo, but rather the sheer volume of pictures taken, and the ease by which they can be viewed and shared. For those of us that learned to shoot with negative film, we had to be very careful when selecting exposure and focus because every click of the shutter had a real cost. A role of film was limited to 24 or 36 shots and each and every shot had to be developed in a lab before one could determine its quality. The one exception was the Polaroid instant camera, which rewarded each of its users with a printed colour photograph in about 60 seconds. Historically, photographers were the quiet individuals in the background measuring light, perfecting focus and taking photos. Ironically, it was the photographers that rarely got in front of the lens and are typically under-represented in family videos and photo albums.
My goodness how things have changed.
The first thing a child says these days after a picture is taken is: "Can I see it?" or "Let me see!" The photographer gladly shows a glimpse of the display and 'shares the moment'. This immediate gratification usually satisfies both the photographer and the subject and on we go with the next shot or activity. Interestingly enough, that viewing is often the only viewing that picture will ever receive. For those special shots that survive to live on in a different digital medium, the opportunities for sharing are incredible.
The "let me see it" or rather, "let me see ME", has created a type of narcissism which is rather mainstream. Now for those that know me, I am the ultimate optimist and advocate for young people. Young people today are better than ever, however, this mainstream narcissism can be detrimental.
Take the selfie as an example. Within many youth oriented circles, the one with the most selfies is the coolest and this is a little concerning. On services such as Facebook or Linkedin, success is measured by "friends", "connections", "likes" etc... In other words, success is measured by popularity or receiving acts of kindness, instead of performing acts of kindness.
The happiest and most balanced individuals I know are 'givers'. I define givers as those who genuinely feel pleasure from serving others. The greatest benefit from 'gaining pleasure by serving' is that there are many opportunities for all of us daily. It is wonderful self fulfilling prophecy. By design, most teachers are givers, and that generally makes them fantastic people.
Don't get me wrong, it is very nice to be on the other side of the equation, however I do believe that today's value system does not quite do this justice. It sounds odd, but let's not deprive this generation of the rewards of serving. If we can help today's students enjoy the benefits of serving, then we are providing a valuable opportunity for them to lead happy and fulfilling lives.
A constant focus on self is myopic and unfulfilling, and the selfie is a step in the wrong direction. I was very encouraged to meet this week with the developers of Volinspire, a web platform designed to increase the opportunities and benefits of meaningful community volunteering. We are exploring how our students can become involved.
I can't wait until it is cool to post a selfie doing a good deed such as volunteering. If we can flood the internet with 'unselfies', we will all be better off.
With warmest regards,
Head of School