What Can Frum Communites Learn from the Selfie?

How much do frum communities and social media platforms have in common? The answer is – more than you may think.

There’s no hiding from the social media revolution that’s gained momentum in the last few decades. Our communities are much smaller than Facebook, but there are surprising parallels between our social spheres and social media platforms.

How different is waiting for “Likes” on a selfie to waiting for community approval on your choice of spouse, clothing, or career?

Selfie: “an image of oneself taken by oneself using a digital camera especially for posting on social networks.”

From Merriam Webster

One poll found that every third photo taken by those aged 18 to 24 is a selfie. What is the magic of the selfie? And what can we learn from its appeal?

Self-affirmation, self-esteem, and the selfie

The word “affirmation” stems  from the Latin affirmare, which means “to make steady, strengthen.”  As human beings, our need for affirmation of our worth is incredibly strong.

When we believe in our inherent self-worth, we are emotionally healthier, less prone to stress,  and better equipped to handle failure or criticism.  Self-affirmation separates our flaws from our real selves, and thereby encourages self- improvement and open-mindness.

The selfie is sometimes a gateway to self-affirmation. Snapping a shot of yourself smiling, or posting a picture of yourself in a new dress has a curiously positive effect on your self-esteem and confidence.  A recent research experiment found that students told to take a daily selfie of themselves smiling found themselves feeling more “confident and comfortable” over time.

Why are so many people “Snapping for Approval”?

Too much selfie-snapping, however, can be a marker of serious doubts about self-worth. Selfie-taking can be a search for external validation. The selfie phenomenon is so ubiquitous because self-esteem is sorely lacking for so many.

Dr. Terri Apter, a psychology lecturer at Cambridge University, says people are attracted to selfies because  we all like the idea of “getting attention, being noticed, being part of the culture.”

Wanting attention and affirmation is normal and human. But, when feelings of self-worth and self-confidence depend on affirmation from external sources, there is a problem.

So what can frum communities learn from the selfie culture?

If there’s one thing we can learn from the selfie fad, it’s that our need for self-affirmation and communal approval is real. Social media and frum communities share several similar attributes – they are both enclosed,regulated environments where you can be closely scrutinized and judged, or accepted.

We have the communal power to gift others self-affirmation and respect. Fostering an environment that embraces individuality and self-expression will alleviate a lot of undue stress and loneliness.

The power of the selfie is that it makes others feel valued and worthy. Let’s learn that from the selfie.

About the Author
Marcia Kesner is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Licensed Mental Health Counselor with over 25 years of experience and has offices in Brooklyn, New York and the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Her practice focuses on treatment-resistant, self-harming, and self-sabotaging behaviors and addictive disorders, as well as healing from the after-effects of trauma and abuse. Marcia has recently been incorporating more of an emphasis on shame resilience, vulnerability, and self-compassion into her work.