How much time do we spend smiling for the camera?
by Helen Gwynne-Kinsey
Suitable for Whole School (Sec)
To consider the issue of selfies in today’s culture.
Preparation and materials
This assembly works best if the person leading the assembly prepares a slide show of personal selfies that he or she has taken during a typical school day. Examples include:
- arriving at the school entrance
- sitting in the staffroom
- waiting for the first class of the day to arrive
- having a coffee at break-time
- working at the computer
- having lunch
- packing up to go home
- leaving the premises
You will also need the means to display these images during the assembly.
Tell the students what a busy day you had in school yesterday. Explain that, to prove how busy you were, you took selfies throughout the day!
Show the selfie slide show, giving a commentary as you do so. For example, ‘Here I am arriving at school yesterday . . . it’s a shame about the hair’ or, ‘Here I am doing some marking . . . I didn’t realize that tie looked quite so bad!’
When the slide show is over, tell the students the following story by a US journalist called Michael Rosenblum. It first appeared in The Huffington Post on 22 May 2016.
Walking through Times Square . . . I was astonished to see about 1,000 people all clustered and staring up at something. Normally, as a hardened New Yorker, I try to ignore this kind of stuff. But you don’t often see 1,000 people all staring at a single spot. Something big must have been happening . . . I turned to look. What they were all staring at, what had grabbed their attention, was . . . themselves.
There, on the corner of 43rd Street and Broadway, Revlon had created a gigantic video screen that, instead of projecting ads for Revlon products, was merely showing a live video of the crowd that was staring at the screen. The ultimate ‘selfie’. And it worked! . . . Well, like they say in show business, give the people what they want. And clearly what they want to see is . . . themselves! Not only were they both mesmerized and delighted at seeing themselves, but they took out their phones and took pictures and videos of themselves looking at themselves looking at themselves!
Many people in our society seem to record every minute detail of their lives on their phones. But let’s think for a moment about the following important questions.
- Why do we feel the need to take selfies at every possible opportunity?
- Is it that we are vain?
- Is it that we feel that we haven’t lived the moment unless we’ve captured it in a picture or video?
- Is it good for us?
- Is it bad for us?
We probably all have different opinions about selfies. Some of us love to be photographed; some of us avoid it if we possibly can. Nevertheless, one thing is crucial. We must not be so busy taking a selfie that we miss out on the real experiences that life has to offer. Instead of spending time thinking, ‘Am I looking good in this picture?’ or ‘Is there a better way to pose in this shot?’, maybe we should put away our phones and experience the event with our full attention.
While our phones are out of sight, we might take the time to look around and realize that there are other people who are sharing the same experience, too. Why not talk to them about it in person rather than just posting a photo and a snappy comment on Facebook or Instagram? Maybe we need to break free from the selfie culture once in a while and start acting as members of a wider community.
Time for reflection
Hillel the Elder, a Jewish religious leader, wrote, ‘If I am not for myself, who will be for me?’ He continued, saying, ‘But when I am for myself, what am “I”?’
Reread the words and pause to give time for the students to think about the meaning.
Point out that people and community are essential aspects of our lives.
Let’s make sure that we sometimes lift our focus from ourselves and instead think of others.