Selfies vs. Selfless

On April Fool’s Day this year Thierry Fremaux, Director General of the Cannes Festival and new personal hero to some, announced that selfies are banned on the red carpet. Fremaux called selfies “ridiculous and grotesque,” and have since declared that those taking selfies “…clutter the red carpet.” He wasn’t joking.

Image Credit:

Image Credit:

For many, their time in Cannes is the first time they’ve been there and wish to remember it. Fair enough. Is it selfish then for Fremaux to announce such a rule? Some say yes. However festival attendees, and even some of the film stars themselves, do slow down the red carpet entrance with selfie-taking. 

”Everyone does it. I’ve seen big stars do it because they want to remember the moment and share it with their fans,” says movie database managing editor Keith Simanton. “But I understand festival organizers want to keep the highest level of decorum and class.”

So on the one hand, it’s about appearances, how beautiful people could get caught in awkward selfie images which pollute the visual scenery traditionally laden with celebrities characterized by finesse and class as they walk the red carpet…

Katy Perry on the Red Carpet - Image Credit

Katy Perry on the Red Carpet – Image Credit


On the other hand: Fremaux is not the first to make such a claim. There is the extreme anthropological bid that the self-centered nature of the entire exercise, complete with selfie stick accessory betrays new heights in narcissism—“an excessive interest in or admiration of oneself and one’s physical appearance.”

From NPR to The Guardian to The New Yorker to the New York Times (via James Franco), selfies are interpreted and criticized as a shallow, attention-getting way to highlight and promote the individual.

Who’s really being selfish?

Selfies can, on some level be about our need for connection. Although recently trending as a term, People have been taking selfies for hundreds of years. Today’s selfies take up to 47% of what people upload in Instagram, and they arise out of the social conditions of our lives: the fact that pocket-sized smartphones can take epic photos previously only possible via expensive SLR cameras.

Social media has made it infinitely faster to upload pictures in an instant, rather than wait ‘till you come home to tether the camera with a cable, download to your computer and send it to people in an email…Is this reasoning all bad?

In the past, people captured themselves graphically through other means—from the earliest cliff paintings to commissioned portraitures and professional photography. Even if you feel strongly that selfies epitomize a narcissistic personality type, it’s hard to deny that such a form can only exist if the external factors (technology and cultural norms) are present.

I’m in two minds about this argument. While I personally do find it unsightly and somewhat boring to come across thousands of selfies in my everyday life as a digital strategist…on some occasions, it’s completely acceptable in small doses.

If you were an astronaut out in space for instance, what better way to capture your starkly beautiful historical moment?

Astronaut takes a selfie - Image Credit

Astronaut takes a selfie – Image Credit


I turn my attention to the idea then, that whether selfies are your thing or not; and whether or not you feel it’s completely self-centered to continually pollute others’ news feeds with nothing but pictures of yourself…Let’s talk about what it even means to be SELFless.

To be selfless means being concerned more with the needs and wishes of others than with your own.  It doesn’t come naturally to many people (although it does to children).

Like all admirable virtues that make you feel like you can actually possibly change the world, no one can really teach you to be selfless.

Getting inspired to be so can’t be a bad thing, though.  What do you reckon we give it a go?

1. Get rid of the blinkers and widen your horizons

Being selfless starts with seeing beyond your everyday mundane concerns. If you’re constantly consumed by your own problems and status, you simply won’t have time or energy to act selflessly. Having a greater awareness of the world is the first step to becoming more selfless.

Listen when other people are talking; like ACTUALLY listen (Resist the temptation to take a selfie of the moment).  Don’t let your mind wander when someone is updating their lives with you, or telling you an exciting story. Read the news. Skip the tenth stupid YouTube video of the day and watch documentaries and be aware of major world events as well what is going on around you.

2. Just for fun, Be selfless even if no one else knows

Some will say we’ve turned into a very transactional society.  I’ve had the good fortune of having direct exposure to both transactional and unconditional people daily. Tune out the former, and nurture the latter.  Selfless people don’t act with kindness and generosity because they expect to be rewarded. They do it because it’s the right thing to do, and because it feels good to help other people when you’re able to.

Put toothpaste on your loved one’s toothbrush this evening. Ok they’ll know it’s you, how about just getting someone else a cup of tea when you get off your desk at work, or bring in some fruit for the shared spaces unannounced.  I could go on, but if you take pleasure in other people’s happiness, you’ll be more likely to find extra ways to be selfless without even thinking about it.
3. Don’t value your time more than others

For decades my biggest pet peeve is people wasting my time (whether on purpose or without realizing it).  I could go from super calm to uber-pissed in .02 seconds. Recently it’s been quite liberating to realize that I’m involved and excited about a lot of big things, and a lot of small things threaten to engulf me. Everyone’s time is valuable and finding ways to communicate this is a huge step to selflessness.

Do you get impatient when you have to wait in line? Remember that every other person in the line has a life just as valuable as yours. Their time is as precious to them as yours is to you. Keep this in mind when impatience threatens to get the better of you.

4. Learn to forgive and forget

Try not to hold a grudge. Don’t sweat the small stuff. The selfless person sees the situation from the other person’s point of view. Put yourselves in their shoes.

Worst case scenario, imagine that they wake up tomorrow still themselves and they can only be who they are….You wake up you…Forgiving someone who you feel has wronged you can be incredibly difficult, but it’s also a great demonstration of selflessness.

Too hard? Consider this epic quote:

From Birthday Life Audit – Kristina Marie – LinkedIn

5. Volunteer your time and give back to your community

Mentoring is one amazing thing you can do to give back to those with less work experience than you and as much, if not more, desire to learn as you do.  When you volunteer your time and skills, all you get in return is the rewarding sense that you’ve played a part in helping another human.  There are numerous ways to volunteer, so identify a need and determine how you can contribute.

Donating money and goods is a selfless act that you could practice as often as your budget will allow.  But doing something for your community is an even easier, close to home and heart way for you to be selfless.

6. Be selfless in everyday ways

Without making some orchestrated gesture of when in your calendar you can fit in some volunteering or community time, give up your seat in the Tube or on the bus or train to the elderly and pregnant. Smile after.

Hold doors open for people coming in behind you. Pick up the tab when you notice the person at the next table is short on cash. Smile after.

Last but not least (you may already have guessed): Smile more.

It takes a lot less muscles to smile than to frown.  it’s an instant act of kindness that can create a domino effect in your everyday spaces, way better than a yawn. Plus as a bonus, it makes people wonder what you’re up to.  Never a dull moment.

Got a selfless thought to share? Go on then…More #MindsetOverMatter blogs this way…

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