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  • It’s hard to walk down the street these days without witnessing someone so enthralled with themselves

  • that they can’t help but take a picture, or 20, of their own mug.

  • The compulsion to take selfies is a relatively new development in society,

  • a progression from the days when one had to rely on strangers to snap the perfect picture.

  • Selfies have become a way to narrate our own existence:

  • we post them on social media and frantically hitrefreshto see who’s liked itdesperately seeking validation.

  • Despite the novelty of it all, the impetus behind taking selfies is quite old.

  • Taking selfies isn’t just about avoiding interaction with strangers,

  • it’s a mandate to give meaning to our behavior, to confess the truth of our inner existence.

  • French philosopher Michel Foucault argues that we have become a “confessing society.”

  • Unlike some who argue that were hoodwinked by those in power to believe someofficialtruth,

  • Foucault argues that the confession generates these truths within ourselves.

  • The confession originated in the Christian Church during the Middle Ages,

  • where one was required to tell their sinister desires, acts and thoughts.

  • The confession was a ritual that changes the person who articulates it; it exonerates, redeems and purifies them.

  • The power lies with the priest, who listens, yet says nothing.

  • In this act, it is the confessor who admits to wrong-doing, not an authority who accuses one of a crime.

  • That, dear viewer, happens to be a very effective way to make sure that people aren’t up to no good.

  • It is so effective that the act of confession then spread to our schools, hospitals, even to our families.

  • We began to confess about more and more, not just our crimes but our ailments, our motivations, our dreams.

  • Confession became so ubiquitous that we internalized it.

  • Were no longer looking for validation from a priest, but in the eyes of our peers.

  • We love to talk about ourselves, we no longer need to be compelled to.

  • We have saddled ourselves with the obligation to tell the story of who we really are -

  • and what better way then a quick selfie in the restroom?

  • Foucault uses the confession to illustrate one of the ways in which power is fragmented.

  • While many would argue that power emanates from the top downwards,

  • Foucault argues it also emanates upwards from ourselves.

  • There exists the prevalent idea that today we are more free to discuss sex, drugs and rock n’ roll than our prudish past.

  • Not so, argues Foucault.

  • After all, the confessional demanded we enumerate our sins in the most vivid descriptions.

  • Later, in Victorian England, doctors and their patients couldn’t stop talking about those naughty behaviors.

  • It was never a question of not talking about these things,

  • it was always a question of when, where and how we could talk about them.

  • The way that we talk about ourselves is both dictated by power and, at the same time, creates power.

  • Power isn’t a bad guy that needs to be defeated, it’s a set of relations that determine how we think, talk and act.

  • What can and cannot be said?

  • How must we say it?

  • Every time we take a selfie, were confessing to society, and participating in those very same relations.

  • These things aren’t simply determined by a Bureau of Selfies,

  • but in the truth that we produce as we talk about, and take pictures of, ourselves.

  • When we take selfies, are we simply exercising our freedom of expression?

  • Or are we confessing to the world around us in a way that limits us?

  • What inner truth do your selfies reveal, dear viewer?

It’s hard to walk down the street these days without witnessing someone so enthralled with themselves

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