by Rabbi Benjamin Blech:
It's official. The Oxford English dictionary just announced "selfie" as their International Word of the Year 2013.
The annual honor goes to a new word or expression that attracted the greatest interest during the year. Judy Pearsall, Editorial Director for Oxford Dictionaries, explained the decision: "Using the Oxford Dictionaries language research programme, which collects around 150 million words of current English in use each month, we can see a phenomenal upward trend in the use of selfie in 2013. Frequency of the word in the English language has increased by 17,000% during the past 12 months."
And it's not just that people are using the word a lot. What it describes has become a universal obsession.
In case you don’t know, selfies are self-portraits taken on smartphones and uploaded to social media. More than 53 million of these pictures have been tagged #selfie on the photo-sharing site Instagram, 93% of teenagers take pride in regularly using them, and they make up an ever greater portion of Internet content. Mobile phones now come with cameras specially designed for the arm's length selfie shot. And their message is always the same: me, me, me.
Facebook and Twitter have been elevated to a new level of narcissism. We are no longer content to share ideas; we only want to share our image. Like the egomaniac who stands still while changing a light bulb because he believes that the whole world revolves around him, the worshipers of selfies give new meaning to the word "I" dolatry - ignoring everything in their surroundings except for themselves.
The past few months gave us incredible illustrations.
While scores of onlookers watched in horror as a suicidal man prepared to jump off the Brooklyn Bridge, a bystander turned her back to the scene, angled her phone toward the bridge and snapped a shot which would prominently feature her profile even as it included the less significant sight in the background. To complete the picture, the scarf- clad blonde cracked a thin smile just to make sure she looked her best.
Visitors to the Auschwitz death camp routinely make mock- horror faces while photographing themselves touring the site meant to recall the unparalleled crime of the 20 century, giving greater priority to their presence than to the stark reminders of the evils perpetrated there.
Judaism long ago recognized that the greatest threat to the worship of God is the idolization of the ego. The 10 Commandments begin with the verse "I am the Lord your God who took you out of the land of Egypt, the house of bondage." The first word is "I"-- and it refers to the Almighty. It asks us to replace the personal obsession we have with our own selves for an awareness of a higher power who controls the world. In a very profound sense, the Torah does indeed teach "an I for an I"-- to substitute the supremacy of the Creator for the feeling of our own preeminence.
The entire post can be read here.