​Alisha, Asher, and Josh Garber pose for Alisha's "A+ selfie game" in 2018. Photo by Alisha Garber.

By Josh Garber
Wednesday, July 1, 2020

I am not a "selfie person." By that, I mean I probably have more fingers than selfies I've taken, so the concept of International Selfie Day on June 21 was a bit lost on me.

I'm part of a generation that sits somewhere between Gen X and Millennial — the whole "analog childhood/digital adulthood" description sums it up pretty well. Most cell phones started getting cameras while I was in college; people discovered they could point the camera at themselves shortly after I graduated.

As I noticed more and more friends taking pictures of themselves, something deep inside me resisted. Initially, I likened it to the story of Narcissus my mother read me from Greco-Roman mythology. In the story, a guy was so enamored by his reflection in the water that he neglected to eat or drink and he died. Later, while working at a university in Lithuania, I saw students post selfies on social media with a regularity rivaling class attendance; I scoffed at the practice of framing the photo-taker as the subject rather than what they see.

Looking back, I don't think either of these perspectives were at the core of my inclination to resist taking selfies. Rather, it's rooted in how I understand faith. Specifically, following Jesus only makes sense to me in the context of relationships.

If selfies are about placing oneself at the center of the story, nearly a decade of living in intentional communities has taught me that center stage is not the best place to position myself. The early church in Acts 2 — founded with some very close ties to Jesus — illustrates how group members set aside their individual needs so that all could mutually experience the full life and liberation Jesus promises.

No one eats until everyone eats.

Even though I'm not a selfie person, I don't mind those who are. For example, my wife Alisha has an A+ selfie game when our 4-year old's shenanigans reach the level of "seeing is believing." It was also very impactful when a friend explained to me that, as a young, Black American, selfies serve as a form of self-empowerment.

I can't say my mind is totally settled on the matter. I often see what you might call "group selfies" being taken by folks in our faith community here in Barcelona. When we gather, you'll find people taking photos of themselves alongside others. Maybe this is another expression of community. By including the photographer, it's kind of like saying, "You're not showing the full story unless we're all pictured together."

International Selfie Day has already passed by as a tiny blip on the first half of 2020. I celebrated as I try to do every day — by focusing on my relationships with others.






Alisha and Joshua, along with their son, Asher, serve in Barcelona, Catalonia (a region where allegiance to Spain vies with voices calling for independence).



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