The Selfie Syndrome

Combating Self-Absorption

In our vision statement for ministry, what is the trait that we most desire for our students?  The nebulous answer is success.  But pulling back the veneer, what do we really want?  Contrast that envisioned goal with what we see happening all around us.  True!  It is not just in students.  It is rampant in all sectors of our culture.

Using a selfie stick

Photo Source: Wikipedia

What is it, you ask?  The Selfie Syndrome!  That is the term used by Michelle Borba in a recent article in Time magazine.  She noted that the “rise of social media, as well as changes in our culture and parenting styles” had produced a generation of self-absorbed youth.  She offered some alarming statistics:

  • Narcissism rates up 58% compared to three decades ago
  • 20% of middle school students contemplate suicide as a solution to being bullied
  • Nearly 3 out of 4 college students admit cheating in class
  • One-third of college students report being depressed to the point of “having trouble functioning”

Probably safe to say this not what was envisioned a generation back.  So what can we as Christian educators do to cast a better vision for our students?  Here are several thoughts to get us started:

  • Model a life of Serving Others – Jesus came to earth as a prophet, priest, and king; however, his greatest example to us is that of a Before he completed His mission at Calvary, he washed feet.  (John 13; Philippians 2:5-8).   Let students see you serving fellow teachers by providing a meal in times of illness, praying with and for parents, and assisting students even when you are not required to do so.
  • Seek Empathy opportunities – While we should show sympathy to our students, we seek opportunities to be empathetic. Empathy begins in the classroom—guide students to understand personal needs of classmates; show students ways to be loving and kind to those that are different than them.  Help students to “walk the mile” in the shoes of others.  Guide students to give time and/or money to relief efforts.  Seek local service opportunities to assist elderly, work in homeless shelters or rescue missions, etc.
  • Focus on Self-Sacrifice not Self-Esteem – In a culture that bombards leaders with the need to teach self-esteem, do not lose sight of the truth that success is when self-sacrifice guides one’s life. Jesus reminded His disciples that to be His follower one must deny self rather than be consumed by self-interest.  It is interesting that in our world given to building self-esteem that suicide rates are on the rise.  Rarely do students need help building an esteemed self.
  • Honor those that Sacrifice – Our first thoughts may go to our military members or first responders. While these are worthy examples, the news is full of examples of those that “esteem others better than themselves.”  What about a person who donates an organ to family, friend, or total stranger?  It may be someone who sacrifices money or possessions for storm victims, the poor, or a missionary or mission project.  Remember, you will get what you honor.
  • An Others Project – Choose a year-long or short-term school or class project that allows teachers and students to see, understand, empathize, and sacrificially invest in others. Promote the opportunity to the students.  Let students offer ways that they can be used to meet the needs of others.  Facilitate opportunities for students to have an actionable part in helping.  Money does not solve all problems and it is often too easy to give money and then return focus to self.

Part of an effective teacher’s vision is that students learn to live for something greater than self.  As our culture caters to the desires of self, let’s be intentional about showing and teaching our students that the end of life lived with Selfie Syndrome is not success, rather disappointment, depression, and destruction.

Edward is the founder and managing editor of Focus on Christian Education. He also serves as the Executive Director of the South Carolina Association of Christian Schools.

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  • Dan

    Thank you, Dr. Earwood. This reminds me of the expression, “More is caught than taught.” I truly appreciate the emphasis on serving others. We often focus on the teacher-student dynamic to the detriment of teacher-colleague or teacher-administrator relationship. This was a real reminder to me to reach out to the teachers (older and younger) around me! When students see this behavior modeled, they will catch the concept! Service is so important!
    Excellent thoughts!

  • Martha Earwood Reed

    I like the idea of seeking “empathy opportunities.” Intentional service projects with thoughtful and intentional leadership are a good use of our time as well!