• Tue, Jan 14 - 10:59 am ET

Um, The “Selfie Police” Want To Charge You $1 Per Selfie…For Charity

selfie-police-project

Two college students have hatched a plan to charge you a dollar for every selfie you take. The “Selfie Police” project, founded by Brigham Young University students Chas Barton and Dustin Locke aims to prey on the prevalence of social media self-portraits and “self-obsession” to raise money for Vittana, an organization that provides loans to college-age people in developing countries.

The organization’s website describes the project:

On behalf of humanity, you are hereby fined $1 per selfie on charges of self-obsession. All the money goes to fund education for kids who can’t afford college, let alone a $600 self-indulgence device. Donate and join us. Police your friends. There’s a lot of work to be done. Together we can turn vanity into charity.

The project, which launched just last week, is completely voluntary. You can also “accuse” your friends; The Selfie Police website has suggestions of what to write underneath people’s photos if you want them to pay up for their “vanity.” The “funny” suggestion?

“OMG you are so beautiful! And nice! That’s why I knew you would pay up at selfiepolice.org #selfiepolice”

The “mean” one?

“Eh, nice selfie. Use a better filter next time so I can’t actually tell what you look like. Pay up at selfiepolice.org #selfiepolice”

Here’s what founder Chas Barton said about the initiative:

“When we first came up with the idea we were trying to think of how to engage our generation in giving. It’s tricky because we’re such a selfish generation, so the question we asked was not how do we make our generation charitable, but how do we turn selfishness into charity.”

Hmmm. I think raising money for a good cause is great, but I also take serious issue with his characterization of selfies as “selfish” and the use of the words “self-obsession” and “vanity” in the website’s description. Selfies aren’t just a way to show the internet how attractive you think you are. As the reaction to the “Selfies Are A Cry For Help” post on Jezebel demonstrated, selfies can be a powerful form of self-expression. Selfies are often assertions of self-love, self-care and self-confidence. They’re not just about vanity or narcissism. For people who don’t fit the thin, white, straight societal norm, selfies are a way to create imagery that reflects, represents and celebrates their identities. Why and how is that selfish? Why does celebrating yourself mean you “owe” humanity?

The isn’t the first time selfies have been co-opted for a cause. Remember the whole “selfless selfies” thing? As I said, I think the Selfie Police project is an interesting idea and a worthy cause. Still, I think the creators should reexamine the way they’re packaging their idea, if they don’t want to alienate or offend the many, many people who find selfie-taking an empowering (and often feminist) act.

Photo: Getty Images

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  • Lindsey Conklin

    hmm, I’m all for charity projects and this is definitely interesting, but there’s also something I kind of hate about it and I’m a selfie virgin…

    • http://www.benwhoski.com/ Benwhoski

      Possibly the part where the project actively encourages supporters to shame their friends into “paying up” on a system they never agreed to.

  • CMJ

    Nothing screams “being charitable” to me more than shaming people for taking a frakking picture of themselves.

  • Amanda

    I know some people who really do need to stop posting 15 selfies a day. Oh, you’re driving. Oh you drove to Starbucks. Oh your boyfriend met you there. Oh you’re still a couple I see by the 17 pictures of you two making “cute crazy” faces.We didn’t forget what you looked like in the hour it’s been since you last put up a selfie. Like, I’m all for posting a picture of yourself or a couple pic every once in a while but multiple ones a day are OVERBOARD and I will gladly start commenting those selfie police things on those people’s selfies.

  • Aiden

    This would probably hit home a bit more if I took more than 1 selfie every two weeks.

  • Noname

    Yup. If you’re straight, white, and thin then you should probably go kill yourself because your mere physical existence offends the blacks and the gays. That’s what I read.

    • Mel

      If that’s what you read, then you should seek help immediately. I’m not kidding. Turn off your device, and seek a therapist.

  • Kay_Sue

    I take issue too with the characterization of an entire generation as selfish. Yes, there are selfish people in every generation–but there are significantly generous ones too. And I think ever generation tends to characterize their successors as more self-absorbed than the last, but I really don’t think it’s entirely true. It overlooks and marginalizes a lot of great efforts being made by young people to leave the world a better place.

  • S Guest

    I saw a post on tumblr that pointed out that as much as people bitch about this generation taking too many selfies, before cameras people used to pay big bucks to stand in one place for hours on end to get their portraits done sooo…

    I don’t take a lot of selfies, personally, but my grandmother was camera-obsessed and I love it. I have pictures of my great grandparents, pictures of my grandmother at every stage of her life, tons of photos of my mom and even of my great-great grandmother. Maybe you don’t care about seeing your friend’s picture every day but they will likely have family someday that will relish seeing what their relative looked like in their youth, the trends and fashions of the time, etc.

    I agree some people take it to an extreme with doing too many selfies, but a selfie in and of itself is not inherently self-obsessed. There’s nothing wrong with feeling like you look good one day and people shouldn’t be shamed for embracing that.

    And this whole attitude of “stupid selfish Americans we’re going to make you care about REAL problems” is so fucking annoying. I absolutely agree with supporting education overseas, but this is clearly not about the charity and more about their own smug sense of satisfaction of “ohhh look at how deep and worldy we are.” For people who don’t like the idea of how self-obsessed society is, why did they want to promote this with their names so they get all the credit?