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”

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”

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