I used Kelly Gallagher’s 1 topic = 18 topic brainstorming technique to think on paper before writing, “Why I’m Selfie-Conscious.” Gallagher’s book, Write Like This, has been absolutely instrumental to the work I’m doing with the Write for Texas initiative.
My 1=18 Pre-Write
Express and Reflect: How does this topic affect my own life and experiences? How does the topic speak to my past?
• I do not like to take selfies, and what this says about me and my place in society.
• How I feel about the attachment to the phone that the selfie-selfish implies
• My thinking about how selfies have affected the learning environment
Inform and Explain: What’s my main point? How can I present this information in a surprising way? What is unexplored about this topic? What new take can I give it?
• The etymology of the word “selfie.”
• The history of the “selfie.” Is this really new? Or maybe the historical roots of it?
• Story of Myselfie- a biography the selfie. ( Maybe personify it- what would its personality be like?)
Evaluate and Judge: Is this good for me? For my family? For society? How do I judge whether this is good or bad? What is my criteria?
• The Kim Kardasian model: Selfies are sooo bad
• The Parisian family model: Selfies are benign, and sort of sad
• The 13 year old One Direction fan model: Selfies are good and fun.
Inquire and Explore: What’s the question? What’s the problem? How should it be handled?
• How far should parents go to monitor their children’s use of and receipt of selfies?
• Why do celebrities feel the need to take embarrassing selfies and then publish them to the world? Do they not feel any responsibility to be role models?
• Or what happened to the concept of role models?
Analyze and Interpret: Why is this so difficult to understand or explain? What makes it so complex?
• Why do I hate taking selfies so much? Why am I selfie-conscious?
• What’s the big uproar? Isn’t this kind of like Elvis or the Beatles?
• Why has the selfie phenomenon reached critical mass now?
Take a Stand/Propose a Solution: What should we do about this issue? Why should you (the audience) do what I want you to do?
• Proposal: Improved parental controls on children’s phones(i.e. a “kill” button to use during school hours, a parental approval of all outgoing materials on your child’s phone.)
• On why Kim Kardashian should never ever take a picture of herself again.
• Why old folks like me need to get with the program and start taking selfies so that the young folks will go off of them like they did with Facebook.
My 5 Minute Brainstorms
Express and Reflect
On Mother’s day this year, my daughter sent me a beautiful scarf. I texted her to let her know that I had gotten it and was wearing it to work that day. She texted back and said, “That’s great. Take a selfie so I can see it.” This was the first time I had even considered taking a picture of myself. I had to find the button on the phone that turned the camera around to my face, and no matter how many times I tried to take the picture, I looked awful. No I mean it. I’ll show you the picture. There was something very different about taking my own picture. It’s hard enough to make my face and body look acceptable to me when I’m getting my picture taken. Now there’s the added disappointment that I can’t make myself look like my mind’s eye view when I’m taking my own picture. I am selfie- conscious and I wonder why. It could have something to do with my age, but maybe it’s also about the world I grew up in. I could probably find a way to blame my mother for this. That would be convenient.
Inform and Explain
As long as there have been little girls, selfies have existed. I think my mother used to call it “mooning.” The British would call it swanning I think. When I was 8 or 9 I vividly remember looking at my reflection in the picture window at my grandmother’s house and taking note of the expressions on my face as I sang “Autumn Leaves,” a very contemplative piece that was too deep to belong to my childish repertoire. My daughter went through a phase (several times) in which she took pictures of herself with a camera. We’d go to the Walmart and pick up the pictures thinking they were of our latest vacation to Old Faithful or whatever and there’d be a whole roll of pics featuring the 100 faces of Amy. So I don’t think selfies are new. Only now two things are happening: these ad hoc representations of id get posted to the whole world before id has had a chance to formulate, and people don’t seem to be growing out of the fascination with their own faces. Maybe that’s why I don’t like taking selfies; it’s been years since I admired my own face freshly cleansed by intense emotion in the mirror.
Evaluate and Judge
My husband was recently in the airport in Paris. He watched as a family of four took out a device that looked like a long arm and attached their camera to it so that they could take better group selfies of themselves. While I think using our cameras for the purpose of taking family or friend photos is pretty benign, isn’t it also a little bit sad? The last time I visited Paris with my husband, we asked a stranger to take a photo of us on the steps of the Sacre Couer. Part of the expression on my face was related to the joy I shared with the stranger taking our photo. That photo says to me, “Here we all are, on this planet together, sharing this beautiful day in this beautiful place.” Have we lost that? Are we too afraid to let strangers into our lives for long enough to release the private experience for a more planetary one? This makes me feel sad.
Inquire and Explore
What happened to the idea of being a role model? My theory is that reality television has created so many celebrities that have no talent, no purpose, no ambition, that the idea of being a role model has been pushed aside for the idea of playing a role. Even though folks with notoriety are starting to reap some of what they’ve sown (Ray Rice) it seems like the only thing that is really expected of those who make a lot of money as athletes, actors and actresses, or celebrities is that they not get caught doing anything too bad. I deplore the idea that celebrities think it is okay to take naked pics of themselves and then protest when they are publicized.
Analyze and Interpret
Why has the selfie phenomenon reached critical mass right now? Or maybe it’s just that I started contemplating it just now. Maybe that is the definition of reaching critical mass and moving over into the cannon of what is a real cultural thing. Somewhere in a small town, a middle aged woman recognizes a cultural idea for the first time. Maybe that’s the tipping point. Or maybe it’s when a writer pitches a show about a selfish girl who alienates all her friends with her irresponsible use of social media and says the show will be called “selfie,” maybe that’s when we know we’ve started to reach critical mass with a new cultural thing. Of course, when it becomes a real thing, and not just something the teenagers are doing, the teenagers will find a new “thing,” that isn’t part of the mass consciousness.
But Hip-Hop is still around so who knows?
Take a Stand/Propose a Solution
From what we know about brain research, children’s brains don’t really fully develop for a long time. Some people are 24 or 25 when their brain becomes a full blown adult brain. And the last center to develop? Judgment. That’s only one of the reasons why it’s important for parents to protect their children from the Carnation Instant Breakfast philosophy. To a child, snapping a picture of yourself with your cell phone and sending it to your friends or posting it on Facebook is just something you do without thinking about the possible future consequences. Children don’t think about things like consequences, because they lack judgment. This is why I love my father’s saying: “The most amazing thing in the world is a grown man.”
This tool has been very helpful for me, because it gives me the freedom to explore the topic fully. Now I know that when I sit down to write about selfies, I will not only have a choice about the purpose I want the article to achieve, I will have other ideas I might not have thought of had I just started writing cold.
If I was asking students to try the “If you have one, you have 18,” activity, I would stand in the room and show them my own writing as I was doing the writing. Gallagher says that modeling has the most impact on the quality of student writing of anything that he has ever done in his classroom, and I agree. I also agree with him that it’s important to show students polished writing doesn’t come from anyone’s first draft. The sloppy copy is where all the ideas (and all the learning) reside, and students need to see sloppy