Smiling for 'Auschwitz selfies,' and crying into the digital wilderness
This tweet from Breanna Mitchell sparked a fierce debate over selfies and sacred spaces.
July 22nd, 2014
08:53 AM ET

Smiling for 'Auschwitz selfies,' and crying into the digital wilderness

Opinion by Craig Detweiler, Special to CNN

(CNN) - It is understandable why Breanna Mitchell’s sunny tweet from Auschwitz as “PrincessBMM” would spark a viral outcry.

A tour of a concentration camp, where so many Jews lost their lives, may move us to take photos or post responses - but few would include smiles, or selfies.

But Mitchell is not the first teenager to generate Internet outrage by her response to the Holocaust.

When Justin Bieber visited the Anne Frank House last year, he wrote in the museum guest book, “Truly inspiring to be able to come here. Anne was a great girl. Hopefully, she would have been a Belieber.”

While many have ripped into Mitchell and Bieber for their insensitivity, I don’t think they intended to be disrespectful to the dead.

Thanks to the ubiquity of mobile devices (mobiquity!), adolescent mistakes and hard lessons that used to be learned in private can quickly devolve into public drubbings.

This is what happens when new technologies clash with ancient understandings of the sacred. The problem is so pervasive that a Tumblr site, “Selfies at Serious Places” is dedicated to such faux pas.

We have very few spaces that our culture considers sacred, where an association with the divine results in a feeling of awe or reverence. Death may seem especially abstract to young people who haven’t been shown how to grieve, mourn or respect the dead.

So how might we help the emerging generation to develop a digital decorum that accounts for sacred spaces? Can we incorporate electronic ethics into religious instruction?

This summer, I have been teaching students at Pepperdine University’s London campus, which has given my family remarkable opportunities to see the places that define European history. Traveling with my 12- and 14-year-old children has raised questions about what is appropriate and where.

While some churches such as Westminster Abbey prohibit photography, others such as the Salisbury Cathedral allow all kinds of cameras. Our eyes, ears and spirits were far more sensitized in Westminster Abbey, where we were freed from “getting the shot.”

Once an hour, an announcement at the abbey invites visitors to pause, wherever they are, for a moment of respectful silence and prayer. How rare and appropriate to see a church encouraging us to pause en masse for sacred activity - rather than mere digital documentation of our visit.

The selfie could provide a sacred pausing if it didn’t involve so much posing.

It is one way to record a moment, to fix an experience as a reminder, “I was here.” It can be a lovely way to communicate to friends and family, “Wish you were here.”

But it also involves a level of performance that often pulls us out of the place itself. And a selfie can veer toward the humblebrag, advertising our summer vacation to friends.

The temptation with social media is to turn our friends into an audience. We cast ourselves as the star and think about how to entertain our followers. Tours of revered spaces become an opportunity to post a photo.

Should we travel to Amsterdam or Auschwitz to acquire content, to have something to share on social media?

We may sink into the spiral described by poet T.S. Eliot, “We had the experience, but missed the meaning.” Our digital devices create a conundrum: how to be fully present in the moment we are also trying to broadcast?

This summer, the line to tour the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam snaked down the block and around the church next door. So many students have read her poignant “Diary of a Young Girl” for school assignments.

Yet John Green’s best-selling, young adult novel, "The Fault in Our Stars," also awakened interest in Frank. In the novel, two teens, battling cancer, climb the stairs to Anne’s attic hideaway, where they experience their first kiss.

Older and established film critics questioned the appropriateness of the scene, but the target audience of adolescents found it powerful and inspiring. Where critics saw blasphemy and disrespect, teens edged toward the transcendent.

As Green writes in “The Fault in Our Stars,” “You have a choice in this world, I believe, about how to tell sad stories, and we made the funny choice.”

When our family toured the house, no photos were allowed. The crowd was remarkably respectful. People of all ages climbed past the bookcase that covered the back half of the house and concealed the Frank family.

While I paused with my kids to take in the reality of the books still on the shelf, a woman in her 40s pulled out her phone and snapped an illicit photo. No personnel saw it. No one chided her actions. Perhaps she shared it on Facebook in a respectful way.

The wisdom in Ecclesiastes declares that there is “A time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.” Yet we may not weep or laugh or photograph the same things at the same time.

We found even more incongruous responses to the Holocaust in Berlin.

Architects Peter Eisenman and Daniel Libeskind navigated considerable controversies while crafting moving Holocaust memorials. They respected the concerns of families and survivors while making history relevant for generations to come.

But they cannot control the public’s response.

While my family walked reverently through the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, others were playing hide-and-seek and jumping across the tomb-like steles.

At the Jewish Museum, we were haunted by the Holocaust Tower. When the door closed behind us with a thunderous boom, the huge, oppressive walls and darkness bore down upon us. Yet we also watched countless school groups cruise in, take a quick pic and hop out.

Should we be encouraged that so many young people were touring the museum?

Parents and educators are challenged to communicate the gravity of the Holocaust to the next generation. In “Night,” Elie Wiesel reminded us why we must continue to teach and speak and visit horrific places like Auschwitz, “For in the end, it is all about memory, its sources and its magnitude, and, of course, its consequences.”

Still, we cannot control what Justin Bieber or Breanna Mitchell post.

Where most of us saw disrespect in Mitchell’s smile, she claimed it was a moment of bonding with her deceased father. Their shared experience of studying about Auschwitz found fruition in her visit. Her selfie and smile was a positive form of grieving - and an affront to others.

Perhaps the wisdom of Viktor Frankl can help us navigate a world where privacy has nearly collapsed and everything is open to self-promotion.

In “Man’s Search for Meaning,” Frankl noted: “Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

We must continue to provide sacred spaces and opportunities for us all to pause, to turn off our devices long enough to experience the divine. But that space must also be open to indifference, to blasphemy, to selfies.

For even in its intense inward focus, the selfie posted on social media is also a cry into the void: “Is anybody there? Does anybody care?”

May Bieber and Mitchell hear an affirming whisper rather than merely a massive outrage.

Craig Detweiler is a professor of communication at Pepperdine University and the author of "iGods: How Technology Shapes our Spiritual and Social Lives." The views expressed in this column belong to Detweiler. 

- CNN Religion Editor

Filed under: Death • Ethics • Europe • History • Holocaust • Internet • Media • Opinion • Sacred Spaces • Spirituality • Traditions • Trends

soundoff (705 Responses)
  1. lunchbreaker

    On July 20, she posted on Twitter, "I'm famous y'all" as her story got picked up by media outlets.

    July 23, 2014 at 5:26 pm |
    • iheartroger

      Annnnnnnnnd, the Prosecution rests. Guilty. Case closed.

      July 23, 2014 at 5:28 pm |
      • Peaceadvocate2014


        An honest remark from the girl, nothing wrong there.

        I watch a tv show live and when i got home my mom said she saw me on tv. My remark was " i'm famous y'all".

        July 25, 2014 at 2:44 pm |
  2. marcopicolata

    "Remember be through laughter, not tears"

    The fact is even if they participate most generations don't understand the selfie. While it seems vain and silly to some it is just a form of communication by the younger generation and future ones. By that I mean to say it is not going anywhere no matter how many martyrs we crucify with public ridicule.

    Should she have taken a picture? yes it is a piece of history that should be remembered and shared and kept alive.

    Should she have been smiling? yes its a picture.

    Should she have been in the picture? yes, why would her friends even take note of it if she wasn't.

    Should it have been on social media? yes that is how the world works today and tomorrow.

    The fact is while some may call her generation selfish, self absorbed, greedy, vain, and what other ridiculous unflattering term that can be thrown out, I hope they take note of where she is standing. That was not her generation that committed those atrocities or participated in torture or whose greed caused a great recession. That fact is our generation and past generations aren't looking down from the moral high ground.. we are looking up and I only wish the best for them.

    July 23, 2014 at 5:11 pm |
  3. bpowers583

    whatever you say....I really have no interest in debating this anymore

    July 23, 2014 at 4:23 pm |
    • LaBella

      Lol, that was a pretty salty thing to say to me...lol.

      July 23, 2014 at 5:13 pm |
    • Science Works

      salty ?

      July 25, 2014 at 12:28 pm |
    • Science Works

      3 recent comments makes 2 ?

      July 25, 2014 at 12:34 pm |
    • Science Works

      Google got it.

      July 25, 2014 at 7:27 pm |
  4. lunchbreaker

    Atleast she didn't do the duck face and throw up a peace sign.

    July 23, 2014 at 4:02 pm |
    • LaBella

      I thought about commenting on that, but you beat me to it...

      July 23, 2014 at 4:50 pm |
  5. darkhorse55

    This is why we have wars, because certain people feel they can and should force their values on others. She took a pic and posted it! Get over it! It's not like she was urinating, or spray painting graffiti at the site and being disrespectful with intent.. It was a simple pic to her and nothing else.

    July 23, 2014 at 3:42 pm |
    • iheartroger

      Your own words . . . "to her it was nothing but a simple pic." You're making the point of the other side, sorry.

      July 23, 2014 at 3:49 pm |
      • darkhorse55

        I beg to differ! You think she was disrespectful, for whatever reason that might be. There's nothing to suggest that she was trying to be disrespectful. You're offended! I'm not and she's definitely. What if she told you that she'd be offended if you took a selfie at your local church because she felt it was a house of God and disrespectful to do so. Yeah I know, you'd tell her to go f*** herself, right?

        July 23, 2014 at 5:18 pm |
        • iheartroger

          I cannot respond to your post because it makes no sense. I'm outta here. Have a great evening.

          July 23, 2014 at 5:29 pm |
        • darkhorse55


          July 23, 2014 at 5:32 pm |
  6. lunchbreaker

    bum bum
    bum bum

    July 23, 2014 at 2:54 pm |
    • thesamyaza

      no, no you do not. no on has a right to selfie, in fact selfies are tacky and it shows to people you have no friends

      July 23, 2014 at 3:00 pm |
      • Alias

        Haters gonna hate.

        July 23, 2014 at 3:05 pm |
    • Peaceadvocate2014


      Its all about intent of a selfy. Some have awful intent.

      July 25, 2014 at 2:52 pm |
  7. thesamyaza


    July 23, 2014 at 2:33 pm |
    • thesamyaza

      from the report
      He explained that emotions are inherent behaviors that serve a purpose. "Negative" emotions like sadness and anger are meant to be short-term. Expressing sadness or anger over long periods of time can undermine relationships and turn people away.

      He added, "It is easier for other people to be around you" when grief and distress are punctuated with laughter and smiling. "People avoid someone who is in pain all the time."

      July 23, 2014 at 2:36 pm |
  8. w2lucky

    Oh that's right, let's walk around Auschwitz with our heads hung low and sad. Yes, it's hallowed ground for the Jewish, but if it becomes so sacred that we jump a kid for taking a selfie there, then let's just shut the depressing reminder down. Better yet, let's plow the place under and put a nice memorial there. with a sign that says, "You must be depressed and sad here and never take a picture, especially of yourself". Gimme a break.

    July 23, 2014 at 2:22 pm |
    • w2lucky

      Oh, and to young Breanna Mitchell. "Good job kid". By taking that selfie it shows that you took the time to visit that horrible place and learn about the Holocaust. Something 99.99% of your peers have not done.

      July 23, 2014 at 2:27 pm |
      • iheartroger

        Yes, because all of her peers have the funds to travel to Germany. I'm pretty sure she didn't pay her own way. What a useless comment.

        July 23, 2014 at 2:49 pm |
    • iheartroger

      It should be viewed as a sad and sacred place for human beings, not just for "the Jewish." I've been to the Holocaust museum in DC and I felt my soul break a little. It is profoundly horrific and utterly devastating. There is absolutely nothing at Auschwitz to smile about. Nothing.

      July 23, 2014 at 2:48 pm |
      • Alias

        She smiled because a picture was being taken.
        It does not reflect on the location in any way.

        July 23, 2014 at 3:07 pm |
  9. bpowers583

    Ummm didn't our president take a selfie at a funeral? Then again, he is one of the most un-classy people I know.

    July 23, 2014 at 1:56 pm |
    • LaBella

      If you're talking about the memorial celebration for Nelson Mandela, he was in a picture that someone else took.

      July 23, 2014 at 2:01 pm |
      • bpowers583

        Look again...I just did and you can clearly see HIM holding the camera

        July 23, 2014 at 2:03 pm |
        • bpowers583

          * him along with the prime minister of Denmark

          July 23, 2014 at 2:10 pm |
        • LaBella

          I see the PM of Denmark's holding the phone; I believe she admitted it was her phone and she took the photos.

          July 23, 2014 at 2:41 pm |
      • bpowers583

        well then, you need to get your eyes checked. The photo clearly shows Obama also with one hand on the phone. The PM has two hands on it.

        July 23, 2014 at 3:01 pm |
        • rogerthat2014

          If they are both holding it, is that an "USie" or a "WEie"?

          July 23, 2014 at 3:14 pm |
        • LaBella

          It's her device, she said she took the photo; is it still a selfie when someone else takes the photo on their own device and you happen to be in the picture with the person who took it?
          I see his one hand on it. I see her two. She admitted taking the picture herself, therefore, she took a selfie with Obama in it, also.

          July 23, 2014 at 3:20 pm |
        • LaBella

          Good question, roger, although I suspect it was just a way to get a gratuitous slam in about Obama.

          July 23, 2014 at 3:22 pm |
        • bpowers583

          @LeBella...you say potato I say potato...same thing

          July 23, 2014 at 4:03 pm |
        • LaBella

          Not really. In order for it to be a selfie, one has to take a picture of one's self.
          This girl in the article took the photo of herself. That's, by definition, a selfie.
          Obama and the Pope didn't take the picture themselves. They were just in the photo with the person who took it.

          July 23, 2014 at 4:15 pm |
        • igaftr

          you say potato, I say raw vodka...

          July 23, 2014 at 4:18 pm |
        • LaBella

          Igaftr, is it dirty martini time? Do say yes.

          July 23, 2014 at 4:21 pm |
        • bpowers583

          So I guess to be precise, Obama was "in" a group selfie at a memorial service. Either way I am done debating it.

          July 23, 2014 at 4:29 pm |
        • lunchbreaker


          I once saw a wino eating gra-pes. I said, "Dude, you gotta wait."

          July 23, 2014 at 4:36 pm |
        • igaftr

          No time for dirty martini's...going to the lake, free concert and some fine Canookian brew. But I'll have one in "spirit"....

          July 23, 2014 at 4:52 pm |
        • LaBella

          Igaftr, a tip-o-the-glass to you. Enjoy.

          July 23, 2014 at 4:59 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      There was a big to do about the Pope's selfie on this blog not too long ago

      July 23, 2014 at 2:05 pm |
      • LaBella

        Yeah, he didn't actually take that picture, either.
        I wonder if the term "selfie" needs to be explained to people?

        July 23, 2014 at 3:45 pm |
        • Doc Vestibule

          Damn kids and their interweb selfishy polaroids.
          In my day, there weren't none of this InstantGram. If'n you wanted people to know what you ate for breakfast you had to invite them over and make it, dammit!
          You couldn't just surf the emails and googly your way through life either. We had books! On paper made from trees! And you had to memorize them to learn anything!
          Using these typewriters hooked to television screens ain't gonna learn you nothin'!
          It's all evil, I tells ya! Why do you think it's called "Wicked-pedia"?

          Now get off'n my lawn!

          July 23, 2014 at 3:58 pm |
        • LaBella

          Lol, I'm going to read that as Dana Carvey used to, with one fist shaking at the sky....

          July 23, 2014 at 4:17 pm |
  10. jtyates206

    LMAO at that girls picture. DOH! I bet shes a treat to talk to at a party.

    July 23, 2014 at 1:25 pm |
  11. tjp44

    stop the media coverage and this will go away..........hopefully...we live in a world far to obsessed with social media...

    July 23, 2014 at 1:22 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      People on the internet have short attention spa.... LOL – That cat wants to eat a cheeseburger!

      July 23, 2014 at 2:04 pm |
      • Alias

        Please provide a link.
        with references.
        Was this fortold in your Holy Book?
        if not, why not?

        July 23, 2014 at 2:18 pm |
        • Doc Vestibule

          "For yea in the latter days shalt there cometh felis domesticus who long for flesh and dairy byproducts betwixt leavened bread. And yea shall they utter with poor grammar their desires for such as the 4th bowl be emtpied on the 7th seal. And the rivers shall turn to milk as blood did falleth from Galzekebroth's nose when he did betray the Lord."

          – Revelation 15:23

          July 23, 2014 at 2:55 pm |
  12. lunchbreaker

    I find it interesting that well know Christian posters and well known atheist posters are on both sides of this "issue", which I use the word loosely in this case.. It's weird to see awanderingscot agreeing with any atheist on anything. But that does illustrate how little a one word label tells you about someone.

    July 23, 2014 at 12:50 pm |
  13. navillusgobragh

    I love that she has headphones in. "I just can't make my way through any site of mass genocide without listening to Ke$ha."

    July 23, 2014 at 12:24 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      Of course it couldn't be that she is listening to a pre-recorded description of the camp...

      July 23, 2014 at 12:53 pm |
      • navillusgobragh

        If she listened to a description of Auschwitz, she would have known not to smile and tag an emoticon. I stand by my hypothesis.

        July 23, 2014 at 1:04 pm |
        • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

          So that proves she is listening to music? Your hypothesis is she spent money and effort getting all the way to a concentration camp...just to listen to Kei$a because she is self-absorbed and cares little about what she is seeing. Did you notice only one earphone was in...wouldn't you agree that would be more indicative of my point than yours?

          Do you know anything about her back-story or is this a knee jerk reaction on you part?

          July 23, 2014 at 1:13 pm |
  14. thewagman63

    You know...I've never been to Auschwitz or Dachau or any of the concentration camps nor have I spoken to anyone who's survived such a horrid nightmare. I have watched Schindler's List which has been described as a very realistic portral of what happened in some of the camps established. I know that people were indiscriminatly and mercilessly killed but I also saw that life went on, people met, fell in love and married and those are happy occasions that I'm confident came with smiles and laughter.

    When I look at this photo I see nothing wrong. If she had done it in front of one of the piles of eyeglasses or shoes or even in front of one of the ovens I could see why there'd be outrage but with this photo please stop forcing your offense down my throat.

    July 23, 2014 at 11:50 am |
    • tallulah131

      There is nothing horrifically wrong with the picture. The wrong happened when she chose to put it on social media, where she could no longer control who would view it and in what context. As a result, some people are offended. Personally, I hope that this reaction makes people stop and think about their own habit of chronicling their every move and thought via social media.

      July 23, 2014 at 11:57 am |
      • TruthPrevails1

        Yes...you and Doc have stated it best here.

        July 23, 2014 at 12:01 pm |
    • iheartroger

      They are opinions offered, just as yours. Nobody is forcing you to either read or agree with the article, and certainly nothing about your throat.

      July 23, 2014 at 12:03 pm |
    • utopaline

      there is nothing wrong period. If anyone actually took the time to find out the story behind her reason for taking the picture in the first place, may realize it was innocent and a beautiful celebration of the memories of her father.

      The problem today is not her picture, it's societies quickness to jump on something they don't understand or want to understand. This girl was celebrating an achievement that her father and her were never able to share together.

      July 23, 2014 at 1:46 pm |
      • tallulah131

        This is a private moment that this girl decided to post on social media, where she can no longer control who views it or in what context. Some people found it offensive and you have no right to judge their sensibilities, because you have no idea about their context.

        This isn't Disney World. This is a place where MILLIONS were murdered. It's going to cause strong emotions. This is a great lesson. People, especially teens, need to learn what is appropriate and what is not, and that there are consequences for being thoughtless. If it's a private moment, she should have kept it private. There is no need to post every moment of your life on social media.

        July 23, 2014 at 2:28 pm |
  15. wallybird1234

    Let's just hope this bimbo's encore isn't planning a raver on the cemeteries at Normandy. Let's hope that instead, she gets back to the US and returns to her life which probably consists loitering at malls and drinking Jamba Juices all day – and stops making an absurd mockery of WW2 victims.

    July 23, 2014 at 11:38 am |
    • tallulah131

      She's not a bad person, just a kid who did a stupid thing. How about we let her learn the lesson without making it all about you and your need to call names?

      July 23, 2014 at 11:51 am |
    • TruthPrevails1

      bimbo??? No respect was ever taught to you was it?? She's an 18 year old who by now is well aware of the hatred being spewed at her and then there are people like you who add to it by calling her names...what sad and hurtful thing to do.

      July 23, 2014 at 11:53 am |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      Let's hope you figure out the difference between someone intentionally being offensive to others and someone who unintentionally made a faux pax.

      July 23, 2014 at 12:02 pm |
    • rogerthat2014

      Let's just hope that someday you will reach the level of maturity that she has.

      July 23, 2014 at 12:27 pm |
    • utopaline

      First, she's already back in the US. This picture was taken months ago and just recently surfaced publicly.
      and Second, she meant no disrespect for the dead, in actuality, she was celebrating her father and his memories.

      July 23, 2014 at 1:48 pm |
  16. His Panic

    The people who helped the Frank family and others like the Ten Boom family, during WW2 did not Panic because they Trusted God and God's Only Son Jesus Christ. All others did Panic, but nobody can blame them for that because it was a very, very bad and terrible time. Trust in God and in Jesus Christ God's Only Son and you WILL NOT Panic. Otherwise eventually in due time and given the right situation you can fall victim to Anxiety, which can lead to hysteria even Mass hysteria and then Panic.

    Panic in turn can as it has and is, leading people to Anarchy, brawls, stampedes, riots, revolts and revolutions. You know, like... the so called american revolution, the French revolution, the Mexican revolution among many others. All of them the end result of anarchy, anxiety, ambitions, greed, drunkenness, which ended up in Panic. Trust in God and in Jesus Christ God's Only Son and you WILL NOT Panic

    July 23, 2014 at 11:14 am |
    • TruthPrevails1

      As always you're way off topic and logic! Are you off your meds again?? Not all of us panic over imaginary things...you need help!

      July 23, 2014 at 11:16 am |
      • awanderingscot

        you just can't help insulting everyone you disagree with can you?

        July 23, 2014 at 11:48 am |
        • TruthPrevails1

          Oh the hypocrisy spewing from you!
          The OP is off topic and much like you shows no logic. What type of normal person thinks that living in a state of constant panic is good???

          July 23, 2014 at 11:51 am |
        • igaftr

          Talking to yourself scot?

          July 23, 2014 at 11:56 am |
        • awanderingscot

          "What type of normal person thinks that living in a state of constant panic is good???"

          – he didn't say "living in a constant state of panic". that is your own twisted spin on what he said.

          July 23, 2014 at 12:45 pm |
        • LaBella

          You're not familiar with His Panic's posts, are you, Scot?

          July 23, 2014 at 2:59 pm |
        • TruthPrevails1

          awanderingdolt: He constantly implies it...you're just too simple minded to see it.

          July 23, 2014 at 3:50 pm |
  17. rosenj72

    Please, let's stop overreacting to this story. I am an Orthodox Jew and while I believe this site is solemn and holy, this young girl had no idea what she was doing. It was an innocent mistake and should be treated as such. It would be better to spend time educating her on the horrors that happened there than lambasting her about a foolish selfie.

    July 23, 2014 at 11:10 am |
    • Alias

      I agree.
      She smiled for the camera, not beacuse she was there.
      If she had been singing and dancing, THEN she would deserve all the rude and nasty things people are saying about her.

      July 23, 2014 at 11:38 am |
      • wallybird1234

        ...what's 'rude and nasty' is a young well-to-do puff chic taking a decidedly giddy/flippant "selfie" to post on social media showing what a 'fantastic awesome place' Auschwitz is.

        The comments about her are just realistic repercussions for doing something so idiotic.

        July 23, 2014 at 11:49 am |
        • TruthPrevails1

          puff chic? You just seem to get some cheap thrill from name calling!

          July 23, 2014 at 12:02 pm |
        • Alias

          Stereotyping is rude and stupid.
          Where exactly is there any caption stating how Fantastic and Awesome the place is?
          Or was that just some hyper critical bird reading more into a picture than was ever actually there?

          July 23, 2014 at 1:02 pm |
        • igaftr

          "Stereotyping is rude and stupid"

          Unless you are buying new speakers, then it is important to know what type of stereo you have.

          July 23, 2014 at 1:06 pm |
      • tallulah131

        She aimed the camera at herself and posted on social media.That was the mistake made here. When you no long control who sees the image and in what context, you open the door to offense and criticism. I hope she learns a lesson about discretion and appropriateness.

        July 23, 2014 at 11:59 am |
  18. Doc Vestibule

    I believe that this young girl is fairly representative of her generation.
    "Pics or it didn't happen" is a common mentality in the age of ubiquitous, portable, high quality imaging devices.
    We can argue about whether smiling at such a site is in poor taste – but we need to bear in mind that teenagers have never been known for their decorum.
    To accuse the girl of being unduly narcissistic is to ignore the ways in which young people interact in the digital sphere.
    I think it is safe to say that she wasn't intentionally trying to be contentious, mocking or disrespectful.

    July 23, 2014 at 10:47 am |
    • TruthPrevails1

      Well said.

      July 23, 2014 at 10:52 am |
    • iheartroger

      I don't believe for a minute that she was intentionally being disrespectful. However, that is the outcome. I'm not calling her out specifically for being narcissistic, but society in general. If posting selfie after selfie after selfie isn't narcissistic, I don't know what is. And by far, it is not just teenagers. Ugh.

      July 23, 2014 at 10:53 am |
      • Doc Vestibule

        I'm not a selfie person either – I couldn't give a flying fig about people's instagram or tumblr pages.
        The last time I posted a photo of myself online was something like 7 years ago. To my knowledge, it is the only one of me available – and I'm an old nerd who has been using the same handle since the mid 1990's.
        But I do see how the cyber-scape has changed. Everybody has a camera in their pocket and more and more folk, especially young folk, post what they're doing day in and day out.
        It used to be that you'd tell your friends about your adventures face to face – and sometimes that meant you'd repeat yourself, telling the same story over and over to whatever parties were interested.
        Now you just shove it out there for anyone to see/read – and to prove you're not a liar, you stick up photographic proof.

        July 23, 2014 at 11:05 am |
      • TruthPrevails1

        Teens are vain by nature...selfies seem to be part of that.
        Huffington Post did a good article about the subject: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/13/too-many-facebook-photos-study_n_3749053.html

        July 23, 2014 at 11:14 am |
        • tallulah131

          And that's why it's up to the parent to teach their kids appropriateness. These days, a photo or comment on social media could have a negative impact on your future. Personally, I don't think kids should be sheltered from the consequences of their actions. How do they learn if they don't deal with it themselves?

          July 23, 2014 at 12:04 pm |
        • iheartroger

          And there you have it. Very well articulated.

          July 23, 2014 at 12:06 pm |
        • TruthPrevails1

          Tallulah: My daughter is 20 and these selfies get annoying. I have no issue confronting her when she is doing something that seems foolish but these are lessons in life and we can only hope that they think before acting again. This is a selfish generation to a large extent-the first to truly have home computers; the first to have internet access, etc. etc. etc....I think the next generation might be slightly less selfish due to the parents having witnessed my daughter's generation

          July 23, 2014 at 12:18 pm |
        • tallulah131

          It's not just kids. There are a lot of adults who feel the burning need to show the world what they are up to at any given time. I hope the trend burns itself out, because it is a truly pointless and vain habit.

          July 23, 2014 at 12:29 pm |
        • TruthPrevails1

          Tallulah: I see far too many adult selfies...it just makes me shake my head. I also hope it burns itself out sooner than later.

          July 23, 2014 at 12:31 pm |
        • LaBella

          During the Victorian era, people used to hold picnics in cemeteries.
          The times, they are a changing.

          July 23, 2014 at 12:43 pm |
        • tallulah131

          I enjoy cemeteries. I enjoy reading the stones and learning a little about those who came before. Because they are the places people inter their loved ones to "rest in peace" cemeteries are generally tranquil. I can see enjoying a picnic in one.

          On the other hand, Auschwitz is not a cemetery. It is a place where human beings were experimented on, starved, tortured, and where MILLIONS died because of their religion, culture or gender orientation. There are strong emotions very obviously attached. Of course there's going to be a negative reaction to an image like this.

          Her explanation is too little too late. She should never have put this image on social media. It was inappropriate and insensitive. That's the mistake here, and the lesson that should be learned. If no one bothers to teach kids that they are being crass and offensive, they grow up to be crass, offensive adults. Don't we already have enough of that in the world?

          July 23, 2014 at 2:38 pm |
        • LaBella

          Tal, just pointing out that many would find cavorting at picnics at a cemetery might be seen as inappropriate.

          July 23, 2014 at 2:43 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      And if you ask me her "smile" seems of the "forced, stressed" variety.

      We are taught from a young age to smile in all pictures...looks like she felt she had to rather than she was actually happy.

      July 23, 2014 at 10:56 am |
  19. nipseymc

    It's a selfie taken by someone from a generation where this is the norm and reverence for sacred things in rarely shown. Move on. Stop inventing a controversy where there is none. Someone is always going to do something you don't like. This is not newsworthy.

    July 23, 2014 at 10:41 am |
    • iheartroger

      Who are you to decide what is newsworthy? Just because it's the "norm" does not make it right. This young lady has learned a hard lesson, and maybe, just maybe others have too.

      July 23, 2014 at 10:47 am |
      • tallulah131

        Well said.

        July 23, 2014 at 12:09 pm |
      • skytag

        The only hard lesson she's learned is that there are jerks like you out there over-inflated senses of self importance who like to criticize others to feel better about themselves. I know the story behind this and there was no lesson to be learned.

        July 23, 2014 at 9:35 pm |
        • iheartroger

          Well now you're being redundant as you have already called me all these names in another post. If you truly want to make a thoughtful, articulate and intelligent post – tone down the vitriol and anger.

          July 24, 2014 at 10:45 am |
  20. iheartroger

    I find 99% of selfies "please look at me" incredibly annoying. This kind of behavior takes it to another level entirely. I'm curious as to what she posted (text) with the selfie. Did she mention the whole dad thing? If not, I don't buy "her reasoning" after the backlash. Yes, she's a teenager but she posted this for the "world" to see, and with that comes all opinions. That's the price for posting your entire life on the internet. The level of narcissism in our society today scares me.

    July 23, 2014 at 10:37 am |
    • tallulah131

      This is what happens when you have a culture obsessed with fame. If they can't be on TV, they (kids and adults alike) can at least put their image online for all to see. It's all hollow vanity.

      July 23, 2014 at 12:17 pm |
      • skytag

        You're really pathetic. One picture of one girl you don't know and you've spent two days condemning her. You have serious problems that clearly warrant therapy.

        This isn't vanity, you clueless twit. This is the modern day equivalent of calling someone to tell him you're someplace you're excited to be. Mentally healthy people know it as sharing your excitement about something with people who care about you. Remember, she tweeted this. That means it only went out to people who have made a conscious decision to follower her on Twitter, not the whole world. It only reached a wider audience when someone who follows her posted it somewhere for others to see.

        July 23, 2014 at 9:45 pm |
    • skytag

      If you choose to be annoyed by actions that have no impact on your life that's your problem. Therapy could help with that.

      "but she posted this for the "world" to see"

      This is a lie. She tweeted it. That means she sent it to people who of their own free will have chosen follow her on Twitter. If they don't like what she tweets they can stop following her at any time. You people are pathetic, miserable losers who are so desperate to feel better about yourselves you jump at the chance to tear down other people. She's excited to be at a place she's studied for years. She's happy. She wanted her friends to know that. Oh God, the horror! Thousands of total self-righteous weasels on the Internet have a moral obligation to belittle her while hiding behind the anonymity of the Internet. You're just such an amazing person.

      "I don't buy "her reasoning" "

      Who the hell cares what you buy? Get over yourself, because you have a way over-inflated sense of self-importance. It's not your place to judge her, and you don't know her well enough to judge her.

      I know the story behind this and I don't have a problem with her being excited to be there.

      July 23, 2014 at 9:31 pm |
      • iheartroger

        It's not my place to judge her, but it is your place to judge me??? Bless your little heart.

        July 24, 2014 at 10:43 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.