The popularity of the selfie has undoubtedly reached monumental heights, affording individuals with the unique opportunity to freely express and represent themselves. It has become such a prominent part of our daily lives that the word itself has now been added to the Oxford Dictionary. The invention of the selfie stick, and the fact that it too has gained popularity, is evidence of the selfie’s powerful impact on the public. While the rest of the world continues to explore this expression of the self in the name of light hearted fun, Ramothibe M.Pooe is using the concept to confront society’s pressing issues; this is his personal contribution towards making the world a better place.
Ramothibe is the founder of Selfies of Society (SOS), a dynamic new campaign that aims to raise people’s social consciousness. The intention of the campaign is to spark purposeful conversations about the current state of society that will lead to solutions, and most importantly, action. The driving question of the campaign is: If society were a person taking a selfie, what would we see? Using captivating and thought- provoking images, SOS boldly captures an unfiltered truth of what our society looks like, and challenges the greater public to speak out on the realities presented.“When you think of selfies, the first thing that comes to mind is a face, and what we are saying is that it’s time to face the truth about our society,” explains Ramothibe.
A social philanthropist in his own right, one could say it was Ramothibe’s nature and personal drive that inspired SOS; he says: “I’m always thinking of ideas that could possibly change the world and improve people’s well being and quality of life. I know I can’t be Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, but with my determination and passion I believe I can play my own part. I didn’t decide to start SOS, it’s an idea that God dropped into my heart.”
Ramothibe was born and bred in the North West of South Africa; after completing matric he moved to Johannesburg where he pursued courses in business. When this field of study no longer appealed to him, Ramothibe finally decided to follow his creative passions and social purpose. This agent of social change is a firm believer in the idea that we are all created with a purpose and each have an assignment on this earth: “The simplest way to discover your purpose is through the gifts and talents you possess, as well as your holy discontent- that one thing that constantly knocks against your conscious and drives you to come up with solutions for it,” he says.
After months of preparation by Ramothibe and his team, the first selfie of society was finally released last week and has since sent social media into a frenzy. The photograph captures a young black woman sweeping rubbish on the streets, while wearing her graduation gown (See cover image). As intended, the image has led to various interpretations by the people, setting the foundation for conversation. “I underestimated the reactions completely. The concept was developed from my heart. I wanted this thing in my heart to be a tangible reality and make people ask critical questions; to drive a response that will possibly lead to action. The reactions have made me realise how big this vision really is.”
Ramothibe describes SOS as an unfolding vision; “It’s like a film that goes from one scene to another. The more I study the reactions of the audience, the more I will develop the campaign accordingly. I want to lay one brick at a time, and I want to lay each brick as perfectly as possible.” The experience has not been without its challenges, but he is taking it in his stride and constantly learning: “With a vision this big you are bound to run into problems and I get that.”
The most important element of the campaign is to ensure that it becomes an open dialogue in which possible solutions are discussed after the critical questions have been asked. To achieve this, Ramothibe and his team are planning call to action campaigns that will serve as possible solutions to the issues highlighted in the images. These campaigns will create a platform for all members of society to engage; from the uneducated street cleaner to the highly qualified and influential CEO.
“The sad thing about social media is that people project this perfect life, SOS is giving people the space to talk about the things that matter openly. I’m happy that it’s taking a form of its own on social media;it’s being driven by the people and has generated strong views. I’m simply creating a platform for people to be authentic about the important things taking place in our society.”
Most of the realities presented by SOS will be nothing new to the public eye, but the campaign provides the golden opportunity for these issues to be viewed with more perspective, thought and heart. We are also possibly witnessing the evolution of the selfie’s purpose, and the beginning of a historic movement.
What selfie will society post next?
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Cover photograph taken by: