A startup called Selfie Police wants social media users to donate $1 for every selfie taken and urge their friends to do likewise? Can this selfie tax help keep vanity in check?

Selfie police

The selfie — self-taken photographs typically taken with a mobile phone camera — is one of the bigger cultural phenomena of the recent years. The rise of smartphones and social networking services has meant easy access to basic photography equipment in virtually everyone’s pocket, plus an easy way to share these through the likes of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

The selfie, however, often demonstrates the vanity of the portrait-taker, especially with the attention-seeking nature the images seem to portray. Selfies have also spawned a handful of memes, including the duck face and Riccing, among others.

While the selfie is usually seen as vain, a couple of enterprising developers have found a way to make something good out of the practice. The Selfie Police, a project started by two Brigham Young University students, is trying to convince selfie-takers to contribute $1 to charity for every selfie they take.

“You owe humanity a dollar,” co-founders Chas Barton and Dustin Locke, hinting at the self-obsessive nature of selfie-taking. “On behalf of humanity, you are hereby fined $1 per selfie on charges of self-obsession.”

The idea behind the project is to get social media users to give a little bit of money and time to a good cause — in this case a charity that focuses on education. “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,” Barton shared with the Norwich Bulletin.

Some have expressed concern with how the selfie has become associated with vanity and self-centeredness, however. Publicly-shared self-portraits can be a “powerful form of self-expression” and a means of improving self-confidence, Carrie Murphy writes at The Gloss.

Are selfies inherently bad? Should selfie-takers have to atone for their supposedly vain behavior through means recommended by Selfie Police, or should the selfie remain an empowering tool for self-expression as originally intended?