Psychologically Analyzing the Token “Feet at the Beach” Selfie on Social Media

It’s a cliche by now:

Psychologically Analyzing the Token “Feet at the Beach” Selfie on Social Media

We go to the beach and then we Instagram a picture of our feet, with the ocean waves in the background.

The token “Feet at the Beach” picture is actually a selfie, though we don’t necessarily immediately think of it that way. The camera is pointed at the feet instead of the face, but ultimately it serves the same purpose.

An efficient selfie of any form communicates the message, “Look at me right now and please positively validate my existence.”

And people do. A few dozen “likes” easily follow.

People enjoy helping each other celebrate life. People like to see their friends and family being happy.

But specifically, the token “feet at the beach” selfie communicates a certain message to its audience.

Here is how I translate the implied message behind it, from a psychological and analytical perspective:

“I am wishing to share with you that I currently am relaxing in a surreal state of mind. As you can see from my physical point of view, I am literally looking at the edge of the world, into the seemingly endless ocean; which serves as a metaphor for my life. The future is still unwritten; my life is still ahead of me. In this moment, I am able to escape from real life and share my perspective with you. (Now, please click “like” to show that you are celebrating this escape from reality with me; in hopes that you too will soon be able to enjoy such a view.)”

The next time you see a “feet at the beach” selfie, consider the paragraph above. Test my theory.

But I believe the reason it collectively resonates with so many people is that there is some familiar and universal psychology behind it.

And I believe I have officially put those abstract thoughts into black-and-white words today.

How Teddy Ruxpin Subliminally Taught Me the Generation Y Trait of Being Motivated By Happiness, Not Money

Whether you are motivated more by wealth or happiness, it’s still a pursuit.  No guarantees for either one.

Maybe Teddy Ruxpin is the reason why today I prefer vests over neckties. Back in the Eighties, all my friends would put their fingers and pencils and crayons in their Teddy Ruxpin doll’s mouth when he talked- but my mom wouldn’t let me do that to mine because she said it would mess up his mouth. She was right. My Teddy Ruxpin worked fine for years and years after my friends’ Teddy Ruxpins ultimately broke down for good. Since Kindergarten (1986) I have been having brief flashbacks of this live-action puppet after-school special of The Adventures of Teddy Ruxpin I saw once where he and Grubby fly in an airship to find a hidden treasure and get captured by mud people.

Recently, some hero posted the one hour made-for-TV movie on YouTube. I watched it all the way through. Teddy Ruxpin and his friends discover a room full of golden treasures but choose instead to take only these crystal necklaces with words like “truth”, “honesty”, and “bravery” on them. Because “these things are the real treasures”. Right. Of course.  Then the bad guys take the real treasure (gold), but because their attitudes were wrong, the tresure vanishes into thin air once they touch it.

Golden treasures are typically a let-down in movies and TV shows, for the most part at least. From what I remember about most “treasure hunt” movies, the heroes ends up choosing some kind of abstract moral principle over the actual golden treasure, which is actually a trap or illusion for the villain. The only semi-exception I know of is the movie Without a Paddle. They get the moral treasure (which in this case was “life itself”) and also $100,000 cash, which the two richer friends give to the poorer friend.

Usually I am pretty quick to pick up on recycled plots, but it’s taken me until just recently to realize this one about “the real treasure”.  Interestingly, in my research about Generation Y (people born from 1982 and 2001), I learned that one of their main characteristics is that “being happy” is their main motivational drive, not money or wealth, as is the case with many of the older generations.  I would have to believe it was this common “love/life/joy is better than gold” theme in entertainment during the Eighties and Nineties that has something to do with the way Generation Y is wired.  Though I was born in 1981, I was still born close enough to the generational switch that I admit my main motivation in life is happiness, not material wealth.  And maybe that’s dangerous- because for some people, finding financial success could actually be easier than finding perceived happiness.

“The mind is its own place, and in itself, can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.”  –John Milton

The Dichotomy of Man: Why Super Heroes and Alter Egos are Embedded into Popular Culture (Featuring Dexter Morgan and the Characters of LOST)

The man in the mirror has a dark side.

I am not a comic book nerd.  Instead, I am simply an American who is well aware of our nation’s love and fascination of super heroes.  So why are we so obsessed with men who fly around with their underwear outside their clothes, while pretending to be an insect or animal?  Why do their movies make hundreds of millions, thanks to both kids and adults alike? Because super heroes reflect us normal human beings: inside and out.

Here’s what you need to know (and probably already subconsciously know) about super heroes.

1- They save good people from bad people.

2- They have a mysterious and troubled past.

3- They have super powers, skills, abilities, or insight.

4- They sometimes struggle with discerning good from evil, as they realize they are in some ways evil themselves.

5- They have at least one major arch nemesis.

6- They wear some sort of costume.

7- They have an alter ego; or at least a side of them they hide from most people.

8- They find it difficult to have meaningful relationships and friendships with others.  (If nothing else, their schedule does not allow for it.)

9- They have a debilitating weakness.

10- They were created by Jewish writers.  (Spiderman, Superman, Batman, Iron Man, The Hulk, Wonder Woman, LOST, Dexter, and even the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles… It’s pretty difficult to find an exception.)

Maybe it seems a bit of a stretch to consider the characters of LOST as super heroes, but several of them had mysterious powers (at least on the island), they helped each other survive, and they all had some kind of trouble in their past that not only defined them but also that continued to be a struggle.  And while that does make for good development on the show, it also is a concept that most of us can relate to.  It’s not just the obvious “are they are good guy or a bad guy?” characters like Ben Linus and Sayid Jarrah who struggled with their own consciouses and gray area moral dilemmas.  Even seemingly innocent characters like Sun Kwon had a hidden (but shady) alter ego.

This dichotomy of man, the “man has two sides” concept, is also very obvious in the Showtime series Dexter.  Yes, he is a serial killer.  But Dexter only tracks down and kills serial killers and rapists (though he eventually kills a few innocent victims by mistake).  Admittedly, I myself never killed anyone, yet I relate to the show deeply.  I’ve even read that males, in particular, live with a constant struggle of feeling inadequate- like an imposter who is about to be found out for who they really are. Aside from any basic religious aspects, at some point in life we end up asking and answering the question, “Am I ultimately a good person or a bad person?

Are we simply adding to the noise? And for those who do realize that they are ultimately more bad then they are good, are they willing to change, or will they simply accept whatever eternal fate that may befall them? The concept of good versus evil is one we are subconsciously obsessed with.  It’s true: We as humans are both good and bad. The same person who steals your credit card information today may thoughtlessly save life a stranger’s life tomorrow.  We are both saints and sinners; but it’s ultimately the identity which we allow to consume us that is our true identity.

So it makes sense that we relate the idea of having an alter ego.  We display a different version of ourselves at work for 8 hours or more each day.  We have to, in order to survive in that environment.  We all must have “tweakable” perspectives and personalities.  You can’t treat your child the same way your treat your boss.  You can’t reveal the same vulnerability to coworker as you must to your spouse.

We know we are supposed to just be ourselves and never really hide who we truly are.  But that’s simply not reality.  In a sense, the reality is that we are ultimately all super heroes with alter egos…  Unless you are one of the true villains of the world.

dad from day one: The Due Date

Forty weeks.

Don’t ask me how, but all week my wife and I have had the theme song to the ‘80’s sitcom Mr. Belvedere stuck in our heads.  In the mindset of “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em”, we downloaded the song as our ringtones for when we call each other.  That has caused me to revisit some of my most favorite theme songs from these sitcoms that served as the backdrop of my childhood.  A very interesting trait that many of these TV shows had in common with each other (and accordingly, the lyrics to their theme songs) is that premise was that an outsider moved into the household, therefore throwing normalcy out of whack.  Which totally relates to what’s going through my head right now about our upcoming new addition, a baby boy. (In order to qualify, the sitcom had to actually start in the 1980’s; Diff’rent Strokes, Mork and Mindy, and The Facts of Life don’t qualify since since they premiered in the ’70’s.)

For example, here’s a sitcom that had it all, yet could have only existed in the 1980’s: An all-American family, laugh tracks, and an Alien puppet. Of course, I’m referring to Alf. While the song had no words (instead it sounded like what would happen if you pressed the “demo” button on a $200 Casio keyboard in 1988), the thought of a little creature running around the floor chasing cats loosely translates having a baby boy. For Family Matters, the intended outsider was Estelle Winslow who moved in with her son Carl’s family, though unexpectedly the true outsider instead became Steve Urkle (intended only as a guest star) instead a few episodes into the first season.

In Mr. Belvedere, a British butler moves in with an American family living in Philadelphia: “Sometimes things get turned around and no one’s spared… There’s a change in the status quo.  Preparing for our new arrival.  We might just live the good life yet…”

Another prime example is from one of my favorite sitcoms ever, which happens to have my favorite TV show theme song ever.  In Perfect Strangers, city slicker Larry Appleton is thrown for a curve when his distant cousin Balki moves from his mysterious Mediterranean village to live with Larry in Chicago: “Sometimes the world looks perfect- nothing to rearrange.  Sometimes you just get a feeling that you need some kind of change…”

In Full House, it was  Joey and Uncle Jesse who mixed things up by moving in with the Tanner family: “What ever happened to predictability?”

There was CBS’s version of Diff’rent Strokes: Webster.  As a kid, I actually liked Webster more than Arnold: “Til there was you…”

The next two sitcoms both premiered in 1984 and featured an Italian-American who moved into the household as a “manny”. Who’s the Boss? contains my 2nd favorite theme song ever and often caused me to believe that Tony Danza was my uncle: “You might awaken to a brand new life around the bend…”

Even though I never watched it, I know it was a big deal to a lot of people- Charles in Charge: “New boy in the neighborhood…”

You’re welcome… for being led into a world of nostalgia.  It’s pretty much a fact that you’ll be struggling to get one of those songs out of your head for the rest of the day.  So being such a sentimental guy as I am, I’ve been thinking about the current events that are going on right now.  That way I can tell Jack what was going on around the time he was born:

Interestingly, on November 5th, the movie Due Date hit theatres.  Daylight Savings was two days later; meaning that when it’s that time again to set back the clocks every year, it will almost be time for Jack’s birthday.  Conan O’Brien’s new show premiered this week (November 8th) and sure enough on last night’s episode during the monologue Conan pointed out that it was exactly nine months ago that his gig at The Tonight Show ended; so if because two people felt sad for Conan losing his job they decided to “get frisky” to be happy again, their child would be born this week.  Good call.

It will also be pretty neat that I will be able to show Jack the November 2010 issue of American Baby, in which in his birth was anticipated.  He is not making his debut unannounced; that’s for sure.  Today, November 11th, is not only Jack’s due date but it’s also my dad’s birthday, whose name is also Jack.  So even though he won’t have the same exact birthday as my dad, their birthdays will always be close.

Of all the pregnancy advice I’ve been given, the one thing no one warned me about is this: For first time moms, it’s normal and expected to not delivery until a full week after the due date.  So if you or your wife are approaching your due date, don’t do like I did and get all psyched, thinking the water is going to break at any moment.  Because then everyone is constantly asking for and expecting baby news, but sure enough, the baby is unaware of his due date.  He’s coming out when he’s good and ready.

I have to remind myself that my baby is not a Hot Pocket, with an exact predetermined time of two minutes in the microwave.  In fact, that would be pretty weird if he truly was born right near the due date.  We went to the doctor today.  Thank God, Baby Jack has still got a strong heartbeat and is in a good position.  He’s turned the correct way and everything.  But as far as when he gets here, I’m sure it will be the moment that I (and everyone else) least expects it.  He’s a sneaky little guy.

All pictures with the “JHP” logo were taken by Joe Hendricks Photography:



What Makes a Person “Normal”?

I’m asking, since I surely don’t know from personal experience.

Just like finding out what it takes to be cool, the search for a “normal” person is another somewhat abstract search in which perception determines the outcome.  Being normal can be seen as a bad thing, as synonyms may include “average”, “unexciting”, “boring”, “drab”, “dull”, or “unoriginal”.  But in a society where sometimes the desire to be noticed by being different becomes pretty obvious and predictable within subcultures (example: goth, emo, the regular cast of L.A. Ink, etc.), I have discovered a new appreciation for “normal” people in my life.  In fact, I see being normal as an admirable thing- though for me, it’s a pretty unattainable goal.

On the surface, my life would seem pretty normal and American.  Out of college, I got an office job, got married at age 27, and now I am having a kid at age 29.  I am not involved in anything that could be deemed crazy, extreme, or dramatic.  And it’s not that I made it a point for my life to appear so normal, it just happened that way.  But if my life was a reality show (which I would never sign on to- that means you, TLC), it would become obvious very quickly how my quirks alone would disqualify me from being normal.  Yet maybe that’s why America is obsessed with reality TV- because it breaks down people whom we may consider to normal, and we like that because it reaffirms to us that it’s normal to not be normal.

In preparation for writing this post, last Saturday during breakfast I had my wife help me think of the most normal people we know.  We were able to come up with four. One of them is a guy named Jon, who I work with.  So when I mentioned to him yesterday that he is one of the most normal people we know, he laughed and said, “Well it’s good to know that somebody thinks I’m normal”, implying “…if you only knew…”

So far, as I’ve asked people on facebook and in real life what makes a person normal, not one person has volunteered to admit that they are normal.  The typical response is to quickly search their family tree and circle of friends to find a candidate for normalcy, only to put the rare “normal person” in the same mystical category of unicorns and that flying dog thing from The Never Ending Story.

It’s just not normal to be normal.  And ironically, if you truly are normal, that makes you a little weird.  Below are The Rules of Being Normal, followed my some feedback from facebook on what makes a person normal.

The Rules of Being Normal

1) Look normal.  When thinking of normal people I know, I disqualified one guy simply for being “too good looking”.  And another for being under the age of 40 and having an ironic mustache. In the same way that Jesus’ physical appearance kept him from standing out from his Jewish countrymen, so must a normal person not be found regularly standing out from the crowd, in order to be considered normal.

2) Act normal.  Being relevant has a lot to do with it.  And well-rounded.  It means being able to participate in conversations that even when you don’t know a lot about the subject, you don’t make it obvious.   And you don’t have to always dominate the conversation by bringing up something bizarre in an effort to contribute and feel a part of the group- because that definitely alienate you instead.

3) If all else fails, keep someone close to you who is definitely not normal or a lot less normal than you. If my wife was weird, no one would ever know it because she’s married to me.  By simply being the “most normal” person in a group of people who aren’t normal, you by default become normal.  And that counts.

Nick Shell Friends, I need your help again with another post I’m writing. Think of the most normal person you know. Now, what makes a person “normal”?

October 27 at 8:02pm ·  ·  

    • Cyn Z.-  I think that depends…if you are referring to what society deems “normal,” then it is usually a very boring, uninteresting, mundane type of person…in my opinion. “Normality” has never been a good selling point for me concerning anyone…

      October 27 at 8:37pm ·  · 
    • Brad J.- goes with the standards set by society

      October 27 at 9:46pm · 
    • Amy S.-  I have no idea, but I’m curious to see what you come up with!

      October 27 at 10:07pm · 
    • Nickie R.-  maybe a good balance in life and no crazy extreeme ways of living? atleast this makes sense in my head.

      October 27 at 11:19pm · 
    • Ashley R.-  Yeah I think someone normal would be the you know 9 to 5 person, simple easy life, laid back.

      October 27 at 11:46pm · 
    • Jason L.-  its gotta be me Nick…I put my pants on like everybody else in life..I hold them up in front of me and a little low and I jump repeatingly until I have both feet in. I do this with my shoes on and a parakeet in my mouth every that’s normal

      October 28 at 12:00am · 
    • Tiffanie B.-  normal means 2 things to me either they blend in with everybody else & don;t stand out or you look at them & think they do what society thinks they should:)

      Saturday at 9:46pm · 
    • Benji R.- Normal person in my opinion must be someone who has respect and to be proud in themselves even in the different society or status..That’s very important for being normal.

      Sunday at 1:05pm ·