How My Stupid 2003 Selfie in Bangkok Foreshadowed the Appearance of My Campbell’s Soup Doppelganger in 2012

I spent the summer of 2003 teaching English in Nonthaburi, Thailand at Global English School; basically in the heart of Bangkok. That was before the days of Facebook and digital cameras. So I used disposable cameras to document my experience serving as an ESL teacher that summer.

As I was packing up during my final days there that July, getting ready for my next semester back at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, I felt the need to use up the last few shots on the roll of the last disposable camera.

Even though this happened pretty much exactly 14 years ago, I still remember it clearly. Perhaps I was even inspired by Zach Braff, the star of one of my favorite TV shows at the time, Scrubs.

I took a stupid selfie with that last shot on the disposable camera. Again, Facebook wasn’t a thing back then. So really, who would even be seeing the photo?

Until today, I forgot about that picture. But as I was thinking about my goal of meeting my doppelganger, who currently can be found on the cover of the package of Campbell’s Go Southwest Style Chicken with Quinoa soup, it hit me:

“Hey, my stupid 2003 Bangkok selfie is eerily similar to how my doppelganger has the same hairstyle and is looking to the side, with his mouth open.”

In other words, I did “the Cambell’s Go Southwest Style Chicken with Quinoa look” first, back in 2003. It would be nearly a decade later, in 2012, that the Campbell’s Go campaign would take place, and my unknown twin would do the much more famous version of the look.

However, I’m sure that when I got back from Thailand in the summer of 2003, my sister happened to see that silly photo I made of myself.

Perhaps it made it only that much easier for her to spot the package of soup at the grocery store and send me a picture of it, sincerely asking if that was me on the soup package.

I know this all might sound like I’m obsessing over finding and meeting my doppelganger, but that’s because… I am.

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.

Is Facebook Itself Technically A Social Video Game?

I think it will be difficult for me to ever look at Facebook the same way again…

extreme close-up selfie

Back in February while researching for Rock Music Used To Be Rebellious, Now It’s Rap Music Instead, my friend Sam Royalty simply stated this to me in a side conversation about social media:

“People use Facebook status updates and pictures to find validation in their ideas and life choices.”

The more I’ve thought about it, the more it makes sense.

When I consider the selfie alone, it only makes sense that the “selfie taker” is looking for some kind of validation from their corner of society that their appearance is… relevant.

I say “relevant” because that could mean a lot of things depending on what the person is needing slight reassurance of:

Am I pretty enough? Do I look cool? Can people tell I’ve gotten in shape? Am I still funny? Am I even interesting?

With that being said, it goes beyond just the pictures we post. It transcends to our status updates and shared as well:

Am I doing a good job of being informative in society? Am I an influencer? Is the world aware I am part of it?

Is Facebook Itself Technically A Social Video Game?

I would never want to be seen as the kind of person who is known for “needing attention” all the time, yet there’s this subtle paradox that says if you don’t post enough on Facebook, you’re sort of a Facebook snob who only looks at other people’s info and pictures without contributing or getting involved aside from “liking” other people’s post or very generically wishing them happy birthday after being prompted to by Facebook itself.

My theory is that those people who apparently don’t need confirmation or validation are at least looking for inspiration or, for a few minutes, to live vicariously as someone else.

Of course, I believe if you’re too inspirational, you may appear as a show-off. You don’t want your Facebook friends thinking you trying you’re, in essence, “trying too hard to win” at this unofficial game of Facebook.

Despite the daily overdose of negativity on Facebook, there is a fraction of my news feed that is actually positive; or at least neutrally interesting or fun. Like the pictures of my friends’ families: those are the posts I scroll my feed for.

More importantly, I try to be the person who is contributing those pictures, links, and status updates; just like Gandhi famously said:

“Be the change you want to see in the world.”

I really don’t think there’s truly a way to “win at Facebook,” sort of like the game Animal Crossings that I loved so much in college on Nintendo GameCube. Ultimately, to someone out there on Facebook, you’re going to contribute too much or too little; seem too showy or too aloof.

You can’t necessarily win or lose at the game of Facebook, but it’s a video game that millions of people play all day long, all over the world.

Video Games: The Movie

In theory, it’s the most popular and relevant video game of all time; that’s an idea proposed in the Netflix documentary, Video Games: The Movie.

But for this modern tower of Babel we have built and participate in, I say this is ultimately why we show up to it:

To give and/or receive legitimate validation, confirmation, and/or inspiration.

The reason I say legitimate is because not all ideas on Facebook should merit reinforcement. Plus, as I recognized earlier, Facebook has its fair share of negative people who would rather attempt to hurt instead of edify others.

Overall though, Facebook is a place (and/or social video game) where essentially anyone can give or receive confirmation on one’s beauty, worth, and relevance.

I can even post an “extreme close-up selfie” and I will get what I want out of it: for people to recognize the humor in it.

And no, I’m not writing this to get more “likes” on my Facebook page, or to try to prove I am a decent writer, or to simply feel validated by my Facebook friends so that I can essentially score more points in this video game we’re all playing.

Or am I?

Dear Jack: 1st Day Of Fall/Mountain Biking Selfie Explanation

3 years, 10 months.

mountain biking selfie

Dear Jack,

You almost got to see your 1st tow truck in action yesterday morning. As I was driving you to school, the radio cut off, I lost power steering, and the fuel gauge dropped to empty.

I warned you that we may have to stop driving.

By a miracle of God, I was able to make it to the parking lot of KinderCare and drop you off. But from there, my 2004 Honda Element wouldn’t start.

So I called a tow truck and ran back inside to get you so you could watch my car get towed.

Fortunately, my car started back again once the tow truck arrived and I was able to drive it around the block to Firestone; it needed a new alternator, for starters…

Car Trouble? Need A Tow? No Problem... I've Got A Mountain Bike!

Also fortuately, I had access to my mountain bike, which fits into the back of my Honda Element along with our jogging stroller, so I was able to bike back to work until my car was ready several hours later.

It was an adventure of a day for us! And that’s how we started the first day of fall.

Autumn is by far my favorite season and it appears it is yours as well. For the past two mornings before walking you into school, you have asked to walk over into the school’s front lawn and pick out a fallen leaf.

Monday morning, you saw two baby deer on the way to school and two more on the way back, explaining to me, “It’s getting colder now so the deers come out for food.”

Well, even though it appears to be the shortest of seasons, I’m glad that the two of us can truly appreciate the subtle yet undeniable beauty of Autumn.

To celebrate it even more, we’re planning a family friendly road trip to Asheville, North Carolina in the next couple of weeks. I have a feeling it’s going to be pretty awesome!



Annie's Halloween Snacks


I Take Couplies With My Kid… Don’t You?

February 22, 2014 at 8:41 am , by 

3 years, 3 months.

Dear Jack,

There is now an official word for the kind of pictures we’ve often taken together and put on Facebook…


couplie is a type of self-portrait photograph, typically taken with a hand-held digital camera or camera phone, featuring two people; as opposed to just one person, which would be a selfie.

I have mentioned before, that since having you, I seldom get my picture made by anyone (including myself) if I’m the only one in the picture.

Most of the time, if I post a new picture that would have been a selfie, I take a picture of both of us instead.

Couplies are the new selfies.

Who needs to see a self-taken picture of a married, 32 year-old dad on Facebook? No one.

Who needs to see a self-taken picture of a married, 32 year-old dude with his cute 3 year-old son on Facebook? Well, now, that’s a whole different story…

Therefore, I’m familiar with taking couplies- sometimes with Mommy, but mainly with you. In fact, I went back through every picture I’ve ever taken in the history of The Dadabase, so I could make a collage of some of our couplies.

Then, I put a logo for “Nick Shell’s Couplies Photography,” as if I was promoting a legitimate business for taking selfies. (The font I used didn’t have an apostrophe… I promise I didn’t make a typo.) However, I’m not sure anyone on Facebook got the joke, though…

The main reason I like couplies with you is because I think it’s cool to see the growing resemblance between the two of us.

Granted, your lighter skin tone and blue eyes will always set us apart, but I love how each time we take a new couplie, I see the “father-and-son-ness” more and more.

I made this special “couplie collage” for us, as if the term “couplie” wasn’t already annoying enough.

Which, speaking of, both the words “selfies” and “couplies” greatly annoy me- and I assume the word “grouplies” is also on its way into social media/pop culture usage.

But if couplies is the word I have to use to document this fad in my time capsule to you.

And so we will continue infiltrating peoples’ Facebook and Twitter feeds with our couplies. If we really want to be cool, though- we would take a couplie while making duck faces.





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