The Insanity of Vanity

Type of tool: 
Multimedia tool – Report
120+ min
Topics addressed: 
Peer Education
Personal development

The purpose is to understand human's need for self-preservation through portraiture and selfies, and be aware of the permanence of posting these images online.


 The purpose is to understand human's need for self-preservation through portraiture and selfies, and be aware of the permanence of posting these images online.   


The tool uses the four primary types of learning methodologies: visual, auditory, reading/writing, and kinesthetic

Step by step process: 

9:00            Brief welcome. Names are exchanged and materials distributed.9:35            Short presentation on the History of Portraiture is given and videos about brief history of Photography ( and Selfies ( are watched. These trace man’s need to analyse him/herself and never be forgotten.9:55            Description how a human face can be drawn.  10:00 Sketching of the face – youth workers are encouraged to draw their own ‘profile picture’, write down their own comments and number of likes, just as they would had they been on social media. What is different is that this is not shared. It is more personal, more like a diary entry one keeps to him/herself.10:20Analysis of the characters who take selfies. A TEDx talk is followed as the author Elizabeth Urbanski ( describes the parallelism between art works and modern selfies. Examples of selfies are analysed by audience. 10:40Interaction with installations – 6 different masks for self-reflection. Comments are written on the installations.10:50A blank mask is handed out to each youth worker. This time they are going to draw on the mask what they would like to be remembered as. This may be different from their dream or how they see themselves, or it may be the same.11:10A short surreal film is watched about a woman taking selfies11.15The masks are placed in the centre and youth workers try to guess whose mask it belongs to. Each person explains why s/he portrayed him/herself like that.11.25Youth workers go round and write comments on each other’s mask (on the back), something they value of each other.11:40           End of session. The youthworkers can take a selfie if they like with some the mask on to share on @theinsanityofvanity. 

Materials and resources: 

35 of each:Pencils, rubbers, black and coloured felt tip pens, glitter glue, profile handout, mask1 board to explain on (can be flipchart, white board), black marker6 installations (masks worn by youth workers that makes them reflect)


Expected outcomes:Youth and youth workers will be able to 'read' images presented to them online better and make better decisions before posting online. Experiencing life not through a lens but being present first-hand.More empathy towards the needs of others, rather than focusing on the self.


The duration of the tool is one of the disadvantages when working with youths. Still I have kept the length in order to give the youths a more thorough understanding in the images they are bombarded by everyday. I have countered the length of the session with as much variety and interaction as I could. Youths started out resistent but by the end of the tool, they become very keen in their work and they seemed more conscious of the selfies they posted online.

Notes for further use: 

The installations are quite bulky and might not be easy to reproduce. As a variation a series of masks can be worn instead and the youths discuss how they would feel if they were to look like the mask (e.g. a refugee, a woman wearing a hijab, a black person, a child bride). As the youths wear these masks, look at a mirror and imagine this new reality they would be living in, there would be better understanding of each other's situation, which is much needed in this day and age.

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