I hate selfies. There, I said it. It’s not that I’m camera shy or modest or hypercritical of my own image in pictures; I don’t take selfies. It’s your selfies I hate.
The Oxford English Dictionary begins its definition of the selfie as ‘a photograph that one has taken of oneself…’. Of course, the idea of taking a photo of yourself with your own hand (and extended arm) isn’t new. I have many a blurry, finger-obstructed, chopped-heads printed photo-and-negative combo to prove it. It’s always been a fun inclusive sort of challenge undertaken with friends – quite regularly when we were growing up (of which we often pondered the success for a number of weeks while the film roll loitered at the bottom of our bags). Or in the case of a ‘couples retreat’ the self-portrait is nothing short of necessity should you wish to shake up the obligatory ‘him in front of the fountain’; ‘her in front of the fountain’ tedium, caused by the absence of obliging fellow-tourists (or at least those that you trust with your snazzy camera). For practical reasons, we have all taken photos of ourselves. Remember the thrill of a camera with a timer? Result! The shots of everyone’s backs as they tried to leg it to the agreed posing spot having just all consulted on the workings of said timer were a particular favourite. To clarify, the ‘selfie’ to which I refer are the ones that you take of yourself; just yourself.
The definition continues ‘…typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website’. Is it just me or is anyone else uncomfortable with how social media has apparently turned 80% (of 25%) of the world’s population into narcissistic bores? I have had some of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences where you feel you will just burst with the wonderment of where you are and what you’re seeing, only to observe one of the people with me (also having said amazing experience) turn to their phone to, first, check their makeup and angles and, secondly, take a photo, of themselves, by themselves. I want to give people the benefit of the doubt but when the lips become pursed, the head becomes tilted and the smizzing reaches new heights, it’s then that I know, without doubt, they’re taking a selfie. This will soon appear on their Instagram / Twitter / Facebook timeline and will attract all manner of praise and recognition. And hey, it’s their prerogative. I’m just wondering when it all became ok. Mostly, I’m wondering where it’s going. I don’t want my nieces spending their youth looking for validation from a bunch of cyber-friends, and attaching their worth to how many ‘likes’ their image achieves. I certainly don’t want them tailoring their personal style or altering their quirks to emulate those looks that are receiving the most comment-compliments. I want them to Laugh. Out. Looooooud; like, for reals. No abbreviations needed. I want them to treasure photos where they look their worst so they can giggle in years to come when they look back with their (mortal) friends. I want so badly for them to live in the moment at every opportunity.
I want so badly to live in the moment, but Lordy it’s proving hard. ‘If a tree falls in the woods and there’s no one to hear it, does it still make a sound?’ asked presumably an anxiety-ridden stoner (or philosopher) some time back. Now the question is probably null and void as we likely have an app for that. It makes me wonder, if we have had the time of our lives; one-off moments; incredible encounters, but no one has documented it online, did it really happen? Did it though? But did it?
I understand the urge to document. Photography is absolutely my favourite art form. I trawl the Internet, my family home, scrap books, published books and galleries, losing hours to the consumption of photos; I adore every kind – just not the selfie.
The photos that I want to be surrounded by are memories of times that can never be recreated. I want to see the faces of those I will never see again. I want to smile as I briefly relive moments with friends and traditions with family. I will never, in my life, want to look at images of reflections of myself partially obscured by a smart phone, framed on every wall. I shall not long that I had captured more moments of myself tilting my head to the left and pouting, alone, somewhere with good light. I won’t kick myself that I didn’t take more time out of the party to get to the Ladies Room to fix my face and snap it at its best. I can be as insecure and unsure of myself as the next person (if not more so) but I do not feel any crisis of confidence in myself, my appearance or my abilities shall be eased by the posting of a constructed image of myself to my accounts.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m delighted when I see an image of myself tagged on FB that I can actually happily look at without critique or shame. No one likes the triple chin, lipstick on teeth, fly-down photos. They’re rotten and can be cringe or fear inducing (particularly when you remember who you were speaking when that rogue post-sneaky burger poppy-seed was winking from your gnashers at 2am). Yet the great big smile on your face says you were oblivious as to the goings on at the time. You were snapped at a time that you were living. You were having a laugh with those bad friends that didn’t bother telling you what was on your face; you were loving it. So perhaps not every candid photo of you is going to be one that you run out to buy a frame for, but I think I’d rather take the chance and embrace spontaneity over perfection every time.
Ok, rant over. I’ll leave it at that. Just don’t get me started on the praise re-tweeter…
x Irene x
Photos via Pinterest