Posted in Of Culturel

Of Selfiesm


Down With This Sort Of Thing – Father Ted

I don’t even know where to start. The past few days, I’ve had it as bad as Angelina Jolie, perhaps one of the last, obsessively photographed people who did so without her own accord. I like to look at things. That’s the whole point of going out. To look at things, to be among people, to eat, to drink, to be merry. Not to be constantly looked at, to become unasked-for photobombers. I have absolutely no f***ing interest in bombing your photos, just by being in a public place I have every right to be in a democratic country. I don’t even know you.

I can’t even begin to describe how much I don’t care about people having a monstrosity of something called a phone, which gets used as anything except that, at the end of their extended arm, as they smile all day long like idiots, anywhere and everywhere. Just, keep me out of it, even if I happen to know you personally. Even if you’re part of a new religion, which I hereby christen Selfiesm, where anyone with any old camera can participate. After all, grainy, blurred, ill-proportioned, #KeepingItReal is the anarchic aesthetic of Selfiesm and the sole ritual/philosophy of it. Keep it to yourself. I have no interest in inundating the world with a billion bad pictures of me.

I won’t even bother to look into the psychology of it all. I’d rather spend my time staring into space, an infinitely more pleasurable and productive activity. I will extract a paragraph I wrote a year ago in an essay called Of Humblebragging instead:

Though selfies are a sign of narcissism, narcissism itself has little to do with self-love. This equation is the subject for another post, but I would argue that if a person really had self-love, they would not need a hundred pictures of themselves to prove it. With self-love, you know how you look and you don’t judge. You don’t mind others taking a picture of you to preserve a moment in time, which is really what people did before social networking. Narcissism is far from self-love. It is an attempt to validate love for oneself from external approval. We could be narcissists even if we didn’t take pictures of ourselves. Narcissism is simply an act of continued effort towards a positive reception of ourselves. We’re all guilty of it to some extent. I am way more self-absorbed than is good for me. And I am so because I am not too happy with the way I am. However, I draw the line when I see that the changes available to me are too extreme and are unlikely to produce the desired result, happiness.

I have recently changed my gravatar to my mug, i.e. my face. It was already available on my ‘About’ page. I refrained from using it as my avatar because I didn’t want my gender or background to affect how I am perceived as a blogger. However, people do, and always have, formed pre-conceived notions based on both. At the same time, I am about to publish a book based on this blog, using my own name and identity, and therefore, it was a no-brainer to include some of my real self and not just my blogging self into the equation. I am not very camera-happy and had no option but to do the deed myself. However, I am still not converted. And, Selfiesm will always have my dissent.

After that rather sanctimonious paragraph, let’s go back to the larger social phenomenon here. I recently read an article on the number of deaths occuring due to taking selfies. It is a frightening number, and I feel it is time to reinforce and revise rules for ‘Photography Prohibition’. Apart from health and safety issues, my only question and worry is, if people are clicking pictures all the time (of themselves and everything else on this planet and beyond), when do they get the time to see them? I certainly don’t have the patience to sit through hundred of uploads by hundreds of people on Facebook and Instagram. And I don’t even take pictures, or do anything else that is as time-consuming. Do they ever really see the pictures they’ve taken/are in/taken by others?

What are your thoughts on selfiesm?


Writer, Blogger, Kate Bush Fanatic

24 thoughts on “Of Selfiesm

  1. Interesting post and your points are valid. I know people who constantly take selfies of themselves. And I do mean constantly. At the gym, at the pub, at a sports event. It gets off putting when you do it with such frequency. I only ever occasionally take one, the last being for a collaboration blog I did recently (we both wanted photos of ourselves in front of the subject matter we were working on). I love taking photos of course, and I admit to being a little too attached to my phone that hardly ever gets used as a phone as you say, but lately I have really been trying to focus on putting it away, especially in social settings. Enjoy the company and the surroundings. One observation though, about the narcissism at play here. Though certainly not as obnoxious and self serving as camera selfies, I always felt that artist self portraits were pure narcissism (albeit ones that have given us some great artwork-Van Gogh’s famous one being the prime example). Do you think that was any less of a narcissistic act than a well composed, contemplative and brooding selfie one might take?

    1. That’s a very interesting question, Robert! Here’s what I think (after thinking about it for quite sometime!). I don’t think the word “narcissism” is right in describing self-absorbed, self-serving acts. Narcissus was purely, innocently and completely in love with his reflection, as far as I know about the myth. Whereas, narcissistic acts are where a person is “trying” to love the self, and make the self loveable to others. You hear that piece of pop psychology everywhere – love yourself just as you are. But, I think it is against human nature, at least to that extent. We’re constantly trying to work on a version of ourself that is acceptable, even cherished, to us and to all, with nearly everything we do. I doubt there was ever a self-portrait where the subject truly believed they didn’t care how they looked.

      I thoroughly believe writing, and art is general, is an act of vanity, where you begin with a natural, unfounded assumption that you are good at it, and are constantly humbled even if you have success along the way. For someone like Van Gogh, or other artists and photographers who took self-portraits, I am sure it served the two-fold purpose of trying to fulfil both their personal and their artistic vanity. Whether it made for good art or not depends, as always, on the beholder.

      I feel I must explain why I came up with this very ranty post earlier today. I’ve been very busy with the festivities here, which comprises of people going to these traditional art installations – think of a pop up museum, art gallery, theme park etc about a few metres from each other ALL over the country. People are, obviously, all dressed up day and night. And we are a very populous nation. Thus, with all this constant selfie obsession, en masse, it’s been really very unpleasant and messy. Imagine Hollywood paparazzi, except it’s in every square inch of the place. There have practically been stampedes here and so I took a stand – I refrained from taking pictures myself, even though there was brilliant artistry all around. However, I can’t even imagine how many photos I’ve “bombed” in the last few days. It is really very worrying.

      1. Thanks for such a great response! First I figured the rant stemmed from the festivities you were describing in your post the other day. What you say in that light makes complete sense. Here in NY we have Times Square which is just a nightmare walking through at any time of day now with tourists, people dressed up in costumes, or semi-nude women plying for tips and a whole lot of people taking selfies, sometimes dangerously close to getting hit by passing traffic, not to mention holding everyone else up. I loathe walking through there when there is no other option. Fortunately it does not happen much. So I understand what you mean. I have to wrap myself around your thorough response to vanity and narcissism but I suspect you are right. I was reading your piece and just thought, huh…weren’t self portraits kind of like selfies (though hopefully done in a more serious way rather than the ridiculous forms selfies often take). But I think what you said about personal and artistic vanity is especially true. Stay safe!

      2. I think self-portraits have always been around in some form or the other, probably since the invention of mirrors, or any reflecting surface and the subsequent vanity/ego. I’ve read the first self-photograph was 1840ish, I’m not sure of the date. Paul McCartney playfully admitted to inventing the selfie and the photobomb on Jimmy Fallon. I suspect both have been around for as long as it has been possible to take pictures, though I’m sure you know of the history of photography very well for me to hazard any unfounded ideas. I feel it’s good old social media – the scapegoat for all of us grandpa/nostalgic types – that has created the obsession. Which is why I asked the question whether anybody even has the time to see these hundreds of pictures uploaded with such frequency.

        I have obviously taken pictures of myself, solo or in a group, over the years. But, I feel it shouldn’t be at the cost of inconveniencing others, or hazarding anyone’s health and safety. Even previously photography prohibitive places are loosening up, because they feel they benefit from the potential publicity.

        I think “self-portrait” can be an artistic, valuable thing, whereas a “selfie” is only trying to preserve a moment in time that didn’t even happen, and thus it has little or no value, even personally/emotionally.

      3. I think your last paragraph is the best statement marking the difference between the two. There is an artful quality to a self portrait. You can take a good and fun or happy selfie…but it is still a selfie. And by the way…whatever happened to asking someone to take a photo of you?! Not that hard to do! Interesting what you say about places opening up because here I have seen more places banning selfie sticks and shooing people away who take them even with their phones.

      4. Well, these “installations” are obviously dependant on sponsorship, and could use more funding to fulfil their grander artistic/entertainment aspirations, and obviously would love getting a greater response from people for what they have made this year. You have to see it to believe it, Robert. I really can’t describe it better. I think places that prohibit photography are places that don’t need it.

        I keep recommending Dylan Moran’s stand up to you because there is so much good stuff there. On almost every show, there are people trying to take pictures of him or record videos, to whom he responds, more scathingly than usual, something like “You don’t need to be preserving a moment by a taking a picture of it when you weren’t even there.” It’s just so true. Kate Bush had a series of concerts last year, her first in 35 years, where she made very sure that people didn’t take pictures or videos. Even though the measures she had taken mostly worked, a few clips did get uploaded on YouTube. Hungry fan as I am, I watched one of these short clips but couldn’t sit through for even the minute or so it was on. It was just so, so bad, and her work deserves much more than some bad camera phone recording . I’ll wait for the DVD, even if it takes forever.

      5. Yes I know people that went to some of those Kate Bush shows and they mentioned it. True, the places I meant are established museums and monuments that don’t really need some tweens selfie to promote them! I promise you I will look for some Dylan Moran standup!! I know I will like it

  2. Well you know how I feel about pictures of me being taken lol I’ll scream at someone to put their camera away if I see it pointed in my direction! And I am also against those who post pictures of their young children on social media just to garner more views and likes and thumbs up and shares. Remember when pictures used to be kept in a box in the back of a closet and only brought out when the relatives showed up? lol Ah, those were the days…

      1. I know, right! Technology has sure changed how we do things. Who would have ever thought back then that one day I could take pictures of my children with my phone! Remember when phones used to be those things used only for making calls? lol

      2. I actually miss those bright, colourful 80s landline receivers, though I was a 90s child and cordless phones were much plainer in that decade. It was so much more “pop” and fun to be chatting on them, than the colourful ones we get now!

    1. Ha ha, I do! And those are the only pictures, apart from recent ones, that I still have with me. On the other hand, many of the ones I’ve taken from the time I got my first camera phone are lost to me. That would be about the last ten years of my life, where the sheer number of photos have been much greater than the previous years, but they’ve hardly lasted, which is what they were meant to do. Maybe kids today won’t have their pictures last as long as ours have done for us.

      1. I have discussed that with people before (even blogged about it too lol). Setting aside selfies for a moment I wonder if photos in general will have that same sort of meaning the way those old boxes or photo albums do. True, you can save them on a flash drive, or on your social media pages, which will be there until you may decide to quit those sites, but is it the same thing. The same sensation of the tactile touch of a photo, delicately holding it at the edges to avoid smudging the photo, or the process of flipping through an album or passing physical photos around the room when someone visits. I’m not sure that viewing the photos digitally has that same sort of impact. Then again, maybe I’m just in grumpy old man mode shaking my fist like Grampa Simpson saying, “back in my day….”

      2. I think I have a love/hate relationship with technology and how far it has come. I love that I can easily take pictures of my children with my phone, but then they just sit there on my phone or in a folder on my computer or up in a “cloud” somewhere, and it’s just not the same as having a photo album. Maybe that will be my New Year’s resolution lol Actually getting my photos all printed and sticking them in photo albums. I think I only have like 4000 pictures, so…shouldn’t be too much of a fuss 🙂

      3. I’ve been meaning to the opposite – scan my old photos and upload them “up in the cloud” as you wonderfully put it! But, there are about a zillion printer/scanner/photocopiers available now, thanks to online shopping and I can’t zero in on one! What do they say? #21stCenturyProblems !
        I definitely feel you should make an album. Maybe like a fun, scrapbook type of thing you can do with your kids. Did you know polaroids are back in fashion?

      4. I LOVE polaroids lol There is just something so whimsical and nostalgic about an old polaroid photo 🙂

      5. Maybe you can get one. I think Fujifilm launched one last Christmas that was a huge hit. I might get one when I am not quite so broke, only because it’s fun and a little silly!

  3. Hey if polaroids are back, and vinyl records are back, why not vintage landline phones (though not the rotary ones…that is one I will happily leave in the dust!). I had a rather nasty encounter with someone not too long ago here at work. He was visiting the office and I take all our product shots, and this one day I had my camera bag, which has my digital camera, my film camera, lenses, and other paraphernalia. He saw the film camera and said why do you carry that. I said because I still shoot with it. He said, why, it’s pointless. And I said no, not pointless, especially with monochrome photography. There is a graininess there that you can only get with film, and not a digital photo shot in monochrome. I had rather choice words for him in my mind! But yeah, definitely think you should do some photo albums, or barring that, you can get photo boxes with dividers in them so you can sort out all the photos of a certain place, or maybe a file for every Christmas, that sort of thing. I like those because when you have a lot, the time to do all that placing in albums is tough, but with the boxes all you have to do is sort.

    1. I have an analog camera I inherited, which I last used ten years ago (a rare thing to do even then), though the film from that trip is lost. I’ve been looking to buy a new roll, but haven’t found one in a shop all these years! I guess I have to look in places where people take photography very seriously, though I think I’ll be very precious with taking pictures if I do manage to find one.
      I would like typewriters to be back, or something similar that is gentler on the fingers, but completely offline and distraction free. I’d be much happier, I have no doubt about that.

      1. Believe it or not there is still a store here in NYC that sells typewriters and parts. Apparently for some government work typing forms on carbon paper is actually easier and more effective. So they are still hanging in there. I’d love to be able to type finished writings out on a typewriter! Yes you should be able to find film somewhere online or at a photo store

      2. Yes, typewriters are widely available here too. Quite reasonably priced as well, especially online. But, I am not sure about it, especially finding the ink-ribbon, if that’s what it’s called, when I run out of it, as well getting it repaired if anything goes wrong. I read about a year ago that the Russian government was buying typewriters after the whole Edward Snowden case, though I don’t know how successful they were with it.For my humbler needs, I am fine with whatever back up I get on my computer. It’s just that I get distracted easily, and would prefer something between longhand and a computer.

      3. Ah, it would drive me nuts! I guess we all want different things from our devices. I’d go crazy if there wasn’t a silent mode!
        Sometimes I wonder if I am a romantic or a modern soul. I guess I’m so neurotic because I want the best of the two! This is the curse of our age!

      4. I don’t think it is neurotic. I think of it as being a realist in some ways. You appreciate the reasoning behind the technology of the modern, yet feel the older ways are actually more fitting, which is why I think things never completely die out. Vinyl records for example. They were literally on their death bed, and now, stores are charging $40 for new vinyl pressings. Though I can’t really afford those prices, I can go through the bargain bins and buy vinyl again, something I haven’t really done since before you were born I bet!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s