How do you like today’s column photo?
My first selfie.
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That’s me at my laptop, working on today’s column.
If I had longer arms you could see the dog on the floor.
I have reached an age — starting at about 10 — when I avoid photos whenever possible, but I wanted to see what all the fuss is about regarding selfies.
Normally I wouldn’t even consider sharing such a mundane moment of my life, but that seems to be the trend. You’ve seen them: Selfies of someone lying on a pillow. Selfies with pets. Selfies with friends. Selfies at the ballgame. Selfies of someone’s abs. Selfies in a boat, at a concert, on the couch, eating a hoagie.
Then they post them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for the world to see.
Everyone is trying to explain the selfie phenomenon. One expert noted that the smartphone (and hence, the smartcamera) arrived at a time when there are more single people than ever — about half of the population older than 18 is unmarried. Who else are they going to share moments of their lives with, the cat or the Internet?
Dr. Mariann Hardey, who specializes in digital social networks, offered her own explanation for The Observer: "The selfie is revolutionizing how we gather autobiographical information about ourselves and our friends. It's about continuously rewriting yourself. It's an extension of our natural construction of self. It's about presenting yourself in the best way (similar to) when women put on makeup or men who bodybuild to look a certain way: it's an aspect of performance that's about knowing yourself and being vulnerable."
I’m not sure what that means. She lost me after the first sentence. There’s a chance she is reading too much into this selfie business. Maybe the smartphone and digital age has simply made it easier and cheaper to do what people have always done — record personal history. Think of it as a photographic scrapbook.
But why do they feel compelled to put it out there for the world to see? To collect “likes,” of course, and to show off.
No time for makeup. Just grunging on a Saturday (other than doing my hair and applying eyeliner). LIKE.
Out on a run in Madagascar. Wish you were here (but, face it, your life is not as good as mine). LIKE.
Eating birthday cake (you didn't get invited). LIKE.
Selfies sounds like “selfish” and some people think that’s not far off the mark. It’s a symptom of a me-focused generation, if not narcissism. It’s a lot of attention seeking.
Speaking of which, the celebrity crowd loves selfies. Hillary and Chelsea Clinton posted a selfie. The Obama daughters took selfies during the inauguration. Michelle Obama took a selfie on the White House lawn with the family dog. Tom Hanks took a selfie onstage with Steve Martin during the Governors Awards.
President Obama was criticized for taking a selfie with Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt and British Prime Minister David Cameron. There is a time and place for selfies, but I’m guessing that taking them during Nelson Mandela’s memorial service isn’t one of them, especially when it involves an attractive blonde. First lady Michelle did not seem pleased about this.
There is an epidemic of selfies from the attention-starved crowd — Miley Cyrus, Tyra Banks, Kendall Jenner, Lady Gaga, Demi Moore, Ashton Kutcher, Selena Gomez, Geraldo, Katy Perry, Paris Hilton, Charlie Sheen, Justin Bieber, and anyone named Kardashian. They dodge paparazzi, but now they're taking photos of themselves and posting them on Twitter, probably because they can Photoshop them to perfection.
Aki Hoshide, the Japanese astronaut, took a selfie at the International Space Station with the Earth and sun in the background. Beat that.
Selfies, as we define them, have been around since 2002, and 10 years later they really took off, or so say people who chart such things. Actually, selfies have been around forever in one form or another. Van Gogh painted numerous selfies. So did Picasso, Rembrandt, Lucian Freud, Renoir.
Using a camera and a mirror, Paul McCartney and George Harrison took selfies in the ‘60s. As usual, the Beatles were ahead of their time (they also came out with music videos before anyone knew about such things).
Andy Warhol experimented with his own brand of selfies. Ansel Adams and Annie Leibovitz are famous for photos of landscapes and portraits, respectively, but they also turned the camera on themselfies.
Selfies are becoming a fixture in the culture. ABC recently announced plans for a pilot show called “Selfie.” Entertainment Weekly described the pilot this way: “Comedy inspired by 'My Fair Lady' tells the story of a self-obsessed 20-something woman who is more concerned with ‘likes’ than being liked.”
Selfies are here to stay. You can decide if that’s good news or bad. LIKE. COMMENT. SHARE.
Doug Robinson's columns run on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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