when I took a selfie
February 23, 2017
… was nothing.
And not in a Kim Kardashian kind of way.
I mean nothing as in no selfie outfit, no selfie pose (head tilt, shoulder thrust, rictus grin or kissy lips) for the simple reason I have never taken a selfie.
I probably never will.
And not just because my nose photographs huge.
My stance on selfies is this: I’m waiting for them to go away.
I could say, because it’s true, that there is something fundamentally wrong with the whole concept of selfies, something that goes beyond mere narcissism.
I could add, because it’s also true, that on a purely metaphysical level — you know, things that can’t be seen but are meant to exist, like honour, morality, thought, exultation and responsibility – selfies represent the numbing of our collective soul.
These are valid points, with a distinct whiff of the lofty about them, but my real, deep-down objection is far more basic: I want selfies to go away because they’re boring. They’re boring and ordinary and by their very nature they were over less than two minutes, give or take a few seconds, after the very first one went up on the net. Here’s the contradictory flaw inherent to selfies: people post themselves in a show-and-tell bid to reveal how unique they are, to differentiate themselves from the rest of the world’s billions. The goal is singularity and personal branding, and as goals go, it’s completely self-defeating –pun inevitable — because the only even vaguely notable characteristic that all selfies share is their ability to make everyone – from panty girl in bathroom to jihadi boy in desert – look exactly alike: same head tilt, same shoulder thrust, same pout or manic grin. Same old, same old. When it comes to selfies, banality is the new black.
The problem, of course, is that selfies start and end with self-reference, the kind of self-reference where the self is the only reality. Almost every selfie that’s ever been posted, whatever the setting, whomever the subject, can be distilled down to a single caption, which is, inevitably: Me, me, me.
Basically, selfies are the photographic equivalent of the three-year-old who believes his toilet habits are not only exceptional, but of great significance to the world at large. This is not a bad thing when it comes to building self-worth in toddlers, but put that toddler into nursery school and he or she will soon come to realize that first, as the book says, everybody poops, and, second, with the exception of the toddler’s parents and maybe the janitor who has to clean up any spillage, one’s toilet habits do not matter to anyone.
With selfies, the rare exceptions are just that because they are unlike what came before and they’re able to surprise us. Like the deservedly famous monkey selfie from last year — that was new and different. It told us all sorts of things we hadn’t known before: that macaque monkeys have a great sense of humour. That PETA, the animal rights’ group that brought suit against the owner of the camera, does not have sense of humour although it does seem to have a great deal of time on its hands.
It was an awesome selfie but once it was up it rendered all other monkey selfies passé and mundane: samey. It’s the samey quality of every selfie after the first that renders the process an exercise in futility. You put yourself up there striving for distinction but achieving uniformity.
Even Andy Warhol, whose fault they kind of are and who made the mundane high art would say about selfies, Okay. Everyone’s had their 15 minutes. It’s over now.