Every time I see your arm extending from the corner of the picture, you reveal your shame. “Selfies,” are a modern-day plague birthed at the intersection of technology and narcissism, and like most plagues, they eventually rob the victim of any dignity.
Selfies are those pictures you take of yourself, usually with your cell phone. The plague spreads with a host carrier, usually Facebook, which “inspires” others to post their own. Most male selfies seem to consist of the patient posing next to a newly purchased car or motorcycle, referred to as the “Look at My Toys” virus.
Many female selfies feature the camera held high, looking down on a “come hither” smile and prominently displayed cleavage, commonly known as the “Match.com” virus. Still others feature groups of people cramming into the frame with various drinks in their hands, known as the “You Weren’t Invited” virus.
It used to be we had to earn that one picture of ourselves we really liked, the one where the light hit us just right and hid that double chin or made it look like we had biceps. The perfect picture was a minor miracle, a confluence of factors that combined to show us as we hoped to be rather than who we really are. Nowadays, we can snap 20 pictures in various light until we get the desired effect.
Before digital photography, a picture had to be the product of someone else deeming us worthy of capturing our image on celluloid. In the old days, we only had 12 or 24 pictures per roll of film, so every picture was an unspoken agreement that the subject had earned that slot. After all, we paid to develop those pictures without knowing how they’d even come out — the photographer was rolling the dice on us. In that era, the idea of a “photo bomb” was too much of a violation to ever become popular.
Despite our best efforts, sometimes this implicit trust was misplaced. Whether it be your younger brother’s bunny ears behind Grandpa or Mom’s closed eyes during the family Christmas picture, we never knew we’d “missed the moment” until we picked up our photos at the pharmacy. We had to make peace with red eyes or Dad’s thumb as it covered part of the lens. The only Photoshop we knew was that tiny hut that developed pictures in under an hour.
Kids these days can’t understand the moment of revelation that each set of developed photos brought. We were suddenly faced with how the world saw us, and it often wasn’t pretty. Those extra 20 pounds were no longer hidden below the end of the bathroom mirror, the horror of that bad haircut made worse now that we saw the back of our heads. We didn’t have many opportunities to see ourselves from this different perspective, so each set of pictures was a referendum on how close we came to how we thought we really looked.
Unlike today, we were forced to live with the results and develop coping mechanisms rather than rushing to the computer to airbrush our acne. We had to wait for Father Time to provide perspective. As my mother-in-law always said, “If you don’t like a picture, just wait 10 years and you’ll love it.” That’s not something today’s generation accepts. If they don’t like it, they simply sit down, face the camera, and keep snapping until the light hits them just so. Soon, each carrier spreads this lie around the interwebz, faster than you can say, “cheese.”
Stop it. Like steroids in baseball or fishing in an aquarium, this is cheating. The rest of us don’t have the time to keep up or the understanding of Photoshop, so we fall forever behind. Level the playing field and rely on others to silently judge you through their lens, as Kodak intended.
You can read more at RobertFWalsh.net and contact him at rob@RobertFWalsh.net or follow him on Twitter @RobertFWalsh.