Taking a picture of yourself is nothing new. In fact, it’s about 175 years old. But in the last 10 years or so, a new movement toward taking pictures of yourself has emerged. The “selfie,” as it’s come to be known, has a disputed background but I’m going to say it started during the Myspace Era (post-Friendster and pre-Facebook). Since then, it’s grown beyond the casual emo kid taking pictures of himself in his parents full-length mirror and into a world-dominating force that has seemingly taken the place of a morning cup of coffee as a means of starting the day. Or going to school. Or going to the grocery store. Or the doctor. Or a concert. Or basically anywhere else a person may go at any point during the day.
With the inundation of social media comes the desire to create content in order to illicit a (hopefully favorable) response from your friends/followers/whatever. Ideas are hard to come up with and we can only make so many meals in a day so what else do we have to capture with a photograph? That’s right. Our goddamned selves. I follow me everywhere I go and I’m assuming you follow you as well, so in order to update others as to what we are up to it makes sense that the best way to do that is to share the you that you are following to your online followers. Right? Right.
And you know what? I don’t have a problem with this. If a fifteen-year-old girl wants to snap a picture of her pink hair so the cornerback of her high school football team takes notice, that’s fine. If a twenty-something is bored and wants to suck in her cheeks hoping that some of her bitchy coworkers will step outside of themselves and click the tiny heart below the photo, no problem. If a dude is bored at the bus stop and likes the way he shaved those kick ass lightning bolts into his sideburns, more power to him. These daily selfies that surround our culture can be annoying due to the sheer number of them, but they’re harmless. Don’t like them, don’t look.
There’s another trend that seems to be emerging lately that I have a problem with, though. And that’s the posed selfie. I know, they’re all posed. I’m talking about the selfies that have somehow started making their way into our daily news cycles. I know it was happening long before Ellen instigated the celebrity circle-jerk at the Oscars but that seems to be a good place to start the conversation.
We’ve all seen the scene. A group of Hollywood stars circle around and take a “light-hearted just having fun spontaneous picture because they’re all just down-to-earth normal people like the rest of us!” Except that’s complete bullshit. Obviously, nothing that happens on such a high-profile production is spontaneous. But the purported feeling of the picture was one of “Oh shit there’s a camera! Hey gang, let’s all get together for a quick picture to remember this wonderful evening!” And then the next morning all I heard about was this fucking selfie and how great it is that they could put aside their egos and hang out and blah blah blah. It wasn’t until after the third repeat of the story that I learned about a missing child in my area because that’s obviously not important, timely, or interesting. Well, at least not as interesting as some famous people smushing together for a shitty picture.
And if it would have been just that, it would have been fine. But ever since Ellen received every possible retweet (which is GOLD for twitter users) other celebrities have been trying to recreate the buzz. But as we all know from our extensive drug use, the first buzz is always the best.
Earlier this week, I was watching ABC’s World News with Diane Sawyer (because apparently I’m 85-years-old these days). They had their usually masturbatory news story where they feature, believe it or not, another member of the ABC news team, Robin Roberts. I learned about this synergy idea in school and it makes sense, but I still think it’s bullshit. It basically boils down to free advertising being passed off as a story. It’s the same reason every ABC news broadcast recaps what happened on Dancing with the Stars. Anyway, by the end of the news segment, Diane Sawyer and Robin Roberts were walking through a park with linked arms and giggling like a couple of old friends when they decided, “Hey! Wouldn’t it be swell if we took a fucking selfie?!?” So they did.
And it wasn’t just something that happened that you saw on the twitter page later that night but it was included as part of the story. I have a lot of issues with our news institutions but this is a brand new cog in the broken wheel. Selfies are news now. If that doesn’t make you hate our society, then you might need to take another look around.
That same night, Stephen Colbert was on The Late Show with David Letterman and guess what? Stephen pulled out a camera and they took a fucking selfie together. When the Boston Red Sox visited the White House, guess what happened? David Ortiz and the President of the United States of America took a selfie together. Because, y’know, there weren’t enough cameras there to properly harness the chemistry between the two of them.
I know, I should just chill out and accept the fact that this is a trend right now. Soon it will all be over like Pogs, Fruit Striped Gum, and, apparently, Affirmative Action (I know, way to go Michigan). I accept that as a reality and I’m fine with it, but our obsession with this needs to stop. It’s being used as a ploy to make celebrities seem more relatable and it’s a trick being used to sell more fucking cell phones. That’s it. It’s crazy to me that this selfie thing has not only altered the way we view our self-image but also the way we manufacture cell phones. As we all know, there’s a fucking camera on the front of our phones so we can get a better look at ourselves.
But like I said, personal selfies are no big deal. If you want to snap a picture of yourself, nobody can tell you that’s wrong. “But then where do you get off saying celebrities can’t take selfies? They’re people too!” You’re right. They are. And they can go ahead and take as many selfies as they want but when it starts invading our news system, taking the place of important stories, it becomes a problem. It’s reaching a level of obsession that a conspiracy theorist might say it’s being used as a means of distracting the public from happenings that might invoke an uprising. But I’m not going to make that assertion.
Then again, the Oscar’s happened the same weekend Crimea was invaded. I was out of town that weekend without internet access and had no idea about it until after the news sufficiently orgasmed over Ellen’s picture. Surely it’s a coincidence that these things happened at the same time. OR IS IT?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?