The Age of ‘Selfini’

My French friend could never remember the English term ‘selfie’ so he says ‘Selfish’ that makes me laugh each time he mistakenly says it…’that’s a nice selfish’..or ‘not another selfish’

Apparently it is crude. It is tacky. It is tasteless. It is a horrible epidemic. The ‘selfie’. What’s new? I could say the same for traffic congestion, corruption and high finance. I understand the angst of the cultural theorist. Popular culture is popular because it is frivolous, accessible, crass and celebrated. So that’s why there is Kim Kardashian etc. But the other side is that she represents many things that are WRONG about how we co-exist with social media and social valuing etc. I mention her as she is the ‘selfie’ queen of queens or was until recently.

So back to the ‘selfie’. That’s why I’m here. People from way back portrayed and displayed themselves in the ‘best light’. Showing off their status, wealth, good looks, gorgeous life etc. They hired painters who did massive portraits and they were hung all over their homes… in spaces earmarked for them…called ‘viewing galleries’. Rembrandt and others painted themselves too. Self portraits. Beautiful and haunting when you go up close to look at them hanging in public galleries.

The ‘selfie’ as we know it today, is a bastardised version of all of that. It is nowhere as ‘artistic’ and of course requires no technical know-how except the phone model you are using and the filters you can manipulate for touching up yourself! But at the heart of it, it is still about ‘self’. I have many. Selfies, that is. I operate in a long-distance relationship and photo calls and emails and Skype is the normal way of communicating. Those ‘selfies’ are private. However I posted a few selfies in my time too. I am at home. Usually alone. No make-up or flat-ironed hair. Just in the privacy of my home. Many people turn their noses up at that. But let’s swing it around a bit. So I’ve been thinking about it … a little. Suffice it to say there are two types of ‘selfies’. The ‘alone’ ones and the ‘social’ selfies.

Let’s talk about the ‘social obsessed selfies’? Because in actual fact the ‘social selfies’ tend to turn up their nose at the ‘lone selfie’. Yes. And I can see why. They consider they are in a social setting, with other like-minded folks. They are not stay-at-home-Annies making lame pics. They are social butterflies. And social butterflies have two objectives – to be seen and to be seen posing. People out on the town, in a restaurant, party, club, sidewalk, pulling out their cameras and posing? They spent hours dressing and putting on make-up (men and women alike). Weeks looking for the ‘signature outfit’ etc etc… that’s great. It’s fun. It’s frivolous but it’s life and we all do it. For me personally, when I am out socialising I hate the invasion of the camera. When I do go out, I shudder when someone in the crew pulls out their phone (I think of it as a gun) and starts shooting. There are a number of reasons why this is a red flag for me. First the person shooting is self-obsessed – ie they care that only they look good, they’re not bothered if you, somewhere in the shot, look like crap – it’s their photo. Secondly, you have to smile on cue. No warning. Bare it all! That’s called a grimace, not a smile. Third, why do people think it is great to interrupt a good social outing with poses and rehearsed smiling? You’re having a good time! Savour it.

So in ending.. yes, we are in the age of the ‘selfie’ but we cannot think this is going to last. And we all DO IT. Don’t pretend! Of course there are people who go overboard. Research shows that overall men are more vain and tend to post more selfies … of their pecs for heavens sake! It is where we are in 21st century technology… which BTW many digital ‘theorists’ (? Yup.. they’re called that)…say we are in the very early stages of technology so where we go from here is still uncharted territory. For now, though, as ‘consumers’ of content, all these antics, keeps the mindlessness of us all, as social media users, at bay, and gives us uses for our model phones with their filter collections.

Of course some selfies are better than others but all in all if you are on Face book, Twitter, Instagram whatever… you have to find ‘things’ to fill it up with. Some users go for spewing out regurgitated news feeds that we generally avoid looking at on the disaster obsessed TV channels we have, which by the way, has become increasingly questionable in terms of authenticity. Others go for posters, prolific sayings, and pretty pics, others for their ‘causes’. But many go for what I think are the ‘self enhanced’ footage of our otherwise not-so-exciting lives.. ‘social-and-private-selfie-love’. So it is… in my humble-selfie opinion!

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