March 6, 2014

Marijke Rowland: My selfie, myself

Like it or – very much – not, we are living in the Age of the Selfie.

Like it or – very much – not, we are living in the Age of the Selfie.

The last shred of doubt should have been swept away after Sunday’s Academy Award telecast with the Selfie Retweeted Around the World (trademark pending). Ellen DeGeneres and a gaggle of A-listers earned the most Twitter retweets in history – 3.2 million and climbing. It beat President Barack Obama’s re-election embrace with first lady Michelle Obama by more than a couple of million hits of the “retweet” button.

Taking a picture of yourself is absolutely nothing new. Heck, we could blame Narcissus and his pond selfie of sorts for starting it all. But, just like the Greek myth, we seem endlessly fascinated by our own image and those of others – snapped at arm’s length.

The appeal of celebrity selfies is rather simple. We love to see stars mugging for the camera once the “reverse” function is turned on. Look, Brad Pitt made a funny face. Cool, Jennifer Lawrence stuck out her tongue. Stars, they’re just like us! Never mind the multimillion-dollar bank accounts and vacation mansion at Lake Cuomo. (P.S. They also love free pizza.)

But the deluge of selfies isn’t relegated to Oscar winners and those with verified Twitter accounts. We seemingly love to see the nonrich and nonfamous just as much. Check your Facebook, Twitter and Instagram feeds and it’s all faces (and occasionally food) self-awarely saying “cheese” to themselves. Sometimes there is something cool in the background – a famous landmark, a strange occurrence.

People take selfies at Beyoncé concerts. People have taken selfies while running from security guards. People have taken selfies with the pope. People have taken selfies at funerals. Yes, funerals.

Some bemoan this trend as the glorification of self-absorption. If I see one more duck-faced teenager snapping a selfie in line at Starbucks, I will double Frappucino all over his or her smartphone. Are we really that fascinating? Are we really that attractive? Or have we all had momentary amnesia and forgotten what we look like?

I know, I know – this is a lot of complaining from a person who has her own disembodied head floating at the top of this page. But, in the end, I think our selfie obsession has as much to do with our outsized egos as it does our need to feel a little less small in a big, wide world.

Consider it the megapixel equivalent of “ Kilroy Was Here.” Mankind has been trying to make its mark on the universe since the advent of cave drawings. Technology finally has caught up to our desire to see ourselves reflected for all eternity on (Facebook) walls.

Or, maybe I’m wrong. It certainly doesn’t account for the popularity of Snapchat (the smartphone app that makes selfies disappear seconds after they are sent and which turned down a $3 billion – yes, billion with a “b” – purchase offer from Facebook recently). That would be the polar opposite of preserving ourselves for posterity.

So, maybe we are all just a bunch of self-absorbed jerks after all. Oh well, at least we looked good in the selfies.

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