It’s a cute name, I’ll give it that. But the more I think about selfies, the more I wonder. Selfies, of course, refers to photos that we take of ourselves, usually holding the camera at arms length away. We turn ourselves into both the subject and the tripod. For a thing to get its own name, it has to be more than prevalent, it has to be one of the latest things. Everybody is doing selfies, it seems, and so I have to wonder how it is that we have so few friends that we have to be our own photographer.
Until fairy recently, and by recent I mean since cameras that take really nice pictures have gotten small and inexpensive and the Internet has turned into ego fuel, pictures were taken by friends or complete strangers. Everyone knows the deal. Here you are in Taco del Fuego and standing in front of some deteriorated shell of a mission and want to save the exciting moment to show friends and family back home. You pick out a stranger and point at the camera and then yourself. The stranger, if a good samaritan, takes your picture in front of the mission. If not, he takes the camera and runs away. If traveling in a group, then the photos are all missing one member of the troupe or another because they took the photo.
Now though, we just put our best smile on our face, hold the camera as far away from ourselves as we can, and pray we have a width of field large enough to reveal at least some of the mission behind us. We take a selfie. Another in a stream of self portraits.
I have to admit that the first photo I ever took from one of my multirotor drones was of myself. There it was, hovering at eye level and I pushed the camera button. Click! And so I can’t be too hard on people for shooting pictures of themselves. But at least I do it to commemorate some milestone event rather than to photographically celebrate that minutes have passed since my previous photo. Facebook is the great elephant graveyard of the selfie. More photons are locked into the pages of Facebook than anything else I can think of. It’s as if it tapped into some inherent need within the human race to commit themselves to posterity. To leave a record that they have come this way. A small thimble of fuel for the ego to keep up the image of our personal celebrity. We must be important because there is our face, and right there on FACEbook.
I need to be cautious here, seeing as how I operate a blog that at times reveals the boring minutiae that makes up my life. I acknowledge my own sense of self-importance: I can let people know what its like to be me, a person with terminal cancer. For two years or so I had a lot of readers who waited with baited breath for my articles to stop, to know and have been touched by someone killed by Multiple Myeloma. When I failed to die, I note that my readership dropped by more than half when I announced that I was actually getting better. As it turned out, the treatment for my cancer was a lot more lethal than the cancer ever was. Stopping the treatment let my deterioration slow appreciably. I’m still fading, but at a more sedate pace, so don’t give up. I’ll die soon enough.
But back to the idea of our photographic Kilroy Was Here mentality. Note that I say ‘our,’ because I fully admit my own complicence. I do not include my wife, a total Luddite who believes that two cans and a string is better technology than cellphones and despises the digital limelight of social sites like Facebook and Google+. She gives me hope for the species. She not only dislikes these things, she actually refuses to use them. Can you imagine the internal stamina? Amazing. But for the many of us, and especially our youth, making ourselves somehow more indelible, to claim moments with our visage, the selfie is our current weapon of choice.