Sunday, June 25, 2017

Friday Reflections (Not on Friday) - The Selfie

Wednesday was National Selfie Day.  Yep, I kid you not.  Why we actually have a day for this is beyond me, because, as anyone who is semi-active on social media can attest, any given day on Facebook or Instagram or Snapchat looks like National Selfie Day.  

I learned this tidbit as my husband's clock radio alarm blared to life that morning, jarring me from my delicious slumber.  I seriously rolled my eyes, thought, "Selfie Day? What the hell?" and went back to sleep.

After another hour or so of sleep and breakfast, the National Selfie Day radio announcement was long forgotten, but I was reminded of it once again when I saw that one of the prompts for this week's Friday Reflections is to share one's views on the selfie.  

Oh, the selfie...  Where do I even start?  My feelings towards the spontaneous self-portrait are...  Complex.  Multi-faceted.  Varied.  Paradoxical.    

I'm like them, but I hate them. 

I enjoy taking them, but I also sometimes laugh or get annoyed when I see others doing the same thing.  

I think they're wonderful at capturing moments of our lives, but cause people to miss out on living in the moment because they're so worried about capturing the perfect picture. 

They make it easier to communicate via social media, but on the flip side, this sometimes drives people to create a certain image of themselves that they want the world to see and often that image is a farce. 

I also think selfies bring out some of the worst qualities in people such as narcissism, vanity, disrespect, rudeness, and poor decision making.  

Here are some examples of what I'm talking about:

Like Them/Enjoy Taking Them/Ease of Communication Via Social Media

I bought my very first kayak Tuesday.  The way my husband and I were transporting it home was rather comical.  

Excited to share this news and to share the tale of our transportation method, I posted about it the experience on Facebook.  But, in lieu of making my status say something like, "Picture this - a man, a woman, and a kayak get into a GMC Denali...", I pulled out my phone and snapped a quick selfie.  

When I posted it to Facebook, my caption was simple - "My current situation" and this is what my FB friends saw:

There is an old saying that a picture is worth a thousand words and in that moment, I don't think words could have conveyed what I was trying to express any better than that picture.

Laugh When I See Others/Narcissism/Vanity

Last summer in Las Vegas, I watched a woman who, armed with her smart phone and selfie stick, paraded all around the pool area snapping pictures of herself as she posed suggestively in front of the palm trees and water features. She even asked some people to move out of one corner of the pool because they were "in her shot."  Yes, she sure did!  I heard her and I was so hoping one of the people would say no, but they complied. This went on for 35 minutes (I timed it).  

Vanity/Disrespect/Poor Decision Making

Two years ago, I observed a very dangerous selfie photo shoot while in Niagara Falls.  A young couple, also armed with a smart phone and selfie stick, climbed over the protective barrier near the edge of the falls in order to take a selfie. Two feet away from them was a sign instructing people to not climb over the barrier. Had either of them slipped, they no doubt would've been swept away in the rushing current and plummeted over the falls to their deaths.  Fortunately, they didn't kill themselves while  in pursuit of the ultimate photographic evidence of "been there, done that" and I'm sure the picture they captured of themselves was fantastic, but, man, it sure was a gamble.  I, personally, don't feel any picture is worth risking your life for, but that's just me. 


2015 must have been the year of the selfie stick, because this example also took place while I was in Niagara Falls.  I have never seen as many people with selfie sticks as I did there.  But, the thing I remember most is how rude the majority of those people were.  They literally walked around with they selfie sticks extended everywhere they went - walking in crowds bonking people with them, walking through gifts shops knocking over merchandise.  It was absolutely absurd and some of the rudest public behavior I've ever witnessed.


Just to show you that I'm all about keeping it real and not just picking on other people and their selfie habits, here's one about me.  

Preparing this post, I became curious as to when I took my first true selfie, and by true I mean a self portrait that was not taken using the self-timer.  After digging around in old photos for about an hour, I determined that it was taken in the summer of 1995 - almost two decades before the word selfie became the "Word of the Year" by the Oxford English Dictionary in 2013.  

The picture is of myself and my then roommate, P, during the summer before our senior year of college.  We had just recently moved into a different apartment and took a picture to commemorate the occasion.  P and I are grinning like possums with wide, cheesy smiles that showed all our teeth and we appear as white as ghosts because of the overpowering flash. 

This would be a good place to include that photograph, don't you think?  Well, sorry to disappoint, but there's no way on God's green Earth that I would upload a digital facsimile of that picture for all the world to see.  Why?  Because I look like a complete and utter goober in it!  Plain and simple. 

The picture was taken blindly, as we had no visual screen in 1995 to help us compose the shot or to see how we looked before or after snapping the shutter. Even a trusted friend of mine said that it was "not so flattering."  In general, I'm not a vain individual, but when it comes to pictures that the masses might see, I am a little bit.  

Capturing Moments/Vanity

Back in March, my best friend and I met up for a girls weekend.  While visiting a local bourbon distillery, she wanted to take a selfie.  She held her phone in her hand, stretched out her arm, looked at our images on the screen, composed the shot, and tapped the button.  Voila!  We both immediately looked at the captured image to make sure we were both pleased with the end product.  

We were not.

If I'm remembering correctly, I think she uttered, "Um, no..."  A do-over was done and that picture was deemed acceptable.  Again, I'm a little vain.

C and I don't get to see each other very often, but when we do, we like to capture those rare moments in pictures.  Sometimes we're doing something unique, sometimes we're just having out.  Regardless, it captures that moment in time for us to look back on later and to reminisce. 

Not Living in the Moment

One day last summer, while out in Las Vegas, my friends and I took a day trip to the Grand Canyon, which is a majestic sight to behold and almost impossible to describe.  Photos rarely do its beauty justice. 

As we ventured out to an observation point, we naturally encountered a crowd. (It was the Grand Canyon in July, after all...)  We gradually worked our way up to the rail in order to get an unobstructed view of the canyon. When my friends and I reached the rail, we stood there for a while, looking in every direction, taking it all in - the colors, the contours, the contrasts, the vastness of it all.  We were in the moment.  After a few minutes, knowing that others were waiting behind us, we took a quick selfie, and vacated the spot so others could have a turn, too.  

Something we saw a lot of as we waited for our turn at the rail, were people walking up the rail, immediately turning their backs to the canyon, snapping some selfies, and then walking away, never even really looking at the canyon with their own eyes!  My friends even noticed this behavior, too, so it wasn't just me.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all about a good selfie.  But, I'm all about being in the moment and experiencing things firsthand rather than through the screen of my smart phone.

Now do you understand my mixed feelings regarding the selfie?

Love them or hate them, it's quite obvious that the selfie is more than just a passing trend.  It is a cultural and social phenomenon that has changed not only the way we capture the Kodak moments of our lives, but also how communicate and interact with each other and the environment.

What are you thoughts on the selfie?

As always, thanks for stopping by!


  1. I have to admit that I take a lot of selfies, especially when my husband and I go on vacations just the two of us. I wish that we had more photos of the two of us that wasn't a selfie, but sometimes it's easier to just do it ourselves and not ask somebody. That being said, I always try and take a look at what I'm seeing first before I actually go in for the selfie. I'm with you on the hating that people just take a picture of themselves in a place without fully appreciating where they actually are.

  2. I didn't even know it was national selfie day... living under a rock?! I'm not sure. I can see the fun in selfies and I enjoy taking them from time to time. I do however, whole-heartedly agree that there are extremes and obsessions that come with it! I would go bonkers if someone needed me to move out of their shot... I would do it... but yikes. That's so intense. I've heard of so many travel-related selfie stick deaths as well... falling yikes. Common sense people. I enjoyed reading your thoughts on this. As with so many things... Moderation Moderation Moderation! :) XO - Alexandra

    Simply Alexandra: My Favorite Things

  3. I hear you on all your points. The vanity, the rudeness, the narcissism really does bug me. However, I do take selfies too but I don't bother about lighting and needing to look perfect. And yes, there are moments when I'd rather savour the situation than take a selfie! :)


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