Selfie fail

Calgary Herald, July 6: A very photogenic friend once tried to teach me how to take the perfect selfie. We were on the top of a volcano in Guatemala. I was thinking I should record the delight on my face as it’s unlikely I will be on the top of a volcano in Guatemala again. Besides, everyone else was doing it and I felt a little left out.

“You have to practise your look,” my well-groomed coach instructed. “Figure out which is your best side.”  I turned my head left, and then right, keeping my eyes on my phone I had stretched out and a little above me. (He also advised shooting from above).

But in the end, the only selfie I liked had him in it too. He’s making a kissy face and I’m laughing too hard to properly pucker up. Behind us you can see some black lava.  He posted our selfie to Twitter for his 369,343 followers to see. Selfie esteem issues kept me from inflicting the pic on my dozens and dozens of followers.

It turns out I might have been ahead of my time. The selfie has had a good run, but I think it’s over. For one thing, look at the rise of the selfie stick. They ruin the challenge, the art if you will, particularly with group selfies where half the fun is everyone’s head coming out a different size. Furthermore, your mom probably has a selfie stick now.  And when your mom gets onto something it’s automatically no longer cool. I know this because I am a mom.

And so is Kim Kardashian, the woman who has revolutionized the monetization of narcissism.  (But let’s give her credit for throwing her significant weight—not a pun—behind—also not a pun—her former step father now step mother, Caitlyn Jenner and helping to normalize transgenderism for 32,910,283 Twitter followers).  Kardashian has published an old-fashioned coffee table book with nearly a decade worth of her selfies and is laughing all the way to the bank, again. The book is called Selfish. Surely it’s part parody/part selfie swan song.

After all, posting selfies is so 2013. Snapchat is the thing now. The app (not available on my beloved BlackBerry) lets you take a picture or video and send it to a few people or the entire world. You decide how long people can see it and then “poof” it’s gone. Unless you’re a hacker.

In what I think must be a sort of public service announcement for those of us born before 1990, a nice young man in a big white t-shirt explains on YouTube that photos aren’t about important moments or memories anymore.  “It’s all about talking with pictures and expressing yourself in the moment,” says Evan Spiegel, Snapchat’s CEO who just turned 25. With Snapchat’s “instant expression” the moment disappears.  Just like real life.

Periscope takes it even a step further. It’s live video streaming to show the world whatever you’re doing right this second. If someone misses the live feed, they can tune in for up to 24 hours before the video vanishes. Periscope is great for corporate uses.  Carnal ones too, I suppose, but I like to believe that the Gods of the Internet have that under control. I also like to believe that strippers are saving up for law school.

As technology advances—live feeds from neural pathways?—a selfie backlash is brewing. Recently it was reported the American Psychiatric Association (APA) had identified a new mental disorder called “selfitis” that’s characterized by “an obsessive compulsive desire to take photos of one’s self and post them on social media as a way to make up for the lack of self-esteem and to fill a gap in intimacy.”  Good one fake APA.  Or rather, good one Adobo Chronicles that promises: “Everything you read on this site is based on fact, except for the lies.”

People fell for it not only because it was plausible, but because we’re sick of seeing selfies. Even the narcissists are getting tired of pictures of themselves. Over on Instagram (an addiction I’m also spared as long as I cling Charlton Heston-like to my BlackBerry), I hear selfies are being replaced with random stranger portraits. Although with facial recognition software I’m not sure how long the randoms will be strangers.

Meanwhile there may be a comeback of good old-fashioned photography by good old-fashioned professional photographers. Remember them?  Vacationers are beginning to hire photographers to follow them around and take candid shots. Could be they’re afraid of losing an eye to a selfie stick in front of the Uffizi or could be they just want a nice photo to put in a frame in the den to remember their vacation.

As for me, I’ve stopped trying to master the selfie. I think I just ruin the shot.

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