Showing Selfie Control

The simple name of the “Selfie” sounds a little too self-gratifying, but for most it’s simply a documentation process. When I say most I’m probably referring to those under thirty.

Before we get into depth with this research piece, let’s first understand and define the “Selfie” (before my father stops reading out of disgust). Dad, the Selfie is what it’s called when people take pictures of themselves to put on Facebook or any number of media outlets online. It’s not uncommon for people to post new pictures of themselves more than once a year – the formula is that the younger the person the more postings of themselves. The exceptions, of course, are show folk and the sort.

I’m a tech guy somewhere deep down, so I’m fascinated with how technology affects our culture. I thought about this the other day as I was beginning to think that my Facebook photo had been the same for some time. It seemed about time to change that picture. But here’s my problem. I’m starting to get old.

I’m not that old, but almost 50. Crap, now that I typed that it sure sounds old. But I still get technology, so understanding how to take a picture of myself isn’t a problem. The problem is my psyche. I was not raised in a time when we took a lot of pictures. There are only about 8 photos of me in college – thank goodness. We used to have to remember to take a camera with us, then remember to go to the store and buy film, and finally remember to take the film back to a store and, wait, remember to pick it up 3 days later. In most cases it would be easier to get some training as a painter and paint a self-portrait.

But if you did gain painting skills you still wouldn’t paint a self-portrait of yourself until you’d painted just about everything else – even after bowls of fruit. The people that are walking the earth now, who began with film cameras, just weren’t raised to take their own pictures. I could have taken a picture of myself in a mirror in 1989, but it would have been highly unorthodox. Even call girls of the era would have gone to at least a mall and had some glamour shots taken.

True, good and kind reader, you are correct. We just didn’t have the technology to take our own pictures a few years back. But we also didn’t have the social programming. Whenever I think I should take a new picture, my second thought is that the idea of taking my picture seems extravagant and a little creepy. The problem is that it just might be that the physical picture of me is creepy. I’m still trying to figure that out.

The culture has morphed, making it common to take pictures of yourself at all occasions and many non-occasions. Any travel rightfully warrants Selfies. Weekends used to be made for Michelob and now they’re made for Selfies. And, once again, I want to emphasize that I’m fine with it. I personally can just not remember that my phone has a camera on it and I’m allowed to point it at me.

If I were to have snapped pictures of myself and friends every time I got together with them 25 years ago, then ran home and put all those pictures on cardboard with funny sayings and put them in a public place – people may have thought me a bit daft. Like maybe my bucket didn’t go all the way to the well.

The other problem I have with taking my own picture is that my arm isn’t long enough to get away from my face, which is now showing some age. And my neck, which has some unflattering wrinkles when the correct angle is not chosen, takes a couple shots to meet approval. It’s a young person’s game where there are no bad angles and wrinkles are only in the un-ironed shirts of the dancing and frolicking youth.

I’ve got a website and I write stories about myself. Everything about me is crying for attention, but I just can’t bring myself to easily take my own picture or to imagine that anyone would continually want to see my picture. I have that one funny picture face that’s super funny because I only use it once a year. I’m afraid it’s the only picture I would take, even though I think it would be fun to look back years from now on my FB timeline and gradually watch my aging, and track my friendships and friends – with that one dumb picture face.

For the record, picture taking and non-picture taking friends, I really am not against the Selfie. I don’t think the world will end because of it, like when Elvis shook his hips. I don’t think it’s making people dumb, like when Gilligan’s Island and Hogan’s Heroes were on the airwaves (Well, maybe those made people a little dumber).

Let’s have an understanding of what will make a civilization grind to a halt and hush the brain cells of our children’s children. Yes, it does happen on the Facebook. It is the taking of pictures – of food. I have said it before and I will say it again, if you are not in the business of food in some way shape or form, please refrain from taking pictures of what you believe to be a really good looking piece of food item. Do you know why that damn food looks so good to you? Well, do you? I’m talking to you food picture taker? It’s because you are hungry! So put it in your mouth. We have all seen good looking food before, because – you know why? Because most people have experienced some level of hunger. That happens, then you eat. You are not so amazed with how it looks to the point of wanting to share it with others. In case no one has told you before – we don’t care.

Sorry I blew up. Dear reader, with all you have going for you, I don’t know how you put up with me. I am deeply pretend sorry. Where was I now? Oh, yeah, even with the acknowledgment that I would like to take my own picture, I think my age and situation preempts it actually happening. Because I have kids, no matter how much I wish I could take a good picture of me, I would rather take pictures of them and watch them.

Somewhere down the line I could even teach the kids to take pictures of themselves. But they will pick that up naturally – or possibly unnaturally. Either way I’ll be able to keep tabs on them through Facebook as they progress through high school and college. And some day when Lila, Hoyt or Iris is a famous and accomplished painter maybe they will paint a Selfie – I mean a Selfie Portrait. I just hope they don’t take pictures of what they believe to be the most beautiful bowls of fruit they’ve ever seen – and post them on Facebook.

Sadly yours,

Jason Spafford

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