I see it all the time in the most unusual places – someone stopping to take a selfie. Sometimes it is a dangerous situation like the edge of a subway platform or a street corner with buses and trucks whizzing by. I am amazed by the general lack of concern regarding personal safety in an effort to capture one’s image for some purpose – perhaps it is a chronicle of life as it unfolds but in some cases it could be as life ends, and that’s rather disturbing.
According to Merriam Webster Collegiate Dictionary, self-awareness is “knowledge and awareness of your own personality or character” that one would suspect comes from some kind of introspection. On a deeper level it should allow people to understand themselves better through self-study of their behavior, feelings, and beliefs.
“Selfie-awareness” is a completely different thing. The drive to take one’s photo in every possible daily situation seems the antithesis of self-awareness. There is no introspection involved in taking a selfie, especially in totally awkward or inappropriate situations (like taking one at a funeral or in the bathroom).
Consider the story of Deanna Pilling, a Manhattan mother who traveled to Utah State University to pick up daughter Mckenna after she completed her freshman year at the school. Wanting to surprise the girl in a novel way, Deanna went into her dorm room and took a selfie while lying on the girl’s bed. Unfortunately, Deanna was in the wrong room causing much embarrassment for her daughter.
Why you may ask would this woman find a need to take this picture and send it? Mckenna (apparently not that embarrassed) tweeted the photo and it has now gone viral – but there was obviously not an ounce of thought process involved here, proving that selfie-awareness is obliviousness at its nadir.
We have seen all kinds of selfies over the years, many from celebrities that are confounding because we wonder why these over exposed individuals crave even more exposure. How many times do we need to see Kim Kardashian in various states of undress? At this point it has gone beyond selfie-awareness to perhaps self-obsession, but Kim is not alone. The whole world it would seem is now consumed with the selfie.
According to Forbes Magazine citing a United Nations report, 7 billion people on this planet now have cell phones – more than those 4.5 billion with access to flushing toilets. This means more people can take a selfie than those who can take a comfort break on a toilet bowl. Obviously, communication seems to be more important than sanitation for a great many individuals.
How many of those 7 billion are taking selfies everyday can only be estimated, but judging from what I see on a daily basis here in New York, there must be billions and billions of images being snapped all over the globe. New York is a major tourist destination, but the locals are just as guilty as visitors of taking selfies all over the city.
While we are more connected than ever through phones that can track our every movement and then broadcast it across the planet, there seems to be an increasing distance among people. We walk around looking at our phones instead of talking to people. We sit in parks and on beaches staring down at our devices instead of looking at the view. In restaurants people are checking their phones constantly instead of engaging in a discussion with their dining companions. Even in my own home I have been watching TV and turn to notice everyone else looking at a device instead of what’s on the screen, never mind turning everything off and having an actual conversation.
At this point the selfie has become a liability. Our desire to chronicle everything – and sometimes it seems truly to be everything – has taken us to a place of emotional oblivion. While wanting to capture every moment we have lost the ability to appreciate the seconds, minutes, and hours of our lives in a tangible way.
Instead of sending a selfie of you eating a slice of pizza, why not put the camera down and enjoy eating it. Forget the selfie standing in front of the ocean; turn around, breathe the air, and appreciate the beautiful view. By wanting to show the world everything we are doing we are diminishing it; the story we hope to tell is reduced to images that in the end mean nothing, fractals of our lives that add up to nada.
I have been guilty of taking a selfie here and there, but in the end they are no doubt like most selfies – deleted by the receiver, multiplied images that inevitably have a factor of zero. Guaranteed that is the fate of most selfies, except ones like the one tweeted by Mckenna Pilling, and then they go viral and become part of the vast unwashed sea of infamous selfies that will be eventually forgotten as well.
I am not sure where the world is going in 2016, but selfie awareness tends to make me think the picture is no longer worth a thousand words. If that is the case, selfies have been even more detrimental to the world than we can even imagine.
Photo credits: CNN, FOX News