IS “the selfie” the worst thing to happen to humanity in the last hundred years?
If you forget parking meters, pop music and war – which is simple for most as our attention spans have shrunk to the size of sesame seeds – then the selfie is the runaway number one.
Something you didn’t see 10 years ago – like traffic jams outside primary schools, anyone lining up to buy an iPhone or our national flag being a symbol for racism – was anyone taking snaps of themselves.
Not because they’re on holiday, just had a haircut, or checking for things between their teeth, but just because. Simply to marvel at their own beauty then indulge in a little footpath preening, as if they’re an exotic bird preparing for mating season. Followed by the arbitrary posting to social media, since they’re so lacking in internal fortitude, they can’t last another second without a virtual thumbs up from a handful of acquaintances.
The selfie is a form of self-love that should be illegal to perform in public, same as it is with some other forms of self-love.
Next time you’re anywhere there are people, watch out for it. Waiting for the train, they’re at it on benches and up against poles; on the train every second person is using their camera phone to stroke their egos; and, in the city, there are always thousands of them crouched down, going at it in the gutter with their selfie sticks.
In a cafe recently with a friend, I noticed she had a phone without a camera. I felt like I’d just walked into a video rental store and found a Tasmanian tiger using a payphone to call his travel agent.
She then ruined it by taking out an actual camera, snapping a photo of herself, using Wi-Fi to send it to her phone, and uploading it to Facebook.
Among tourists I often spot something even more confusing. A breed of human who carries a tripod and expensive camera with an unnecessarily phallic lens, who’s busy snapping selfies with their phone.
I mean, I had to ask, and the person replied: “The camera is to take photos for me, and the phone is to take photos for everyone else.”
If we’re all obsessed with taking and looking at photos of ourselves though, who’s looking at photos of anyone else? My guess… nobody.
All that attention you get on social media? People aren’t looking at you, they’re giving you the bare minimum in the hope of getting some attention back.
The first time I saw someone taking a selfie, I thought he was snapping the mountain in front of him, not the car park behind, and had his phone facing the wrong way. Gallantly I attempted to correct his mistake.
“No, I’m taking a selfie,” he replied, smiling at me like I was the idiot.
“But, why?” I asked. “You see you every day. When is the next time you’re going to see that mountain range?”
“Online, I can look at it whenever I want,” he said.
“Looking at a photo is never the same as being there,” I replied.
He laughed. “Yes. It is.”
Then I realised he wouldn’t know, because he hadn’t looked at it.
Xavier Toby is a writer and comedian.
His second comedy memoir ‘Going Out of My Mined’ is available now.