Sunday, 25 January 2015
Hooptedoodle #162 - A Plague of Narcissism?
What is this lady doing, then? Is she trying desperately to get a signal on her mobile phone (is she, like me, an EE customer?)? Perhaps she has a solar-powered pacemaker for some serious heart condition? Is it some strange new Japanese golf club, to get you out of a bunker?
No - of course, everyone knows, she is taking a selfie - how wonderful. She even has a BlueTooth-enabled selfie-stick, so that the photo looks more as though she had a friend who might have taken it for her. Everyone, it seems, is taking selfies. It is the thing to do - which may mean, unfortunately, that one day fashion will dictate that it is no longer the thing to do, in which case we shall very quickly have to think up something even more stupid.
I was very shaken to read in Yahoo News (which comes, I regret to say, as part of my email service) that there is a growing crime-wave associated with selfie-sticks; it seems that there are organised gangs, no less, in popular tourist sites, who will take the opportunity to steal the phone from the end of an innocent selfie-taker's stick, and make off with it. OMG. [If you, too, are shaken by this story, please remember that the number of selfie-takers who are impacted by this dreadful development is still very small - thus far....]
I have never taken a selfie. I cannot imagine wanting to take one, to be honest, so I have mentioned to potential gift-purchasers that they should not bother getting me a selfie-stick - even a BlueTooth enabled one. With luck, people will one day say of me, in low whispers, "do you know, as far as we know he never once took a selfie - unbelievable. Mind you, we have no photos of him at all, so it may be that he was dreadfully ugly..."
The whole idea of selfies seems to me to be consistent with the popular wish to be a celebrity - look at me - my photos are all over Facebook - how cool is that? I even tell everyone when I'm going to be on holiday, and where I keep the spare front door key. Awesome.
For the novice, or would-be, selfie-taker, here is a very useful flowchart from those wonderful people at the DoghouseDiaries, to give a guide as to when it is appropriate to take a selfie:
Two thoughts occur - one more serious than the other.
Firstly, I am reminded of a very sad story from many years ago - supposedly based on fact. An unmarried schoolmistress reached the end of her long career, and decided to spend a hefty portion of her retirement sum on a once-in-a-lifetime tour of the Far East. This would take a few months, and would involve solitary travel to some of the most exotic locations on the planet. In support of this, her work colleagues clubbed together and bought her a very nice, up-market, compact camera, and a mass of film for it, so that she could have a fitting record of her wonderful trip.
She went on her world tour, and when she got home she found a great pile of developed films (remember them?) returned to her from Kodak, which she had posted off for processing from many points throughout her journey. Sadly, she had never really understood the viewfinder on the camera, and she had toured the Far East taking photos with the camera reversed, peering the wrong way through the viewfinder, trying to make sense of what was out there. She had many hundreds of out-of-focus pictures of her right ear, taken at huge expense at the Great Wall of China, the Forbidden City and many other wonderful locations.
Would this lady have been better or worse off in the age of the selfie-stick? Discuss.
Second thought. My mother has a big padded envelope which contains ancient photos of relations and ancestors going back to the 1870s - fascinating. Not only is this a family record, it is a fabulous insight into fashions, social history, transport and all sorts of things. Some of these pictures are faded and battered, a few are in a pretty poor state, and it is my intention to scan them all very soon, so that I have some proper form of back-up if they all turn to dust. That got me thinking. How secure is a digital back-up, in the long term, anyway?
In an age when so many digital pictures are taken - throwaway, worthless pictures, most of them, who is it that is serious enough or organised enough to set up proper archiving to ensure that we will still be able to find and read these pictures 150 years from now? Will our descendants in the 23rd Century have a useful equivalent of my mother's envelope? Will they have any record of what their long-dead forebears looked like? Even the odd selfie from Margate?