Suit Your Selfie
Suit Your Selfie
[411 Note: This is one of yet another string of editorials that discuss the human obsession with selfies. Hence, the title “Suit Your Selfie.” It’s an interesting viewpoint, as everyone has their theories on what is causing this epidemic. We know the answer – and always have: HUMAN EGO. And the fact social media has now fully become a human ego battlefield – it’s no surprise that most people cannot appreciate a well-composed photograph of mother nature anymore – unless there is some stupid asshole in the photo – or a robotic digital filter applied. Circling the drain, I tell you!]
By Theodore Dalrymple
Mail-order catalogs (except antiquarian books) are not my favorite reading, and yet we can learn something from them, even from those that hold no other interest for us. For example, the other day I looked into such a catalog at my mother-in-law’s—if there is some reading matter lying about and I am at a loose end for a few seconds for something to do, I pick it up and read it, whatever it may be. Somerset Maugham said he would rather read a train timetable than nothing at all, and I am of like mind—or psychopathology.
There was a whole section of the catalog I picked up in which the models obscured their faces with their phones by taking selfies. Unlike most models these days, who affect a look of unutterable misery (perhaps it is not an affectation, given that they are not allowed to eat and are treated like slaves), the models taking selfies looked very happy, at least in those pictures in which it was possible to discern their facial expression. Perhaps, then, it is in looking at oneself that true happiness lies, at least for some people.
“If the camera never lied, if it showed me as I truly am, I would come out much better in photos.”
Certainly, at every famous tourist site these days one sees whole troops of people taking pictures of themselves: me and the Mona Lisa, me and the Eiffel Tower, me and Big Ben, me and the Empire State Building, me and Mount Everest. It is me that counts in these photos, of course; no one’s friends really care about Mount Everest, and even concern for me is relative. A selfie with Mount Everest is like an alibi when one has been accused of claiming to have been there without having been there; the proof is on one’s phone, although it must be admitted that these days, with an ability to alter photos at will that would have brought joy to Stalin’s heart, anything can be arranged. I read the memoir of a French model that, having starved mannequins to the size of minus 6, they are fattened up a little afterward by computer at the printing stage: a remarkable testimony to mankind’s capacity to combine wickedness with stupidity.
The selfie is an example of the new social contract brought about by the social media: You pretend to be interested in me if I pretend to be interested in you. Thus, I agree to look at your selfie at Machu Picchu if you agree to look at mine at Angkor Wat. And this, after all, is as it should be, because it is a long way to go to either of those if no one believes you have been. A classic book is a book that everyone wishes he had read; a wonder of the world is a place at which everyone wishes he had been photographed.
I do not take selfies, but (if I am, to tell the truth) it is not because I am appalled at the vacuity doing so seems to require, or at least to call forth: Sheep in a field is more like Rodin’s Thinker than are people who hold their phones on those ridiculous sticks before their faces. No, the problem is that, where the camera and I are concerned, it is not that it never lies, but that it never tells the truth.
I am always appalled by its results. I do not look like that when I glance in the mirror: I look far younger, less bald, wrinkled, ugly in short. I conclude, of course, that I lack that mysterious quality that only some lucky people have: I am not photogenic. If the camera never lied, if it showed me as I truly am, I would come out much better in photos.
I think it was the French-Romanian writer Emil Cioran who said that if a man knew that someone would one day write a biography of him, he would cease to live; in other words, it would paralyze him. In like fashion, if I thought that people would photograph me, I would stay indoors—the millions of spy cameras everywhere don’t count, no one looks at what they have recorded until there has been a murder or a terrorist attack (and then everyone is mostly unrecognizable).
Are selfies only for people with positive self-attitude?
I conclude, therefore, that most people who take selfies are at least minimally satisfied with their appearance, however, they may appear to others. But in fact, it hardly requires reflection on the selfie as a social, or antisocial, phenomenon to know that very large numbers of people have no idea what they look like to others. Or perhaps it is simply that they don’t care.
In places where half the population is the size of a beached whale, people dress in such a way that emphasizes rather than disguises or makes dignified their size. They love tight fits and bright shades—shocking pink and apple green, for example—as if challenging passersby to take notice of them and utter an insult, so that they can then feel aggrieved. In fact, it is they who are aggressive: They know both that one cannot fail to find them grotesque and that one is prevented by social convention and the desire to be polite from demonstrating either by word or facial expression that one finds them grotesque. It must be the same with the photos of themselves that they show. There is no physical exercise that can compare to that of holding one’s tongue.
This is why the doctrine of multiculturalism, far from making people behave better and more sensitively to the feelings of others, allows them to behave worse and less sensitively to the feelings of others. It is almost normal or instinctive human behavior when in unfamiliar social surroundings to look around and see how other people are behaving, estimate what might offend them, and adjust one’s own conduct accordingly. Of course, one sometimes gets it wrong, but at least one tries. However, if multiculturalism is the demand that we accept the conduct of others, it is at least as much the demand that they accept our conduct, whatever it might be. And therefore there is no need for us to adjust it merely for their comfort.
I am glad to say that the only selfies I have ever taken are those of my knees or feet, or the insides of my pocket when the camera of my phone has gone off uninstructed by me.
No. Not today. Not tomorrow. Not EVER!
411 Footnote: While I surmise that this author thinks that only people who look good are confident enough to take selfies – we disagree. I see FAT TUBS OF CRAP taking photos and flipping their hair EVERY SINGLE DAY OF MY LIFE. And I ask myself – “DOES THIS FAT CHICK OWN A FUCKING MIRROR?”
It’s astonishing that people have accepted their own obesity and gluttony as “okay” because they get digital “thumbs up” from some equally assholish followers.
WHAT A CRAP WORLD THIS IS.
(And the sad thing is – you cannot personally shame anyone into fixing their lives anymore. Because if I walked up to a tubby land whale taking selfies and said: “Lose some weight you grotesque eyesore!” She’d probably cry on social media, start a go-fund-me page and earn 100’s of thousands of dollars for more Twinkies and cellulite. THAT is how fucked up this world is.)