The Selfie is the new Rock-and-Roll

Apparently there has been a change in the music that is being played at funerals. As the baby boomers are starting to shuffle of this mortal coil, it Selfieturns out that they are more often opting for defiant music.

Social trends like this really fascinate me. I have notice for my generation their seems to be and equally strong inclination to subvert for the wedding conventions.

It is almost like for people my age (31) the way you express your personality is to take the wedding format and add chef’s hats for guest to wear during dinner, or flip flops for the girls to wear toward the end of the wedding.

A trend I have picked up on that I don’t like; is the tendency for people to deride the selfie generation. Selfies are narcissistic. Selfies are juvenile. Selfies are pathetic and attention seeking.

I think this is to fundamentally miss-understand how this form of communication works for the people who use selfies.

selfie2Look at the decline in value of the photo:

There was a time when a photo was quite a thing. They had to sit dead still, sometimes in order to ensure that children sat still enough to not blur the images they would have a metal rod put down there back.

When I was in my late teen’s photos were a drain on my beer money. When I was in the business of serious selfie production I was using cheap disposable cameras, that almost like taking clothes to a laundry would be taken to the chemist for development, normally when my mum was doing a trip to get her own photos developed.

If you are the kind of person who is angered or irritated by other people selfies try and remember that there is a good chance that you are not the intended recipient of the message.

In much that same way that when the baby boomers played their music loud they didn’t necessarily want to irritate their parents, their parent were merely incidental. The music was for them and their friends to enjoy.

The smart phone has made photos as cheap as the transistor radio made loud music. It could be that before long the technology will move on. Inselfie3 the 1990’s my Mum once noted that there wasn’t as much music being play in public as there used to be when she was a teen. I think that was because by my early teens these things have reached saturation point.

Why would a young and self-conscious boy want to play a sound on a radio allowed and have adults bark at them and derided their choice when they could just listen to music privately.

I don’t think selfies are as narcissistic as people think they are. To judge them as you would a printed photo is to make a context error. The other day Hayley and I were out at the allotment and Hayley was sat on the floor gardening in one of our beds. I looked at her and had and had pang of emotion. It was one of the one moment’s that you hope you will be able to hold onto forever.

It seemed incumbent on me to grab it so that would one day be able to force it on my son and say: “look you were in mommy’s tummy then”. That won’t be as much fun for him as it will be for me:

two bye two space and time

click to enlarge

The reason selfies are not the same as photos is that photos by definition are past events. The recipient is displaced from the action in both time and space. That’s why, regardless of how good it was, very few people sit down to watch past world cup finals. You cannot be there in time or in space, so the experience is not fun.

In the 1980 and 1990’s people understood that watching someone else’s photo slide show, was an act overwhelmingly skewed in favor of the slide show giver rather than the slide show recipient. It’s fun to give a slide show because you were there in time and space. It is excruciating to watch a long slide show because you weren’t.

selfie5.jpgI took this photo, on Hayley’s phone because it was the only camera we had to hand.

Hayley up loaded it because many of our closest friends live 100’s if not 1000’s of miles away. Many of the people we care most about are with us in time but not in space. So we bunged it on, and didn’t think much about it.

At the time this was posted, we didn’t think much about the perspective of all 500 ish facebook contacts we cumulatively have. It was just posted there because that was where, any of our friends who were on line that day would see it.

But to be honest if you saw this image, on the day it was posted then that is because you have asked to be in, or accepted an invite to our social media universe.

My photography social norms were learned when my mum to my photos for development. So I doubt anyone was offended by this image. But I think if you see a young women posting and image of her flat stomach, and that offends you, remember that you are her guest in that media space. If someone registered offence at this image of my wife, I wouldn’t hesitate to tell them where they could get off.

The image above is not a selfie. I am not in the image. As a result it doesn’t explicitly document the fact that Alex BB was there. It is interesting to think about how my presence would have changed this message.  Anyway what surprised us was how many people, we didn’t think would be interested in this image were kind enough to ‘like’ it. Judging by the engagement this is one of the more popular images we have ever posted.  There is something about this image that works as a Facebook post. However a slide show of us at the allotment probably wouldn’t.

Do a google image search on the work ‘Selfie’ and then in a new tab do an image search on the works ‘Rock Star’ and tell me where you see more narcissism. I think they are about even.

I wouldn’t know the first thing about how to sit down a right a good rock song. I suspect there could be a big dose of narcissism at play in anyone with the courage to sit down one afternoon and give that ago. It seems to me that its way too early to pass judgement on the selfie or those who frequently employ them, like judging someone’s prose before the rules of grammar have even been written.

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