The subversive selfie
The "selfie," says Pamela Rutledge, director of the Media Psychology Research Center at Fielding Graduate University, should not be over-interpreted. The clue that indicates the triviality of the phenomenon – in which people point their smartphone cameras at their own mugs and snap photos, usually to share with friends – is in the name itself. A selfie is not so much a case of narcissism, a cry to "Look at me!," as it is a fleeting squeak of self-expression.
Here's Rutledge, writing for the blog Psychology Today:
Selfies, Rutledge goes on to write, "communicate a transitory message at a single moment in time. We are more concerned with the context, the 'what’s going on' than the projection of identity."
The 'ie' at the end makes selfie a diminutive, which generally implies some affection and familiarity. From one semantic perspective, a selfie is a ‘little’ self, an aspect of identity. Alternatively, the diminutive can refer to the photograph rather than the self, which is quite different. Where a little self is a small bit of the self; a little portrait speaks to the sense of immediacy, insignificance and impermanence of a single photo.
Instagram popularized the selfie. Since its launch on the iPhone in 2010, more than 23 million Instagram photos have carried the #selfie hashtag, according to the Guardian. But Instagram gives you filters, allowing you to dress up your photos in shades of unrealism, to project a picture of yourself that is more staged than frivolous. The same goes for Just.me's just-released #selfie feature, which appears to be an effort by the Palo Alto-based startup to amp up the photo-sharing aspect of an app that can't seem to decide if it's about messaging or social sharing.
Rihanna, the Obama girls, and Hillary and Chelsea Clinton will all tell you that if you're thinking hard about your selfie, then you're doing it wrong. The selfie is not supposed to be a Van Gogh-ian portrait of careful construction, multiple perspectivism, and judiciously applied color gradients; it is supposed to be the opposite, an exercise in flippancy, a flash of the cam. A minimal viable portrait.
Such a form of anti-artistry deserves its own anti-app, something so quick and dirty that it can roll around in the same mudpit as the selfie and still come up smelling of... well, kind-of-clean mud.
This anti-app should let you set a time limit for how long you want your selfie to last. An hour? A day? A week?
It should let you "like" the selfies of friends and others, but it should not let you defile those works with words.
It should have a MS Paint-drawn smiley face as its logo.
And its website should have a page title that reads: "nah cat dog photos cameras photosharing people fun silly selfie selfy portraits app ios."
Such an app exists. It has no business model. It has no venture backing. It won't be as popular as Snapchat. It is a trifling testament to impermanence and insignificance.
It is, essentially, a piece of crap.
And it is called Selfie.
[Image via Heath Alseike]